One of the best ways to jump into a new culture is through the local food. The sheer act of sharing food experiences also gives you instant conversation starter material with locals. Polish cuisine, like many northern cuisine, tends to be rich in root vegetables and fat. We are sure that you will find something on the menu that you’ll be missing when you head back home! Below are a few local establishments selling local food in Warsaw that previous SRAS students would like to recommend to you!
ul. Marszałkowska 10/16
The Union of Lublin Square is a great place to hang out and study after a day of classes downtown at Collegium Civitas (CC). A short tram ride away from the Palace of Culture and Science, the square is where I have to transfer to get to the University (CC) dorm.
A number of nice cafes dot the square – not to mention the shopping mall, which is also a great place to study if you are looking for plenty of clean, quiet, open space. While the mall is home to mostly high-end, expensive shops, there are average-priced coffee shops that remain relatively empty aside from the occasional businessman.
The main reason, however, that I like to study at Plac Unii Lubelskiej is the nearby milk bar Bar Prasowy, located just a few blocks north at Marszałkowska 10/16. Milk bars are a type of establishment unique to Poland and are a remnant of the Communist era. They are essentially extremely cheap, government-subsidized cafeterias that serve traditional Polish food. You can’t get a cheaper or tastier meal – but you have to be prepared and know what you want. Lines can be quite long (especially around lunch time) and everything is only in Polish, so you have to know what the different types of food are and how to order in Polish.
Bar Prasowy is my favorite milk bar (thus far) in Warsaw. It has been “modernized,” meaning that unlike most milk bars that have extremely basic and functional seating, Bar Prasowy has sleek, comfortable furniture and lighting, as well as a young, casual atmosphere.
I usually order a soup (such as żurek – sometimes called barszcz biały – a sour rye soup with sausage, potatoes, and boiled egg inside) for 3 PLN (about 80 cents), a main dish (such as pierogi or bigos, a cabbage stew with various cuts of meat, sausage, and mushrooms) for 6 or 7 PLN, kompot (homemade Polish fruit juice, costs 1.5 PLN), and maybe naleśniki (a Polish take on crepes, cost about 6 PLN) for dessert. Thus for a delicious three course meal with a drink in a comfortable atmosphere, you wouldn’t pay more than about 18 PLN (currently $4.70) at Bar Prasowy. It doesn’t get better than that!
After eating my fill at Bar Prasowy and spending a few hours studying in a coffee shop in the Plac Unii Lubelskiej Shopping mall, I enjoy walking by the social realist architecture along Marszałkowska Street. Many of the buildings feature murals as well. Originally built in 1952 to bring the worker into the heart of the city, the Marszałkowska Dzielnica Mieszkaniowa (MDM) or Marszałkowska neighborhood housing stretches from Plac Unii Lubelskiej in the south, past Plac Konstytucji, to Wilcza street in the north and remains in good condition today. To truly enjoy the view, you need to know the history. To find out more about milk bars in general and the language you’ll need to navigate them, click here.