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Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013

Something New at Polonez

Milwaukee’s long-running Polish restaurant adds contemporary flair

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The world keeps changing, yet without continuity, we’d be lost. The secret to a successful business often comes down to harmonizing change with familiarity. Take Google, still the ready reference of the Internet Age but still adding new lines, from Google Maps to the scary prospect of a driverless car.

Restaurants are no different. Polonez is one of two Polish restaurants to survive in a city whose South Side once seemed like an industrial suburb of Warsaw. At the time when George and Alexi Burzynski opened Polonez in a warren of rooms across from St. Josaphat Basilica, Solidarity still struggled with Poland’s Communist regime and Milwaukee’s South Side still felt solidly Polish. By the ’90s, Solidarity had won, most of the Poles had moved out of their former Milwaukee neighborhoods and Polonez went with them, settling in a new location in St. Francis.

But the menu changed little over the years. Polonez was a favorite place for pierogi, Polish sausage, borscht, zesty dill pickle soup and a traditional Friday fish fry with cod or perch. It served solid stick-to-the-ribs dishes, and there should always be a place for Polish comfort food, but the culinary world looks a lot different now than it did 30 years ago. “Foodie” was a word yet to be coined when Polonez opened, gluten would have drawn blank stares and vegetarians were only a rumor to many Milwaukeeans.

Last month, Polonez introduced a revamped menu under the guidance of George and Alexi’s son and sous chef, Peter Burzynski. Not to worry: the old favorites can still be found and anything old that was dropped entirely was—upon examination—no one’s favorite. A few of the standards have been dressed up for the ’10s. Always excellent, the chicken breast is now served in a beurre blanc (white butter) and white wine sauce ($13). One or two new items pivot toward supper club Americana, especially the 6-ounce filet with carmelized onions in a red wine sauce ($19). Tasting like something that should always have been on the menus is the new fried Polish cheese appetizer with pickled mushrooms, peppers and other vegetables ($6).

The major shift is toward lighter and vegetarian options. The poached salmon filet over kale ($16) is crispy outside and tender within, albeit the kale was needlessly salty at a recent visit. The Long Island sweet and spicy turkey breast sandwich ($7)—with habanero jam, lemon curd and cheese on whole wheat—brings an eclectic, contemporary touch to Polonez’s sandwich menu, which has always been dominated by Reuben and Polish ham.

Not that there’s anything wrong with those old standards. Polonez is keeping true to its traditions while embracing a new era.

 

Polonez

4016 S. Packard Ave., St. Francis

414-482-0080

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