Travel along Main Avenue beside the winding Passaic River in Wallington, and you’ll notice the Polish influences right away. There are the delis and banquet halls, a statue dedicated to General Casimir Pulaski of Poland (yes, the same Revolutionary War hero the Skyway was named after) and the Polish National Church of Transfiguration, which opened in 1925. There’s even an office for the Polish newspaper Abecadlo (“alphabet” in Polish.)
Then there are the restaurants. If this heart-shaped borough in North Jersey conjures visions of pierogies, stuffed cabbage, borscht, blintzes and kielbasa, all that and more can be found there because Polish people started immigrating to Wallington more than 100 years ago. Its nickname is Little Poland.
“It’s a very Polish place and we want to continue to preserve our roots and also bring back to the community,” says Sebastian Stopka, whose family owns Tatra Haus, which specializes in Polish Highlander cuisine.
The restaurant specializes in the cuisine found near the Tatra mountains in Southern Poland. Well-known Polish foods are served, but opt instead regional dishes like grilled Highlander sheep cheese with bacon and cranberry sauce or rye bread with pork lard spread and pickles. “You wouldn’t see that anywhere else,” says Stopka.
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Krakus Restaurant offers all the Polish classics (pierogies, stuffed cabbage, blintzes) and is a mainstay for family and friend gatherings. The pickle soup is particularly delicious, light and brine-y but with a hint of cream. A perk: Krakus has a full bar.
Just up Main Avenue, Chefski’s beckons. It’s mostly a grab-and-go but does have a couple tables. The menu, though concise, does offer a dozen types of pierogies. The ones I ordered managed to remain pleasingly light yet substantial, even after a 20-minute drive home. Be sure and grab a soft drink from the case, direct from Poland!
Tatra Haus, 115 Main Avenue, 201-393-2400; Krakus Restaurant, 2018 Main Avenue, 973-779-1922; Chefski’s, 360 Main Avenue, 973-471-4193
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