3173 Richmond Street
Philadelphia, PA 19134
A Polish cafeteria in the heart of Philly's own "little Poland" up in Port Richmond. I have been slowly making the rounds of Kielbasa town (see here, here, and here) to get down on some of the foods my ancestors (some of them) ate. Syrenka is the place I should have started with.
This place is not fancy, it's literally cafeteria-style, so you grab a try and pick your meat item and sides. It's magical.
Staffed by a lovely Polish woman, she gave a quick rundown of each item when prodded (FYI the meat patty is basically Salisbury steak). They offered simple items, and some questionable steamed vegetables, but you are not going there for the corn or broccoli. Unless you were one of the two women who came in and asked if there was chicken stock in the tomato soup (there obviously is not), and ordered two tomato soups, two sides of sad corn, and two of mixed vegetables. In 90+ temperatures, at a Polish place. So many things wrong there.
One kielbasa, beet, and pork/kielbasa saurkraut plate, and one stuffed cabbage, mashed potato with meat patty (brown) gravy, and some more kraut later, the $12 meal was served.
The kraut was wonderful. Bursting with flavor, and littered with rich pieces of pork, it was perfect. The beets were also pretty tasty, and I really am not a huge fan of beets. It was nice not having beets and goat cheese shoved in my face for the first time on a menu in a while. The bassy was also mighty nice, with a great snap to the casing, and a rich delicious encased meat interior.
The other platter had the same great kraut, decent mashed potatoes with a homey brown gravy, and a perfect stuffed cabbage. No new-school tricks, just good old fashioned flavors, done the right way.
The interior of the cabbage was marked by a particularly nice meat and rice mixture, and the tomato sauce was tangy and slightly sweet. Delicious.
Also, Robin Williams was there in 1998. Which is one of the most random things I have seen in a while. It's not near anywhere he should have been, he is from Chicago, and not of Polish ancestry. Anyway, its an interesting tidbit.
For an authentic Polish lunch line experience, look no further than Syrenka. Also don't forget the pierogies and cheese blintzes. This is some comfort food, to be sure, and the winter will make it all the more inviting.