Hungry? On a budget? The dining options in Kraków for students and travellers are becoming richer and more varied. Lovers of Polish, European and more unusual flavours will all find something to satisfy their appetites. Culture.pl presents a list of some of the most popular places where you can sit down and enjoy a hot meal – cheap!
The tens of thousands of students living in Kraków from October to June aren’t forced to live on a monotonous diet or cheap fast food. Feel free to share your favourites in the comments below!
The Polish way: broth & pierogi
Sometimes a burger, or Chinese food just won’t cut it – only a home-cooked meal will do. We often dream of hot broth warming our stomachs or a boiled cut of beef with mashed potatoes. There are many restaurants in Kraków where a hearty two-course Polish lunch can be found for less than 20 zł.
One favourite, the legendary eatery U Stasi (At Stasia’s) located in a building on Mikołajska Street, fills the space that once housed a train station. Many feel that U Stasi is the place to go if you want to get knedle (plum dumplings), a hearty cut of meat in horseradish sauce or buckwheat for just 5 zł. The eatery has been a popular lunch spot for students, lecturers, professionals, families and seniors for decades. Thanks to its inclusion in numerous guidebooks, the restaurant has been discovered by tourists – a fact not appreciated by locals who now have to queue for their lunch.
U Stasi is sometimes called a milk bar, however, unlike milk bars, it’s not self-service. The inexpensive, full-service restaurant is a family business that dates back to the interwar period. The restaurant is only open for lunch – between 12 and 5pm, or until all the food is gone. The payment system at U Stasi is unique – eat what you want and after the meal go tell the owner what you’ve had.
The legendary Barcelona milk bar, frequented by professors and students from Jagiellonian University, closed its doors years ago, but Kraków is still home to a number of these inexpensive eateries so popular in the communism era. At the milk bar Pod Temidą, located on Grodzka Street in the heart of Old Town, you can enjoy a variety of Polish vegetarian dishes – pierogi, potato pancakes, buckwheat, crepes and omelettes – all for less than 10zł. The most expensive soup is 5zł and even meat dishes won’t cost you more than 15zł. Since it’s located on one of Kraków’s most trafficked streets, you’ll find a mix of locals and tourists crowded around the tables at Pod Temidą.
In Kraków’s Kazimierz district, the popular bar-eatery U Doroty (At Dorota’s) has been delighting diners at 4 Augustiańska Street, for the last few years. The restaurant serves a mix of traditional Polish dishes and modern takes on old favourites. At U Doroty you can get a two-course lunch – soup and a main course – for less than 20zł.
Polakowski – a self-service restaurant with three locations across Old Town and Kazimierz – also offers traditional Polish cuisine at an affordable price. With its somewhat kitschy interior and heavy cuisine, it’s sort of a sophisticated milk bar. Polakowski is almost always full of people taking advantage of their low prices and large portions. Their gołąbki and pork chops are so huge it is worth considering ordering half a portion – or bringing friends to share.
Something special & not expensive
For those who want a break from Polish cuisine, there are a number of cheap eateries and lunch places around Kraków that offer cuisine from all over the world. These are usually small and cosy places – often with a short menu.
The Pies Pianista (Pianist Dog), located on Paderewskiego Street near the Stary Kleparz market, specialises crispy Breton pancakes (galletes) made from buckwheat flour. Nearby, Oriental Spoon serves a number of Korean dishes, including bibimbap, to those looking for a quick lunch. Those who want traditional Indian food at a reasonable price should try Tak Yak Tandoori on Starowiślana Street, on the way from Old Town to Kazimierz. The small Indian restaurant serves the best naan in town, along with curry and perfectly broiled Tandoori skewers – all topped with finely chopped shallots and coriander leaves.
Should you be craving dim sum, Kanton Dim Sum House on Węgłowa Street is the place to go. This little bar serves a variety of these delicious Asian dumplings for a dozen or so zloty and offers a two course lunch set for less than 20zł. Just around the corner on Krakowska Street, Curry Up! serves a variety of aromatic Indian and Thai dishes and tasty Asian snacks.
For a cheap culinary trip to the Balkans, try Balkan Express Grill on Floriańska Street. The ćevapčići is prepared from minced pork or beef, seasoned with garlic and paprika, grilled on skewers, and served with chopped onion on a fresh bun. Their pljeskavica, a spiced meat patty, is also delicious.
Wesoła Café, located outside the city centre, is famous for its relaxed atmosphere and tasty food. They offer breakfast, as well as affordable and filling lunches. On Grzegórzecka Street, Mazava Falafel serves a tasty selection of Levantine cuisine including falafels and hummus. Hummus enthusiasts might also try Hummus Amamamusi in Kazimierz, where a hearty portion of hummus with vegetables and fresh bread costs about 20zł.
For vegetarians & vegans
The number of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options in Kraków is constantly increasing. Karma, a fixture of the culinary landscape on Krupnicza Street, is very popular with students. The trendy café offers inventive and freshly prepared soups, salads, and tarts – all for the price of a traditional Polish lunch.
Glonojad (Algae-eater) is also very popular among students. The vegetarian bar near Stary Kleparz offers a three-course vegetarian lunch for less than 20zł. In Kazimierz, the vegetarian bar Momo has been around for over twenty years. Though this classic spot isn’t the most inventive, it has a loyal clientele. For about 10-20zł you can get a large place of six salads or hot dishes – maybe try a bowl of sambhar and rye crepes?
When speaking of salads, it’s impossible not to mention Chimera – the oldest and largest salad bar in Kraków, located steps away from the historic Collegium Maius on St. Anny Street. Chimera is a Kraków legend – it was the first place in in Kraków whose selection of salads moved beyond sauerkraut in the 1990s. Chimera has long been a favourite among students and staff from Jagiellonian University. The 10-metre long counter features an extensive selection of salads and is housed in the covered and heated courtyard of a medieval townhouse. A big plate costs less than 20zł and can be washed down with a selection of hot borscht, smoothies, or freshly squeezed juices. Strict vegetarians should be warned – while most of the dishes are vegetarian, meat does appear from time to time. After two decades, Chimera is always crowded, regardless of the season.
A number of small, cosy soup bars have recently started to appear around Kraków. For 10zł they offer a large bowl of soup to warm you up on cold and wet days. Their menus often change daily and offer a number of options ranging from traditional Polish favourites to soups from around the world. We recommend Zamieszanie Bar on Rajska Street and Zupa Soup Bar on Warszauera Street in Kazimierz.
Originally written in Polish, translated by MF, June 2017