U Babci Maliny
“Excuse me, can you direct me to the best pierogi restaurant in town?” That simple question has led to a massive obsession. The pierogies make my toes curl and I vow to eat here for at least two meals every day for the remainder of my time in Krakow. If it opened earlier than 11, I would make it three meals, no, scratch that, I would just move in. They couldn’t stop me either. I’ve shrunk down to 165 pounds since starting this trip, I’m hungry and hell bent on putting some meat on my bones. There can be no better way to accomplish this than some rainy weather and hearty Polish food. The pierogies at U Babci Milany, Your Grandma Maliny, remind me of my pre-arthritic Grandma Herrmann’s recipe and the atmosphere and ambiance are similar to her living room; the only thing that is missing is the faint smell of moth balls. And don’t get me wrong, Mrs. T still holds a special place in my heart but U Babci Maliny is to pierogies what Philly is to cheesesteaks; simply unbeatable. In the corner of the basement-level restaurant is a small doll’s bed, complete with an eyelet-style bedspread and ruffled pillow cover. That’s where I’d sleep and rub my belly after one of many large meals. In fact, this describes my perfect day in Krakow:
I’d wake in the morning in my small doll-sized bed and eat the Pierogi z miesem i kapusta, a shredded meat and cabbage dumpling, hand-made with lots of love. The plate of 12 pierogies is only $4.00 and I’d wash it down with coffee. Rubbing my belly and smiling, I’d walk along the Planty, the garden-adorned walking path surrounding the old city of Krakow past the dedication to the late Pope John Paul II, down to Wawel Hill, site of the old Royal Castle nestled on the banks of the Vistula river. Siteseeing would be the motive but if I timed it just right I’d catch the mass taking place at Wawel Cathedral, the national Polish santuary.
Slowly building up my appetite, I’d wander down to the Jewish Quarter of Kazimierz, once the mass evacuation site to the nearby concentration camps during the Holocaust, and snack on Zapiekanki, a polish-style pizza loaded on a halved piece of Italian bread. Come to think of it I’d wash it down with a tall can of Zywiec, one of many Polish brews. Of course, it would be afternoon by this time and all this walking is making me even hungrier. Heading back towards the town square, I’d grab a scoop, er, make that a triple scoop of gelato. Now I’m set until dinner.
The town square is packed with street performers, puppeteers, acoustic singers and of course, a quartet of accordian players. Moseying around, I’d give them my small change for the entertainment before entering St. Mary’s Basilica to enjoy the colorful mosaics and Gothic altarpiece. Afterwards I’d head over the to the “cloth hall” located at the center of the town square for some souvenir, gift and window shopping.
Needing a boost and a break, Massolit bookstore in the old town calls me into her quaint cafe and serves me up a great American style coffee, with cream and sugar that is. With the expansive selection of English language magazines and books, I’d settle in for a couple of hours to get caught up on the happenings of the World. My stomach never lies so before long I’m on my way home to U Babci Maliny’s.
The menu is full of delicious options but tonight I’m having the beefsteak with hunter’s sauce, pototoes with a dill butter sauce and a small side salad. Depending on my company, I’ll probably talk them into trying the Ruski Perogies, potato and cheese-stuffed dumplings and secure for myself at least a taste. Smacking my lips I’d wish Babci farewell as I have a train to catch to Zakopane, ski village extraordinaire in the Tetra Mountains.
Since this is an overnight train, a nightcap is in order so I’d stop at one of the many fine establishments in town for Poland’s favorite drink, Vodka. For the effect, I’d go with the cherry-infused flavor and knock it back before boarding the train. Settling into my couchette, I’d slowly doze off and dream of pierogies.