The Best Polish Restaurants In Chicago

A guide to the best places for Polish food in the city.
The Best Polish Restaurants In Chicago image

photo credit: Adrian Kane

Chicago’s large Polish community began forming around the 1850s, and immigrants settled all over the city, particularly near the Division, Milwaukee, and Ashland three-way intersection. Along with having the longest red lights on Earth, this area is known as “Old Polonia” a.k.a. the Polish Triangle. That’s a great (and logical) place to start when you’re looking for the city's best Polish spots, and you’ll find some of them on this guide. But now there are incredible pierogies, potato pancakes, and pickled herring scattered everywhere in Chicago.


photo credit: Adrian Kane


Logan Square

$$$$Perfect For:Big GroupsEating At The Bar


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This iconic Polish restaurant in Logan Square is our favorite place for any occasion involving the sentence, “Let’s get Polish food.” Staropolska has enough dark wood to make you slightly concerned about deforestation, but nonetheless creates the kind of environment that’ll make you wish it was snowing outside. The long menu is perfect for people who want to share, and the $39 “Polish Platter” is where to start. It comes with sausage, pierogies, potato pancakes, plums rolled in bacon, paprika chicken, various picked things, and our favorite stuffed cabbage in Chicago—which is thoughtfully served in a cup so it doesn’t leak onto everything else.

With a small dining room that has card tables, a long counter, and plenty of bar stools, this cash-only spot in Noble Square could be a dive bar in a parallel universe. But Podhalanka doesn’t even have booze. You come to this old-school restaurant for beef tripe stew, pork shank, and the best thing here: pierogies. There are three options (cheese, cabbage, and meat) that are all perfectly seasoned and wrapped in a chewy dough. Top them with onions and a dollop of sour cream—a delicious combination of savory and tart.

Smakosz has been around for almost 40 years, and the carpeted and wood-paneled dining room makes it feel like you’re about to watch a VHS tape of Risky Business after dinner. This is the kind of place you visit when you’re not in a hurry, because it’s built for lingering. The long menu has traditional Polish dishes that are a bit harder to find in Chicago, like baked pork knuckles and tripe soup, and a tender Lublin pork covered with a fried egg. Smakosz claims that they’re the first restaurant to do the first “taste of Poland” assortment plate, and if so, we’re eternally grateful.

One side of Polish Bistro is basically a sports bar, and the other is a dining room we’re affectionately describing as “cabin-core.” The menu is similarly divided, one section full of bar food like chicken tenders and potato skins, and the other with traditional Polish dishes like pork shoulder in sauerkraut, and (the best thing here) the placek po wegiersku, a giant crispy potato pancake  covered in goulash and cheese. Please order this. Chase it with a giant glass of Zywiec.

Oh Karolinka Club, please never change. This dive bar is located right next to Midway Airport, and there is no better way to say “Welcome to Chicago” than taking someone to hang out in a space perennially filled with Christmas lights, Polish beer, and a polka band. There will be a very friendly bartender/server who will run up and down the stairs carrying plates of food from the kitchen, which we can only assume is in the basement. The menu is short, with dishes like bigos and golabki, and some very crispy potato pancakes. Expect the server to ask you how things are and then proudly tell you she made the batter after you answer “great.”

Yes, you can get it in grocery stores, but we prefer our Kasia’s straight from the source, meaning the little deli in Ukrainian village. If you were one of the billion people who watched The Bear last summer, this place is responsible for the pierogies Sydney eats on her Chicago food crawl. Those dumplings were from Kasia’s, and they are the best in the city. Along with beef-filled, they have specials like potato jalapeño, and very good versions of borscht and beef stew. Get it to-go, or sit at one of their little tables.

What this iconic restaurant in Norwood Park lacks in limited hours (it’s open Friday through Sunday) it makes up for in having an “endless” $32.99 buffet where you can theoretically eat 67 cheese blintzes. The buffet has everything from Polish schnitzel to kartacze, along with soups and ice cream (but those are served at the table). The Red Apple has been around since 1984 and looks like it. Legend has it, some people here have been eating the same buffet plate since then and just never left.

This spot isn’t straight Polish, but we’re including it because we like it so damn much. The tagline at Flo & Santos is “Pizza & Pierogi,” because, well, that’s what they’re known for. This Italian and Polish pub has tavern-style pizzas with toppings like kielbasa and sauerkraut. You can also get pierogies with fillings like potato and cheese, beef, or ones masquerading as ravioli in a tomato-bacon-vodka sauce. And Flo & Santos has one of the best patios in Chicago, with outdoor TVs, heat lamps, string lights, and live music.

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