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Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2010

Crocus Continues Authentic Polish Tradition

Food, atmosphere remain strong in new hands

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Given Milwaukee’s prominent Polish heritage, surprisingly few city restaurants serve the authentic foods of Poland. Perhaps the food itself—some say the meals are too heavy and starchy—can be blamed for why there are only two Polish restaurants in metropolitan Milwaukee. But Polish food can also be hearty and flavorful, with abundant use of mushrooms and the taming of sauerkraut into its best behavior. For evidence, look no further than one of the area’s two Polish restaurants, Crocus.

In 1983, Andrzej and Elzbeita Wasielewski, natives of Poland, founded Crocus. Now the restaurant is being turned over to Joel Rewolinski, who will be adding his touches to Crocus’ menu. The building remains the same, along with interior features like prints of people in traditional folk costumes and a collection of dolls. The chairs at the tables in the dining area could be more comfortable, but the booths are cozy. In addition to a bar, there is a larger dining hall that is used for special events and Friday dinners. Friday night is when Crocus serves its highly popular fish fry.

The menu is not 100% Polish, with border-expanding items like honey-dipped chicken, pasta with chicken, sauerbraten, broiled whitefish and stuffed sole. But those in search of Polish fare like pierogis, czarnina and golabki will still be satisfied.

Entrees include bread with butter, soup, a starch and a vegetable. The bread has a good crust and the soups show homemade touches. The most memorable option is a mushroom soup with barley that is full of savory flavor.

Salad eaters are out of luck here, but vegetarians fare better. There are crepes stuffed with mushrooms and cabbage ($12.95), potato pancakes with applesauce ($8.95) and, for the sweet tooth, blintzes ($8.50).

Pierogis ($10.50) are also a possibility. At Crocus, these traditional dumplings come with three different fillings. One is cheese—and while cheese pierogis are often overly sweet, that is not the case here. The sauerkraut filling, with just a hint of tartness, also makes for a good choice. Beef, minced into a fine puree, ranks third among the choices. The pierogis are served with a side of sour cream topped with a few fresh raspberries.

Potato pancakes with Polish sausage ($11.95) offers a pair of large, thin pancakes and a large link of sausage that is on the lean side. The pancakes seem better suited for the Friday fish fry. The Friday meal offers three choices of fish: Icelandic cod ($10.95), yellow perch ($12.95) and baked whitefish ($10.95). The crowd-pleasing perch has a light seasoned batter. It is so popular that the kitchen sometimes sells out of it.

Another item that remains a favorite is zrazy wolowe ($15.95), braised beef roll-ups. A thin slice of beef is wrapped around a filling of mushrooms, onions, bacon and slivers of dill pickle. It is served with flour dumplings just waiting to be doused in the rich gravy. The beef is ever so tender.

As of Oct. 3, Crocus will be serving a Sunday brunch ($15.95, $8.95 for children under 12). Along with standard fare like ham and omelets made to order, there also will be Polish items. This is a good time to sample the pierogis and bigos. Bigos, a stew of sauerkraut and meat, is well suited for a steam table.

Crocus is a friendly place. Servers have pleasant, light Polish accents and the bar provides a nice area in which to wait for a table on Friday night. Crocus may be moving in new directions, but it is doing so one step at a time.

Crocus

3577 S. 13th St.

(414) 643-6383

$-$$

Credit Cards: All Major

crocusrestaurant.com

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