Because Sometimes I Get Hungry
I walked slowly through the heat of the day and followed the directions on my phone. The restaurant was a fifteen minute walk from where I was staying. I stepped around some slow-walking tourists and was almost hit by a bicycle whizzing down the sidewalk.
That would have been an unfortunate turn to my day.
I almost shouted at the helmet-less biker to get off the sidewalk and put on a helmet, then remembered that I was in Krakow, Poland: the rules are different here.
My phone’s GPS was set for a restaurant where prices started at $80 meal which was bout $60 over my price range. A friend of a friend was flying in for work and told me to choose a-very-good-place for dinner tonight (Up to $200 a meal) and he would put it on his expense account.
This free meal perk isn’t offered to teachers at my school.
Well, almost done.
I made an online reservation for 7:30 PM – a time he chose, but restaurant wouldn’t answer it’s phone. Are they so snooty that they won’t touch a telephone?
It was worth the walk in the sweltering heat to find my way there and make sure we had a table.
This restaurant has a dress code; good thing I brought a dress with me. I was getting tired of wearing my chosen uniform of shorts, a sleeveless shirt and comfortable shoes, but I was here to volunteer in a Free Shop that helps Ukrainian refugees and the work was far from fancy.
Plain clothes washed easier at the end of a long and un-airconditioned day.
It’s been a struggle to find food that won’t make me sick in Krakow since I’m celiac and must eat gluten-free foods at all times. I’ve met friends out at restaurants in town where the only gluten-free food on the menu was the lemonade.
Could I please have one lemonade?
So I made it my mission to find the best lemonade in Krakow. An interesting fact about lemonade here: many restaurants make each glass fresh to your flavor profile.
I like mine sour with very little sugar.
They make it in the glass that it’s served in.
I’ve tried a variety of lemonades in the past month. Some are too small. Some are too sweet. Some come with mint, others seem to forget the lemon altogether.
After much trial, I’ve found the best lemonade in the city is served at Domingo, the restaurant that’s owned by the owners of my apartment and in the same building.
So at the end of a day of volunteering, I can sit and enjoy a lemonade before I climb the stairs to my apartment.
Cold. Lemony. Only a hint of sweetness. Minty. Lemon slices. Orange slices.
Domingo Restaurant: PL. Dominikanski 4, Krakow, Poland
I made it to the fancy restaurant and found a sign on the door in Polish. I can’t read Polish. My translation program can:
Closed for tonight for a private party.
Ends up the friend of a friend who was going to pay for that expensive dinner was held up in Milan, anyway.
A hot walk to a closed restaurant for nothing.
My walk home felt like walking in a sauna, which is never my first choice for exercise.
In my search for a good meal a few weeks ago, Washington, a friend I volunteered with, and I tried a restaurant that listed two gluten-free meals on their menu: a duck salad and a duck dinner.
The duck salad was okay. Fine. Edible. Why did they drown it in a sweetened berry sauce?
After my friend flew home, I returned to that same restaurant for the duck dinner and begged them to keep the sauce on the side.
Lovely. Interesting. Over cooked. I ate the entire meal—a lot of food, but I didn’t plan on returning to have more overcooked duck.
Norway, another woman I volunteered with, found a restaurant for us when she was here. It’s a vegan (and gluten-free) Indian restaurant. The mango lassi is made with coconut milk. Try one and you’ll want a second one. And might return the next day for another.
I’ll meet you there.
The food is spiced just right and they even have a gluten-free bread option. I’ve eaten here a number of times. The food is fantastic on a night when I don’t want to eat meat.
Bhajan Café Stradomska 17, 31-068 Krakow, Poland
I met Angelique and Mark for lunch on the square, what was the name of the restaurant? An outdoor café with umbrellas?
Yes. That’s right. All of the restaurants look the same there. I think I could find my way back if I wanted to. It was on the side of the 40,000 square foot square with the head sculpture.
I had a bacon-laden chicken salad. It was cooked just right with olives, corn, and other interesting bits in it. The only problem was that it was a little heavy on the bacon, and an American-sized meal, so I had to carry leftovers with me as I showed my friends around the area.
Super annoying to carry a wobbly Styrofoam container around during a tour. I steered the sightseeing towards my apartment so I could stick the leftovers in my fridge.
We can call that manipulative sightseeing.
My friends didn’t mind and Angelique was able to see my apartment while Mark stood on a sidewalk and people watched.
(Yes, that salad made for wonderful leftovers. Yes, I ate every bit of that bacon.)
Most restaurants offer an uninspired salad that I could make at home on a night when I was lazy and only wanted to add four ingredients to my dinner. I paid $20 for one when I met the team I volunteer with for dinner one night.
The least interesting meal for the most money? Yes. We were on the square.
When I eat out, I want to eat something better than I could make at home.
I have the ability to cook in my apartment and have been able to buy foods at the farmer’s market and the grocery store to cook in my kitchenette.
I’m still Covid-exhausted (Waaaa. When can I stop napping?) and there are days where I’d rather sleep than cook, which lends itself to eating out.
Prices are cheaper in Poland. I can get dinner from anywhere between $10 and $20.
But it would be better if I could find gluten-free food that I liked.
Yes. I read the reviews online for every restaurant. Yes. I search for good gluten-free places. There’s nothing like making a reservation online, then trekking across town only to find the restaurant is permanently closed or that the staff is on vacation or that they no longer serve gluten-free foods.
All three of those things have happened repeatedly in the last month.
A place will advertise gluten-free desserts. I’ll happily walk twenty minutes there thinking a dessert would sweeten my afternoon only to find their only gluten-free dessert resembles small turds of—chocolate covered in – something.
Really? That’s for sale?
I thought about waiting around to see if people actually ate this, but worried that might be seen as stalking.
I moved on to the ice cream stand to accept my fate:
One scoop of mango ice cream in a cup. Sweet. Creamy. Just right. And only one dollar a scoop.
Surely I can do better?
I do love the Thai ice cream stand, Frozen Rolls, in the Jewish Quarter.
You choose your milk. You choose your fruit. And some guy stands over a frozen slab and mashes it together with a flat metal implement until it’s a uniform mess. Then as the bits freeze, he rolls each part and places it into a cup.
I like the coconut milk, grapefruit and pineapple. Sweet/sour. Healthy. Delicious. Whenever I have the energy for a twenty minute walk, I walk that way.
Frozen Rolls. Ciemna 4, 31 – 053 Krakow, Poland
And I have gone to the Cakester Café a few times. (Swietego Tomasza 25, 31-027 Krakow, Poland.) They serve desserts that are gluten-free and sugar free. The mango cheesecake was delicious, but might be slightly improved with a little sugar.
Sorry. I know. I know.
I left the Szafa Dobra Free Shop, where I volunteer, early today because I was Covid-exhausted. After napping for a few hours, I woke hungry. I didn’t have the energy to head to the grocery store, so I looked at the list of restaurants I wanted to try.
There was one that got reviews from “Okay” to “Students eat here” to “Best gluten-free food in the city.”
I grabbed my umbrella and started the six minute walk.
It was close. Why hadn’t I tried it before?
It’s a cafeteria-style place that’s run by a chef and located between two buildings with only a leaky sunroof keeping diners from the elements.
Chimera. Cafeteria-style food. Swietej Anny 3, 31-008 Krakow, Poland. It’s a block off the main square in Old Town.
I expected a typical cafeteria menu of plain meat and plain veggies, especially after reading reviews that many students eat there.
Far from it.
For $4 (no that’s not a typo) They will add my choice of four different foods to my plate.
(I know. In the states there would be giant signs reading 4 for $4; They’re not gimmicky here.)
The gluten-free items were identified with a card that had a capital G and an arrow pointing down.
Yes. I checked. That is their sign for gluten-free, not low-gluten.
Before I ordered I walked around the restaurant and peered into the kitchen. I saw clean space with bag after bag of onions. A chef friend of mine once said you could rate a restaurant by the number of onions it stored in the kitchen.
Looks like I found the gold standard of fresh cooking.
I was ready to order.
There weren’t many meat dishes at the first stop, but that was fine with me: I was in a veggie mood.
(Here are some of the foods I will get next time. And the fruit salad looks fresh, too.)
I got a cabbage roll stuffed with meat, cheese and rice, roasted veggies with an interesting sauce, a salad of cucumber, watermelon, mint and a large bowl of broccoli soup. For 20 zloty. ($4)
I found a table. Rain fell on the chair next to me creating a little puddle.
Good thing I didn’t sit there.
I tasted of my broccoli soup. Hot. Savory. Healthy.
Some people prefer tea on a dreary, rainy evening. Give me soup and I’ll be your friend for life.
My food was great. Okay, maybe it wasn’t spiced to perfection, but it wasn’t overcooked or undercooked.
Puddles formed around the restaurant on floors, on counters, on chairs. People stepped around the wet spots and found places to eat.
This was good. This was cheap. This was close to me.
The rain beating against the sunroof felt like applause. The puddle forming next to me felt like a friend who kept a table open for me.
I wonder how many people eat here twice a day?
Thanks for reading.
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