A very earnest Paul Jurczyk writes in to Eater this week to announce that he is the new owner of the somewhat homely but well loved East Village Polish restaurant Polonia on 1st Avenue. He bought the 24 year-old restaurant from his parents last month—he's been managing it for a year and a half—and has major plans to overhaul the entire space. Jurczyk needs some help getting the word out that a new Polonia is slowly emerging.
The East Village nostalgists may not be too pleased at the news—changes include a new floor, new menu, new awning, new bar, new cocktail list—and the 22 year-old Jurczyk says that he and his 26 year-old chef and Il Bucco alum Olaf "are changing this old Polish diner into an Eastern European dining experience." The question is: how does one turn an aging restaurant (that is older than the new owner) into something modern and successful without losing its identity?
Jurczyk explains, "We used to have lime green walls, no decor, a thick oily smell in the air from all the breakfast cooked in the morning, a menu that consisted of American diner style Polish food, almost everything was frozen and microwaved, there was a wine list that consisted of 'Red' or 'White' which was poured from a gallon or a box, the lights were super bright all day and all evening, and the radio was playing z100 or 103.5 fm (to name a few things). The service itself was horrible."
Now, he offers a revamped menu—found here—featuring still low prices with entrees averaging $15—and everything is made to order (novel concept!). They serve 11 wines (two are organic and one is bio-dynamic), eleven bottled beers, nine of which are Polish and three beers on tap. Young Jurczyk also built new wooden benches and a small coffee bar, renovated the restaurant's large 17 foot bar two nights ago, and plans on converting the old diner tiles to hard wood flooring by Christmas. He will renovate the front of the restaurant in the spring and is creating a "mixed wine and beer drink menu" that will hopefully bring in a "steady late night crowd."
East Villagers, Polish food lovers—if you give the place a try, write in with your full reports. Jurczyk states, "I can also say that we are the best Polish restaurant in Manhattan, if not in all five boroughs."