There’s a treasure tucked away on Yemens Street in Hamtramck, a restaurant that has been quietly serving traditional Polish fare for decades. The quaint structure stands out among its more contemporary neighbors. Once a hotel, it became a restaurant when Ted and the late Frances Wietrzykowski took over in 1976 and established the Polish Village Cafe.
Now run by their daughter, Carolyn, it stands as a tribute to tradition.
Walk down five steps into the rathskeller and into a convivial scene, with closely packed tables flanked by a bar backed in stained glass. You’ll be given a menu that is pretty much the same as it has always been, a list of hearty dishes typified by stuffed cabbage with tomato sauce and pierogi, the little morsels of dough stuffed with savory or sweet fillings.
Savory soups are emphasized. I don’t know of another restaurant that offers a choice of five every day, including the popular dill pickle soup and the more esoteric czarnina (duck’s blood). It takes a solid kitchen to produce all the labor-intensive dishes, and Carolyn Wietrzykowski has a staff of 12, including cooks and prep people in the kitchen visible at the back of the room.
Pork is the primary meat. Kielbasa, of course, the sturdy smoked sausage, as well as pan-fried pork chops, sliced roast pork and baked ham.
Best bet for the first visit to the Polish Village is to order the Polish plate, which brings a sampling of the menu: stuffed cabbage, one pierogi, kielbasa, sauerkraut, and mashed potatoes and gravy, all on one plate.
Like the other entrees, it includes a choice of soup or salad at $12.25, the top of the price chart, and remarkable when in many establishments that might bring an appetizer. Of course, there are few frills here. The blue-and-white checked cloths on the tables are covered with plastic tops, napkins are paper, and the staff is too busy at prime times to linger at tables.
The Polish Village marches to its own drummer, as you can see in the information box: No credit cards are accepted. That is softened by the very modest price structure. You won’t spend a ton of money at this reliable place.
Polish Village Cafe
2990 Yemans, Hamtramck
Rating: ★★ 1/2
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Wed., 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Thurs.-Sat., noon-8 p.m. Sun.
Prices: Entrees $6.50-$12.25, soups $2.50-$4.25, sides $1.50-$5.75, desserts $1.50-$5.75
Credit cards: No; cash or check only
Liquor: Full bar
Noise level: Moderate
Wheelchair access: No; five steps down at entrance
Parking: Lot or street
What the ratings mean
★ — routine ★★ — good ★★ 1/2 — very good
★★★ — excellent ★★★★ — outstanding