Most of the fancier and more established restaurants are in the Old Town on the main square or along the streets running off the square, particularly to the south. The newer, trendier, and sometimes better places are located in Kazimierz. One area in the former ghetto to look is along Plac Nowy; the other dining cluster, including most of the Jewish-themed restaurants, is along Szeroka. Except for the very pricey places in the Old Town, dress is mostly casual. That's particularly true of the Kazimierz locales, which cater to a largely student and young professional crowd. Note that though many restaurants claim to stay open until 11 p.m. or midnight, on slow nights it's not unusual for kitchens to start closing down at 10 p.m. Go early to avoid disappointment.
Cyrano de Bergerac (French)
It's such a pleasure to taste Polish food with a French twist when it's done this well. That means staples like game, pork, and duck, but with a nuance. The duck, for example, isn't served with apple or cranberry, but caramelized peach and cardamom instead. The pork knuckle is candied in honey -- the glazing giving it a sweetish barbecue flavor. The brick exposed interior is stunning, with candlelight and white linens on the table. The service is polished, but can be slow on busy nights. Beware the prices on wines, with many bottles pushing the $60-to-$90 range. Dress for this one and reserve in advance.
Sawkowska 26. tel. 012/411-72-88. Lunch and dinner items 42 z-90 z ($14-$30/£7.50-£16). AE, DC, MC, V. Mon-Sat noon-midnight.
Edo Sushi Bar (Japanese)
One of the best sushi restaurants in central Europe is on a quiet corner in Kazimierz. The hushed, spare, modern decor puts the emphasis firmly on the food. Very fresh nigiri sushi and some creative maki rolls keep the crowds happy. My favorite is the "rainbow roll" -- an all-in-one sushi medley -- washed down with a glass of Polish beer, which pairs surprisingly well with the fish.
Bozego Ciaa 3. tel. 0661/316-607. Lunch and dinner items 30 z-48 z ($10-$16/£5.50-£9). AE, DC, MC, V. Daily 11 a.m. - 10 p.m..
Klezmer Hois (Jewish)
Arguably the best of the Jewish-themed restaurants that line Szeroka in Kazimierz. The "Fiddler on the Roof" motif has become big business in the former Jewish quarter in recent years, and what often happens is that the food part gets lost in the klezmer shuffle. Luckily that's not happened here. There's not much recognizably Jewish or kosher on the menu, with the exception of appetizers like gefilte fish and carp "Jewish style," but everything is creatively prepared and done well. My favorite is the beef casserole in a spicy sauce of garlic and cumin. The party atmosphere on crowded night is infectious, as the wine pours and the fiddlers fiddle. Good for groups, but probably too boisterous for singles dining alone.
Szeroka 6. tel. 012/411-12-45. Lunch and dinner items 24 z-36 z ($8-$12/£4.40-£7). AE, DC, MC, V. Daily 9 a.m. - 11 p.m.
A meal here is like dining in the country home of a well-to-do friend -- warm and inviting yet somehow still refined and special. The atmosphere extends to the cooking as well: Polish staples like pierogies, pork, and game, but well turned out and served on fine china. This is a perfect balance between something like Cyrano de Bergerac and CK Dezerterzy (below). The same attention to detail as the former, but with the more relaxed feel and prices of the latter. Excellent selection of meatless entrees for vegetarians. Reserve in advance to be on the safe side.
Karmelicka 10. tel. 012/425-42-60. Reservations recommended. Lunch and dinner items 24 z-36 z ($8-$12/£4.40-£7). AE, DC, MC, V. Daily noon-11 p.m.
CK Dezerterzy (Polish)
A cozy, family-style tavern serving well-prepared traditional Polish cooking, in a warm setting down a small side street just off the Rynek Gówny. It's perfect if you've just arrived and want a hassle-free, very good meal, and don't want to stray too far from the hotel. The only possible drawback is that it's popular with guidebooks (like this one), so while you'll probably find many Poles on the night you're here and tucking into your bigos or pierogies, you may wind up next to a table of guests from your own hometown.
Bracka 6. tel. 012/422-79-31. Lunch and dinner items 18 z-27 z ($6-$9/£3.30-£5). AE, DC, MC, V. Daily 10 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Flower Power (International)
The grooviest little nook in Kazimierz. Exotic, Moroccan-inspired dishes like chicken tajine, served with lemon and olives (just like in Marrakech). The front room is more like a standard coffee shop, complete with free Wi-Fi. The back room is more relaxed, with embroidered cushions on the floor for sitting and water pipes for hire. The sign at the backroom sums it up: PLEASE REMOVE YOUR SHOES, PEACE AND LOVE. Excellent coffees and a nice range of special teas.
Nova (just off Plac Nowy). tel. 012/430-64-78. Lunch and dinner items 15 z-24 z ($5-$8/£2.60-£4.50). No credit cards. Daily 10 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Le Scandale (International)
Great breakfast or light lunch spot right on Plac Nowy in Kazimierz. Decent bagels, eggs, and coffee served from 8 a.m. On weekends, arrive early to snag one of those highly coveted square-side tables, perfect for people-watching while sipping your espresso. The menu is heavy on international munchies, like quesadillas, simple pastas, and sandwiches, but also does well with steaks and seafood.
Plac Nowy 9. tel. 012/430-68-55. Lunch and dinner items 15 z-24 z ($5-$8/£2.60-£4.50). AE, DC, MC, V. Daily 8 a.m. - 11 p.m..
Any Time (International)
I love this little place just down from the Plac Nowy in Kazimierz. If you're looking for simple sandwiches, fresh ingredients, and homesick-curing desserts like chocolate cake and apple pie, definitely stop by. It's ideal for a late lunch after a long slog through the Jewish quarter. Possibly too informal for a special dinner, but not bad for a quick bite if other plans are on the evening card.
Estery 16. tel. 012/625-60-61. Lunch and dinner items 12 z-18 z ($4-$6/£2.20-£3.30). No credit cards. Daily 10 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Great bagels, as well as very good lentil soup, and even decent burritos, in a tiny shop just near to where Kazimierz starts if you're walking from Wawel and the Old Town. This is the place to go for that classic bagel breakfast with smoked lox, onions, and capers (so good in fact it's worth skipping the pension's spread of tired cheese and cold cuts for). Be forewarned: There are only three tables, so be prepared to wait or get takeout.
Estery 16. tel. 012/431-19-42. Lunch and dinner items 12 z-18 z ($4-$6/£2.20-£3.30). No credit cards. Tues-Sun 10 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Fabryka Pizza (Italian)
The pizza standards in Poland continue to rise and this new Kazimierz spot is widely considered to be the new pace-setter. The excellent pizzas are cooked in a wood-fired oven. You can order "small" or "large," with small being enough for two normal-size appetites. The interior is stark, dark, and highly trendy. The names of the pizzas are especially amusing. "Hog on Vacation" is ham with pineapple -- get the idea?
Józefa 34. tel. 012/433-80-80. Lunch and dinner items 12 z-21 z ($4-$7/£2.20-£4). No credit cards. Mon-Sat 10 a.m. - 10 p.m.; Sun noon-10.
Pierozki U Vincenta (Polish)
This tiny and highly inviting little pierogi stand just off of Józefa in Kazimierz serves every style of pierogi imaginable. The house version, "Vincent," is stuffed with minced meat and spicy lentils, served with fried onions and little bits of bacon. Other concoctions include Moroccan-inspired couscous pierogies, "Górale" pierogies, stuffed with sheep's cheese, and dozens of others. Try it with a cup of beet soup. The four tables hold about 12 diners in all.
Józefa 11. tel. 012/430-68-34. Lunch and dinner items 9 z-12 z ($3-$4/£1.60-£2.20). No credit cards. Sun-Thurs noon-9 p.m.; Fri-Sat noon-10 p.m.
U Babci Maliny (Polish)
This is Kraków's answer to the "Neptun" in Gdansk, in other words a decent "milk bar," serving not-bad-at-all Polish standards like bigos, pork dishes, and pierogies at prices that make it hard to believe they can pay the rent. It's a little tricky to find. Walk into the building and through some rooms and down some stairs. Usually you can follow the crowd, since this place is justifiably popular. Order your food, get a number, and then wait around until your order is called. As is customary with milk bars, watch the early closing times and smoking is not permitted.
Sawkowska 17. tel. 012/422-76-01. Lunch and dinner items 6 z-15 z ($2-$5/£1.60-£2.70). No credit cards. Mon-Fri 11 a.m. - 8 p.m.; Sat-Sun noon-8 p.m.
In the early decades of the 20th century, this was the epicenter of all things cool and a major meeting point for the Moda Polska crowd. Alas, those days are gone, and now it's largely given over to tourists. The incredible Art Nouveau interior and the evocative period paintings on the wall are definitely worth poking your nose in for a look. Beware the unfriendly cloakroom attendants (coat and hat check mandatory). You may have to wrestle a waiter to the ground to take your order.
Florianska 45. tel. 012/422-15-61. Lunch and dinner items 12 z-27 z ($4-$9/£2.20-£5). AE, DC, MC, V. Daily 9 a.m.-midnight.
Lovingly restored Art Nouveau interior recalls Kraków's elegant past. The perfect spot for a leisurely coffee and cake.
Rynek Gówny 1. tel. 012/422-47-71. Lunch and dinner items 12 z-27 z ($4-$9/£2.20-£5). AE, DC, MC, V. Daily 9 a.m.-midnight.
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