an unofficial guide to Warsaw by Aleksandra Mergo
Some people used to describe it as Paris of the East. Today, Warsaw may not have the charm of pre-war buildings but it definitely is a lovely place to visit.
I moved here when I was 10. This city gave me everything I wanted and more. I probably wouldn’t be where I am now, have I not moved to the Poland’s capital. So, to pay tribute to the place which I proudly call my hometown I present you a guide which contains a list of places I would take my friends from abroad (hey Dinka!) or different areas of Poland to go to. I tried to avoid touristy areas, as these, you can easily find, but rather focus on the venues that might not pop in your search results. If you are from Warsaw then you probably know most of these places but I think that by following this guide you too can have quite an adventure!
FOOD & DRINKS
Prasowy Milk Bar
It’s not the milk bar you might be thinking of. Basically, a Polish Milk Bar is a place where you can eat authentic Polish food for cheap. Like, REALLY cheap. Polish pierogis for 8 zlotys (~£1.6), tomato soup for 3 (~60p) and the complimentary cool retro vibe make Prasowy Milk Bar a place visited by hipsters, students, families, office employees and tourists. The ‘milk’ in milk bar is there because many dishes use milk as the ingredient.
A more expensive version of a milk bar offering a humongous variety of pierogis, potato pancakes (placki ziemniaczane) and more. My family would either bring guests from abroad there to showcase the awesome Polish cuisine or we would go there on our own, as pierogis are quite time-consuming and requiring serious manual work to craft the perfect little cushion filled with savoury or sweet filling.
Ministry of Coffee
I have decided that I’ll create a separate post for my favourite coffee places in the future but this one had to make it to this list. Ministry of Coffee is my go to place whenever I’m back in Warsaw. And if I don’t go there I’m really upset. They serve amazing coffee in great glassware and I’ve heard that the food is also great but haven’t tried it. I always take a black coffee, usually a Chemex which is 0.5 litre of black liquid which keeps me going forever. When ordering you can choose from 3 different blends, all have their strongest notes listed. Why would I take my guest for an African coffee in Warsaw? Like Dundee has its WeeMexico, Warsaw has its Ministry of Coffee which cannot simply be eluded.
Pies czy Suka
So we’ve had coffee, where do we go next? For drinks! When I first encountered Dog or Bitch I thought that the place is probably weird as the name seemed weird. Boy was I wrong, this centre-located place has extraordinary designer pieces and is claimed to be the best cocktail bar in the city. The drinks are unique and contain various types of veggie juice in them too (doesn’t taste weird though). You can either choose from the regular menu, seasonal menu or ask for a custom creation tailored to your preferences! What I also like about this place is that they don’t try to save on alcohol, and you get a solid volume in every single drink.
After great drinks I’d take my guests to the Night Market — a place located at the old train station: Warsaw Main Station (Warszawa Główna) — where international street food joints from all over Warsaw gather. It’s like a shopping centre but instead of clothing, you get lots and lots of food. Some of the gems include sushi tacos, ice-cream in bubble waffle, amazing sea food dishes and spring rolls with several types of filling. What is worth noting is that the market is open only during weekends and for a few months a year. The atmosphere there is great and from time to time there are even artists performing live on stage.
After all the amazing and not so healthy foods in Night Market, I’d take my guests the next day to the Legal Cakes. The cakes are legal as they do not contain sugar — erythritol is the most commonly used substitute — nor they are full of carbs, as most of the foods and drinks there are high in protein and fat. Plus, the ingredients used there are high quality and the dishes are very creative! If you are dieting to loose weight and/or have special dietary needs you can go here safely. The menu has all the calories and macronutrients listed and the waitstaff is always happy to help choose what to order. It may feel like cheating / asking for diabetes but it really isn’t and so you need to go there! They even have healthy alternatives to the popular chocolate bars that you can buy and eat later.
I really like to explain the names to the non-Polish readers here, so I’ll start with a breakdown of that. Krowarzywa is a quibble: Krowa-rzywa means Alive Cow but the rzywa part should be spelled with ‘ż’ instead of ‘rz’ (*realising how many people will not get why this spelling is wrong and how the hell ‘rz’ has to do anything with ‘ż’ and how do you pronounce either of those*). You can also divide the name into Kro-warzywa where the Kro part may refer to krojone (pol. chopped) and warzywa means vegetables.
Now that we’ve done an extensive analysis of the name let’s talk about why is this place so special. Two words: vegan burgers. Okay, maybe three words: delicious vegan burgers. Seriously, even my meat-lover friends were impressed by burgers made of veggies, tofu, seitan (wheat meat), millet or chickpeas. Each week there’s also the burger of the week, which can be made from anything. The burger patty is accompanied by lots of veggies, 2 sauces and a choice of wheat or whole-grain bun. For small charges, you can also add vegan bacon, vegan cheese and coleslaw. The burger joint is always crowded and full of people. So, I highly recommend for you to go there as soon as possible.
This section will be added in the near future (once I’ll have a chance to take some pictures!).