November 11 is Polish Independence Day, and what better way to celebrate than to enjoy a hardy meal at one of Greenpoint, Brooklyn’s remarkably inexpensive Polish restaurants. In keeping with Greenpoint’s working-class character, these sparsely appointed, family-run establishments offer huge portions for $5 to $8. Dishes typically revolve around a piece of veal, pork, beef, chicken, or fish and include a starch like mashed potatoes or kasha (buckwheat), and assorted side salads.
The Happy End Polish Cuisine This 20 year-old restaurant features countertop dining and little in the way of ambience. There is no table service, but meals can be had for between $5.75 and $7.75, including a meat, mashed potatoes or kasha, boiled cabbage, and three side salads. Pierogis are a house specialty. The daily menu includes five soups and stuffed cabbage is a special on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Beer is coming sometime in 2009, but currently there is no alcohol and you cannot bring any in. The Happy End is open from noon to 8 PM every day but Sunday. (924 Manhattan Ave. at Kent St.; 718-382-9862)
Lomzynianka You can enjoy table service at this 16 year-old cubby-hole of a restaurant decked out with streamers and other festive decorations. Nothing on the menu will cost more than $7 and the service is good, although you may have to speak slowly to be understood by the Polish waitress. With each entrée you get mashed potatoes and a side salad such as beets, cucumbers, tomatoes, cole slaw, or red cabbage. No alcohol here either, but the staff turns a blind eye to bringing in your own. Lomzynianka is open every day from noon to 9 PM. (646 Manhattan Ave. between Norman and Nassau; (718) 389-9439)
Antek Restaurant Polish television is always on in this restaurant somewhat off the beaten path of Manhattan Ave., Greenpoint’s main street. With a wider menu than most of its competitors, Antek features a large selection of soups, several grilled specialties including blood sausage and salmon, and baked potatoes, gnocchi, and Silesian dumplings for sides. There is no table service and the décor is spare. A free beverage called kompot, made with diced apples and cherry syrup, is included with every meal, but you can choose from a wide assortment of Polish beers if you want something stronger. (Only Polish beer is served because only Polish people eat here, the owner told me.) Antek is open every day from 11:30 AM to 9 PM, except Sundays when it closes at 8 PM. (105 Norman Ave. at Leonard St.; (718) 389-6859)
Basia Restaurant Another place removed from the bustle of Manhattan Ave., Basia nonetheless draws a steady clientele for lunch and dinner. Service is cafeteria style and Polish television is a constant. You will find a large selection of soups, including red borscht, white borscht, sorrel, barley, and lima bean, and platters of meat, potatoes, and side salads for between $4 and $7.75. Pierogis are a house specialty. You can enjoy a Polish beer with your meal, and even a Corona or Heineken. Basia is open every day from 11 AM to 9 PM. (167 Nassau Ave. at Diamond St.; 718-383-0276)
Golden Café A recent arrival on the Greenpoint scene, Golden Café stands out for its flamboyant, gold-colored décor, loud dance music, and more continental-style menu. Golden Café offers an aesthetically pleasing dining experience for prices only slightly higher than its more spare counterparts. You’ll find a full bar, wine, and table service as well as Italian desserts and espresso drinks. The menu strays from tried and true Polish cuisine with such dishes as Hanger Steak in Cognac and Green Peppercorns Sauce and Beef Rolatini in Burgundy Sauce. The budget conscious can enjoy the soup of the day, one of seven selected entrees, and coffee or tea for $8 from noon to 4 PM on weekdays. From 4 PM to 11 PM nightly, Golden Café offers an entrée, glass of wine, and dessert for $12.50. Brunch is served on weekends. Golden Café is open Monday through Wednesday from noon to 11 PM and Thursday through Sunday from 9 AM to 11 PM. (615 Manhattan Ave. at Nassau; 718-383-6771)