"I want to make a point that this is really a Polish place and we serving Polish, traditional food," said Halina Sedlmaier, owner of Polish Bistro.
Sedlmaier is from Lodz, in central Poland. One of her favorite dishes is golabki, essentially ground beef and pork, combined with cooked rice. Caramelized onions are added to the mixture, which is then rolled up into sturdy, steamed cabbage leaves and baked. Just before serving, they ladle over a rich tomato sauce.
"My mother, my family, we use tomato sauce. But very often, in other places, people use mushroom gravy," she said.
Another dish with multiple interpretations is bigos. Also known as Hunter's Stew, this protein-and-fat-jammed dish contains onions of course, but also kielbasa - that is, smoked sausage - cooked bacon, ground sausage and loads of sauerkraut.
"It's a combination of sauerkraut, pork, sausage and beef with onion, mixed all together with tomato sauce and a little bit of wine," she said.
Cooked down for hours at a low simmer, the flavors co-mingle, creating an ideal stew for cold Chicago nights.
"If you even serve next day, tastes even better," said Sedlmaier.
So as we slip into November, and the weather begins to get cooler, this is indeed the hearty, rib-sticking, Eastern European food that Chicagoans have come to love over the years.
The restaurant also has a great, outdoor patio, weather permitting. Also, you'll find both of those dishes at pretty much every polish restaurant in town.
8303 W. Irving Park Rd.