Bucktown’s Andrzej Grill may a hole-in-the-wall but it serves a feast of true Polish specialties

There are dime-a-dozen dumps that you wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole. And there are the never-knew-it-existed hole-in-the-walls that you come upon unexpectedly. These are usually secret places that whip up oversized portions of true ethnic cuisine for very little dough.

Tiny, authentic Polish hideaway Andrzej Grill at 1022 N. Western is just such a place.

No sooner were my friend Lisa and I seated when almost immediately the owner popped out of the kitchen and tore over (slo-mo, actually) with a menu written in Polish and English in her hand.

What I wanted to say was “bring it all, love.” Instead, I carefully chose every single vegetarian dish on the menu.

Earthy bean and pasta shell soup with carrots, onion, bay leaves and tons of black pepper.

Crispy potato pancakes with a scoop of thick sour cream.

Gnocchi-like potato dumplings with a rich, beefy mushroom sauce.

Soft, buttery crepes stuffed with sweet, curdy cheese and sprinkled white with powdered sugar.

Pillowy-soft pierogis wrapped around a variety of ingredients like gooey blueberries, rich sauerkraut, sweet cheese, and thick potato puree.

Shaved and marinated beet salad (with a blister of horseradish) was one of the best I’ve ever tasted. Creamy dilled cucumber salad and a big fat sour pickle. And everything accompanied with easily a half pint of sour cream.

When I placed the order, the look on the waitress/owner’s face was pretty intense. She couldn’t believe that I was serious and had intentions of eating all of that food.

When she disappeared into the kitchen, a raucous verbal brawl let loose and I wondered if she was attempting to tell the cook that, “For real, mama, those two girls ordered all this food!” Or maybe it was, “Just cook the food and shut up, woman.”

A word to the wise: Be prepared to take many, many to-go boxes home with you if you’re like me and pull the ?ole, I’ll-give-it-all-a-go stunt. There are just too many outstanding menu choices to bite on site.

THE FINAL RAVE: As every dish on the menu is less than $8, so ordering haphazardly is fun. If you want wine with your meal, it’s strictly BYOB. Come early as doors close at 8 p.m. sharp.


DO IT: Nov.4-19 Polish Film Festival
If you’ve never made films with Eastern bloc folks, they are the mad geniuses of the industry. Plus, I’ve never met people who can drink like that. All day, every day.

HEAR IT: 8th Annual World Music Festival ( egov.cityofchicago.org/WorldMusic)
Sixty artists, 29 countries, loads of liquor. Expect the Polish fans to turn up in droves.

EAT IT: White Eagle Restaurant, 6839 N. Milwaukee
Although it specializes in funeral lunches (located across from a cemetery), they’re still rockin’ some of the best blintzes around. But not too many, though, you’ve gotta watch that heart of yours.

GET CRAZY WITH IT: Ola’s Liquors, 947 N. Damen
Open at 7 a.m., this Polish liquor store-cum-bar is a haven for those ragamuffin types that start their day with a long pull from a stiff one. It’s a godsend, really, especially after working all-nighters.