Saturday, May 19, 2007

Pleasant surprise at the Warsaw Cafe

I've been walking and driving past the Warsaw Cafe for ten years; of course I have, it's right across Locust Street from Monk's Cafe. I can't tell you how many times I looked into this small restaurant and thought, "Damn, that place looks nice; we should try it." I've even read good reviews, but still never got there.

We went today. Cathy's mom Claire was in town; we got tickets to Riverdance for her birthday. Hey, it was great. Impressive entertainment, virtuoso musicianship by the 5-person 'orchestra,' and we had front-row seats up in Family Circle at the Academy of Music. But we got out of the matinee later than I'd expected, and by the time I'd called Ralph's, they were full, with no openings till 9:00. Crap. "Hey, Cath...why don't I run in and see if they've got a table at the Warsaw? Want to try it?"

Well, long story short, we all went in (they went in; I parked the car) and got dinner. Very nice: blinis with caviar, pierogies, perfect pumpernickel; I got the Transylvanian Casserole (Balkan lasagna with ground veal, eggplant, spinach, and cheese layered with filo; quite tasty with the good dusting of fresh chopped dill), Cath had some tasty cabbage rolls, the kids had crab cakes (Thomas has a gift for ordering against the culinary grain) and beef stroganoff, Claire had a big juicy chunk of grilled salmon. Dessert was the only disappointing note: the coffee was excellent, but the chocolate whisky torte, while tasty with golden raisins and almonds, didn't taste much like whisky at all. The Munich cheesecake was good, a light-textured thing, like a ricotta cheesecake.

So....? Yeah, the pleasant surprise was the beer! There was a small bottle display, but a good one: Okocim Pilsner and Porter, Tyskie pilsner, Paulaner Hefe and pilsner, Stoudt's Fat Dog Stout, and a big bottle of Hevelius Kaper that they had on special for $5.25. Had to try it! I wasn't sorry, either; it's an 8.7% strong lager -- that means it doesn't really fit neatly into any pigeonholes; if I had to make a call, I'd pin it as a blonde doublebock or a super-maibock. It was big, malty, medium-full bodied, and smooth, a pleasant surprise indeed. Pretty good little beer selection for an Eastern European place in Philly.

5 comments:

Ric Hoffman said...

I've wanted to eat there for years too! It's just never worked out, what with the competition across the street. Glad to hear it was worth it.

Lew Bryson said...

Exactly: it's tough for a beer guy to walk right past Monk's. But if you like Polish, Austrian, Transylvanian food...or would like to try it, this is a good stop. I'd also recommend the Blue Danube, in Trenton; a bit harder to find, and not as nice/romantic, but a much larger menu.

tdrpatrick said...

Nima turned me on to Hevelius Kaper a few years ago. I thought he was full of it when he sung its praises (he often is, as you know), but I was really impressed. The pricepoint is dynamite for a beer of that strength and quality. I usually keep at least a partial case kicking around my cellar.

Looks like I might have to check out the Warsaw...

Lew Bryson said...

I may have to pick up some myself; like you said, nice beer to have on hand.

And as I told the illustrious Mr. Hoffman, the Warsaw's a good stop, but don't overlook the Blue Danube; an eccentric neighborhood place.

Dave Boelker said...

Being of Polish heritage, I am obligated to go here. Thank you for making me WANT to go there, now.