If you’re anything like I was, the words ‘Polish Cuisine’ don’t really fill you with excitement. Before my first trip to Poland back in October, the phrase conjured images of sausage, smoked cheese, pierogi, soups and, somewhat stereotypically, cabbage (after all, bigos – a mix of meat, sauerkraut and cabbage – is a national dish). As I said, it is not all that exciting.
While this is the kind of Polish food that most of us are exposed to in the UK, it is not the full story. When you consider the tumultuous history of the country, the way that its borders have continuously shifted for hundreds of years under the rule of various empires, it only makes sense that the national dishes are heavily influenced by other Central European and Slavic menus. Add to this the traditions of Poland’s Jewish population, plus the relatively new Turkish and Italian immigrants, and you have a wide range of delicious options.
In Warsaw, I had been overwhelmed with choice. I ate my weight in traditional Polish fare at various milk bars, sampled Asian street food at the night market, and downed some of the best craft beers I had ever had the pleasure of feeling tipsy from. I wasn’t expecting Wroclaw to be much different. However, I was surprised to find that its foodie scene matched, and even surpassed, that of the capital.
I must have left Wroclaw about two stone heavier than when I arrived. I had carefully mapped out all of the places that I wanted to visit, but such is the sheer quantity of awesome cafes and bars, I barely scratched the surface. Here are the places that I loved the most.
Where to have Breakfast & Brunch
Di Dinette is located just outside of the old town in a glass fronted corner of a shopping mall. Don’t let the mall location put you off. The interior is sleek and clean and the food is amazing. As such, just choosing which breakfast to have can be difficult. in the end, I went for a stack of pancakes smothered in honey and fruit while Becky sampled the Italian breakfast, a mix of mozzarella, pesto and continental cured meats and I didn’t regret my choice for a second.
They even have an on-site bakery where they make their own bread using organic ingredients. Unfortunately, the breakfast is only served until midday but even if you’re late, it is worth popping in to try their delicious juices or sample the bistro menu.
Plac Teatralny 8
Mon-Wed: 8 am – 10 pm. Thurs-Sat: 8 am – 11 pm. Sun: 9 am – 8 pm
One for true coffee lovers, Gniazdo is an effortlessly cool and sleek cafe in the centre of the city serving a wide selection of teas and some of the best joe that I’ve ever tasted. They do an amazing selection of cakes but if it’s something a little more substantial that you’re after, pick up a bagel or stay to sample a sharing platter. The staff were incredibly friendly and know their coffee, dosing it out in inventive ways. So much so, that it felt offensive for me just to be ordering a plain old latte. However, it was anything but plain.
Mon-Fri: 8 am – 9pm. Sat 9 am – 9 pm.
When it comes to cafes, bars or restaurants, I’m not usually one to recommend large chains. However, for Etno Cafe, I’ll happily make an exception. This Polish-Ethiopian company have numerous locations dotted around Poland, including 6 in Wroclaw itself. I stopped by their shop in the beautiful OVO Building after walking a dozen or so miles more than my feet could take and needing a little respite from sightseeing. I’m glad that I did.
Without knowing any better, you wouldn’t suspect that it’s a chain. The cafe has the cool, industrial look of a new independent with amazing coffee to match. Then there’s the cake; I sampled an amazing chocolate cheesecake and even then, couldn’t resist stealing a spoonful of Becky’s dessert too. While you’re there, make sure to pick up a bottle or two of their cold brew.
Mon-Fri: 8 am – 9 pm. Sat: 9 am – 9 pm. Sun: 9 am – 8 pm.
Even if you don’t know it, you’ve probably seen the plush interior of Nanan popping up on your social feed at some point. Its walls may be reminiscent of Peppa Pig wearing a pink velour leisure suit, but that just makes it all the more Instagrammable – It is probably one of the most photogenic cafes in the whole of Wroclaw, if not Poland. Nanan came to my attention when another blogger posted some incredible snaps of its cakes and decor and I decided that I had to visit.
Co-founded by food blogger and pastry chef Justyna Kawiak, Nanan not only looks the part with its marshmallow interiors and delicately crafted pastries, the food has the taste to match, meaning that it’s not all style over substance.
Open Daily: 10 am – 8 pm
Where to Eat Dinner
Italian cuisine isn’t something you would normally associate with a Polish city more than any other city outside of Italy. However, Wroclaw is home to a small yet growing Italian community – currently standing at around 8,000 people – congregating what is now known as ‘Little Italy’on the edge of the old town. With the people comes the food. The neighbourhood is now home to all manner of pizzerias and pasta restaurants.
You won’t find the best pizza in Wroclaw there though. That title belongs to Iggy Pizza, a few blocks away on Kuźnicza. What strikes you when you first enter are the bright neons adorning the walls; an illuminate, pink pizza slice and huge writing reading ‘Save water, drink prosecco’. The rest of the venue isn’t any less stylised – green foliage drips from the ceiling over long common tables and mirrors on the wall stretch the length of the room. The main attraction is the food though. A huge, tiled, pizza oven sits pride of place in the open plan kitchen where you can watch the chefs creating one of the best pizzas you’ll ever eat.
Mon-Thurs: 1 pm – 11 pm. Fri-Sat: 1 pm – 12 am. Sun: 12 pm – 10 pm
I had a hunch that Pogromcy Meatów was my kind of place as soon as I walked in. On the one hand, there was the live Premier League football projected on a big screen. Secondly, there was the huge board hanging above the bar and with a list of 15 different craft ales. Then there was the list of incredible food.
When you realise that Pogromcy Meatów literally translates as meat crusher, it becomes obvious what the menu is going to consist of; burgers, burgers and more burgers. Only, these guys do it a little differently. Fillings are as varied as duck, tongue, beef cheek, and rib. I tried the beef tongue burger on the recommendation of the manager and, although it sounds disgusting, it was phenomenal.
The beer selection is just as diverse. When I couldn’t decide which of the 15 ales to try, the waitress decided that what I needed was all of them, bringing out 3 tasting trays with one of each. They ranged from the standard Czech pilsner to an 11% cognac, wine and whiskey barrel aged beet stout that may be one of the tastiest drinks I’ve ever imbibed (it’s called Block Rockin’ Beets from Fonta Flora brewery and you need to try it if you ever find one in the wild). I left completely full, half drunk and totally satisfied.
Anyone that followed my recent trip to Warsaw will be aware of my fondness for the city’s various milk bars. Milk bars, or bar mleczny in Polish, may seem like a communist throwback and in some ways, they are; government subsidised canteens serving hearty, traditional cuisine. They blossomed during the post-war period as one of the few places that could guarantee a hot, nutritious meal – usually meat and potatoes, soups, vegetables, pierogi, and as the name suggests, dairy.
Although not much has changed for them in terms of food, decor or service, their cheap, homely meals are still popular today. For tourists, they’re a perfect place to get a feel for what the country was like before the iron curtain fell. I love them. For just a few złoty it is possible to eat like a king. Most of the dishes begin to disappear as the day progresses to try to arrive early.
Jacek i Agatka Bar
Located just on the edge of the old town, I spotted Jacek i Agatka as I walked from the old town square towards the Oder. I couldn’t resist stepping in for lunch. We were the only customers so avoided the usual surly and brisk service that milk bars are famed for, settling on gnocchi with pork stew for myself and sweet pierogi for Becky. The food was good and the staff patient with my fumbled attempts at ordering from the Polish menu.
The bar is named after an old Polish good-night cartoon for children and is a mainstay of the city, existing for over 3 generations.
pl. Nowy Targ 27
Mon-Fri: 8 am – 6 pm. Sat: 9 am – 5 pm.
It may the bar’s proximity to the railway station or the fact that the university is nearby, but Mały seems to be perpetually busy. We arrived at 10 am – just as it was opening – and already a queue was forming along ul. Kołłątaja. The bar itself is fairly small so finding a seat can be difficult, however, there is an outdoor seating area in the summer.
ul. Kołłątaja 27/28
Mon-Fri: 10 am – 7.30 pm Sat: 10 am – 7.30 pm
Hala Targowa, Wroclaw’s market hall, may have a traditional-looking facade but on the inside, it contains vast concrete arches reminiscent of cathedrals and grand palaces – only much more grey. Architectural curiosities aside, it is the perfect place to pick up some cheap fruit as well as a wide selection of meats, cheeses and salami.
On the right, just as you enter, you will spot Karmazyn, a no-nonsense bar that is always packed with the hall’s vendors, local students and passing tourists. It apparently prides itself on always having Russian dumplings available and at only 5-6 PLN for a portion, it would be crazy not to stop by to sample them.
Hala Targowa, ul. Piaskowa 17
Mon-Sat: 8.00 am – 6.30 pm. Closed Sun.
Where to Drink
A beer-lover’s paradise, 4Hops is not only laid back and cool, it also offers some of the best beer I tried in the city. It boasts 16 taps of mostly Polish craft ale that is supplemented with a few carefully selected foreign brews.
ul. Ofiar Oświęcimskich 46
Sun-Wed: 12.00 pm – 00.00 am. Thu: 12.00 pm – 01.00 am. Fri-Sat 12.00 pm – 03.00 am.
Alebrowar is the flagship pub of one of Poland’s first craft breweries, established way back in 2012. It’s a great mix of Polish style street art graphics and American style brewing that makes you want to stay and try every single one of their selection.
Pawła Włodkowica 27
Sun-Thurs: 2 pm – 12 am. Fri-Sat: 2 pm – 2 am
Kontynuancja may just take the crown as the best place for craft beer in the city, even just in terms of quantity. It has around 25 Polish brews on draft, showcasing the best of what the country has to offer.
Ofiar Oświęcimskich 17
Mon-Thurs: 4 pm – 1 am. Friday-Sat: 4 pm – 2 am. Sun: 2 pm – 12 am
Graciarnia Pizza & Crafts
With furniture and decor that wouldn’t be out of place in your grandma’s living room, Graciarnia mixes quirky antiques with moody lighting to create a cool, subdued atmosphere. A visit can be a little like stepping back in time. Louis Armstrong, Georg Gershwin or Mieczysław Fogg play from the speakers and if you’re lucky, one of the patrons may give you a few tunes on the piano.
If that doesn’t convince you to spend an evening here, the drinks are pretty good too. They have 8 taps with a good selection of craft beers and mix a good cocktail (we got on the Aperol spritz despite it being a snowy winter’s evening).
They also serve pizza and while not being the best slice you’ll find in the city, they have a good vegan selection.
ul. Kazimierza Wielkiego 39
Sun-Thurs: 12 pm – 12 am. Fri-Sat: 12 pm – 2 am
Marynka Piwo i Aperitivo
Tucked down a short alleyway beside the previously mentioned Graciarnia, Marynka Piwo i Aperitivo is a place for people that enjoy their beer. Think the wine bar concept but with beers. It has 8 rotating taps and countless bottles from all over the world, focussing mostly on craft breweries. It may be a little difficult to find but it is worth seeking out.
Kazimierza Wielkiego 39
Mon-Sat: 8 am – 4 am
Located in Wroclaw’s Jewish district beside the White Stork Synagogue, Mleczarnia has a fairly bohemian vibe with its antique furniture and dimly lit, nostalgic atmosphere. Expect to hear decent indie music emanating from the speakers while the crowd of artists, students, and backpackers from the hostel upstairs mix over a few drinks.
Pawła Włodkowica 5
Mon-Sat: 8 am – 4 am. Sun: 8 am – 12 am
I’ve included Setka more for the sheer novelty of it rather than anything else. Although Communism is a recent and vivid memory for a lot of Poles, it hasn’t stopped a few of the city’s drinking establishments from capitalising on the history. In Setka, the decor takes inspiration from Soviet-style and even has its interior arranged in a manner that is reminiscent of the way things were during the Polish People’s Republic. Although the beer – and the atmosphere – isn’t great, it may be worth popping in just to take a look.
Mon-Sat: 10 am – 6 am. Sun: 10 am – 12 am
Is there anywhere that I have missed? What’s your favourite place to eat or drink in Wroclaw? Let me know in the comments!
Like it? Pin it!
Disclaimer: Parts of my trip to Wroclaw were facilitated by Visit Wroclaw, including discounts or meals at some of the eateries mentioned above. However, all opinions expressed are my own. I’d tell you if any of them sucked.