WESTMINSTER, CO – MARCH 10: A dish of pierogi at Cracovia in Westminster, Colorado on Friday, March 10, 2023. Cracovia is a polish-american restaurant that opened in 2008. (Photo by Rebecca Slezak/Special to The Denver Post)
Editor’s note: This is part of our new series, Hidden Gems, in which we take a look at those restaurants you should know about but may not. They are either tucked away in strip malls or otherwise off the beaten path. Try them out; if you like what you eat, pass the word.
There aren’t a lot of Polish restaurants in Colorado. Compared to the photogenicity of, say, dripping birria tacos or cheese pull-rific slices of pizza, white pork sausage and stuffed cabbage rolls pale in Instagram- and Tik Tok-worthiness. But there’s a beauty in perfectly pleated pierogi; an allure to a creamy soup swirled with bright olive oil and dotted with parsley.
Maybe our current food trends aren’t overly conducive to Polish food, but Cracovia doesn’t really care about trends anyway.
Cracovia was opened in 2008 by Lester and Maria Rodzen, a married couple who’d fled communist Poland in the 1980s to come to Denver. After ventures in real estate and even starting a Polish-language newspaper in Denver called Echa Kolorado, they wanted to unite the Polish community here over good food and a stiff drink. And thus, Cracovia the restaurant was born.
Now, their kids Alan and Jackie join them at the Westminster strip mall spot, where they’re still cooking up generations of family recipes, including the best-selling pierogi and kielbasa. That homemade smoked kielbasa arrives at your table with loud sizzling, proudly announcing your order to pretty much the entire restaurant. It’s topped with caramelized onions and Lester’s burning sweet and spicy mustard, which you may need to ask for more of because it’s that good.
Diners with more Polish food experience than I do are probably already familiar with zupa ogorkowa, or a creamy pickle soup. As a late pickle bloomer myself, I was downright mesmerized by the sour, salty flavors that dominated the bowl. It was a pickle-centric awakening.
A great way to sample a little of a lot of Cracovia’s Polish fare is by ordering the taste of Poland dinner, which includes three pierogi (one with cheese and potato, one sauerkraut, mushroom and onion, and one with seasoned ground pork); a krokiet (a stuffed, breaded and fried crepe); a link of that kielbasa; zeberka (a tender pork rib with BBQ sauce); golabki (a cabbage roll stuffed with rice and pork and topped with mushroom or tomato sauce); and sides.
The only downside to ordering the taste of Poland as opposed to a singular entrée is that you will have to suffer through other people’s kielbasa sizzling loudly as it comes to the table, and yours will not. You will be remiss over your lack of sizzle, but grateful to have the single link of kielbasa nonetheless.
Lester is very involved with the drinks, namely the more than 100 flavored vodkas he infuses with everything from horseradish to coffee to gooseberry. There’s even a vodka flight on the dessert menu, for which you pick three flavors with sweet profiles like cheesecake, almond roca and cupcake. (And, yes, sign us up for cheesecake vodka.)
Maybe it’s about time we make cabbage rolls cool. Or get kielbasa trending on Tik Tok. Maybe pickle soup will have a moment, because pickle soup totally deserves a moment. Maybe we’ll soon see Polish restaurants popping up like Starbucks drive-thrus and Torchy’s Tacos. But until that pierogi-filled day, we have Cracovia to satisfy our cravings.
Cracovia: 8121 W. 94th Ave. Westminster, 303-484-9388; cracoviarestaurant.com
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News Source: https://www.denverpost.com/2023/03/15/best-polish-food-denver-cracovia-picke-soup-pierogies/amp/