In the deep freeze of winter, what could be better than helping yourself to a steaming plate of stick-to-the-ribs traditional Polish cuisine? If your answer is “nothing,” then you might want to consider checking out Syrenka Restaurant in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia.
The food at Syrenka Restaurant is rich and hearty, and has a distinctly Old-World flavor. The menu features commonly known Polish food like kielbasa and pierogies, as well as less commonly known foods like golabkis.
The pierogies at Syrenka Restaurant are hand-made, and are far superior to supermarket brand pierogies such as Mrs. T’s. Syrenka Restaurant’s pierogies are a little smaller than Mrs. T’s, and the dough is much more tender. In addition to potato pierogies, Syrenka Restaurant offers pierogis stuffed with meat, cheese, or sauerkraut. A plate of five pierogies comes with sour cream, and costs $3.85.
Syrenka Restaurant also serves platters which cost $4.50 to $6. The platters include one entrée and two sides. Although the entrees include common food like chicken breasts and roast pork, those looking for the true Polish experience should try the kielbasa or the golabkis.
The sides offered include common foods like corn, carrots and mashed potatoes, in addition to distinctly Polish foods like sauerkraut and stewed beets. The stewed beets, which are slow cooked to fully develop the beet sugar, are highly recommended.
Kielbasa and meatcake sandwiches are also available, as are standard diner style sandwiches like chicken salad and tuna salad. Unfortunately, no traditional Polish desserts are served. The desserts available include Jell-O and pie.
Syrenka Restaurant is essentially a cafeteria. Customers use trays, and unless they order something that needs to be cooked fresh, their food is served right from steam tables.
Although the cafeteria arrangement isn’t posh, it does speed up the wait time.
The servers at Syrenka Restaurant all speak Polish, as do many of the customers. Most of them come from Port Richmond, a neighborhood that, despite the passage of time, has maintained its Polish identity. Since so many Poles go to Syrenka Restaurant, one gets the sense it is providing its customers with a genuine product.
Even Robin Williams is a fan of Syrenka Restaurant. There is a little shrine on the wall featuring pictures of Robin Williams posing with the cook and the servers. In one picture he even got behind the stove. He has the same goofy grin in each of the pictures, and the people he posed with all look elated.
Syrenka Restaurant is a refreshing break from both the prices and the sometimes superficial trendiness of Center City restaurants. And those who are concerned about what stick-to-the-ribs Polish food will do to their waistlines should be advised that Syrenka Restaurant is a 20-minute walk from the Allegheny station on the Market-Frankford line. If you take the subway, the walk should take care any extra pounds you gained.
Daniel J. Kristie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.