Cheese blintzes, freshly-made crepes filled with a sweetened cheese and served wtih fruit and whipped cream make for a delicious dessert at U Gazdy. | RICHARD A. CHAPMAN ~ SUN-TIMES
270 W Irving Park Rd., Wood Dale
Prices: Appetizers: $4.90-$8.90; entrees: $11.90-$27.90; dessert: $4.90-$7.90
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday
Try: Meat- and sauerkraut-mushroom pierogi (dumplings); rabbit in wine sauce; Polish-style baked duck; and cheese-stuffed dessert blintzes
Tips: Reservations accepted. Full bar service. Children’s menu. Catering. Seasonal patio.
In a bite: U Gazdy Restaurant serves well-prepared Polish fare in a congenial environment.
KEY: ★★★★ Extraordinary; ★★★ Excellent;
★★ Very Good; ★ Good;
Zero stars: Poor
A high concentration of Polish Americans call the Chicago area home, so it’s not surprising that a number of restaurants — both in the city and surrounding ’burbs — specialize in kuchnia polska.
One such place, U Gazdy, in Wood Dale, has grown in popularity during the past two years with a diverse client base (read: food lovers of both Polish and non-Polish descent).
Owned and operated by Shawn and Betty Pierscionowski, the cozy 50-seat establishment has a mountain cabin motif. Inside walls and ceiling are finished in decorative knotty pine, and sturdy tables and chairs are crafted from the same wood. Murals depict snowy scenes from the hilly Highlands in southern Poland.
Chef Kamil Narkiewicz’s menu includes hearty regional specialties — Highlander-style potato pancakes and pork shanks — along with traditional Polish dishes: pierogi, breaded pork cutlets and tenderized round steak with sauteed onions.
Entrees, which come with a choice of soup, are priced mostly in the mid- to upper-teens. Generously portioned, they often provide ample leftovers for a subsequent meal.
U Gazdy’s bar mixes specialty martinis and serves a variety of wines, many produced locally by Roselle-based Lynfred Winery. It also pours many Polish beers, draft and bottled, including Zywiec, a medium-light-bodied pilsner worth trying.
While studying the menu, small loaves of crisp-crusted bread are served with addictive smalec, a salted spread made from pork fat, bacon, garlic and herbs.
Our dinner started with an order of pierogi — Polish comfort food. The 10 tasty, ravioli-shaped dumplings were made-to-order with sauerkraut-mushroom and ground-meat filling. Among other appetizer possibilities were pickled herring, smoked salmon stuffed with cheese and herbs, and tatar (beef).
Smoked kielbasa sausage enriched the earthy flavor of the bean soup that preceded the main course. It’s a better choice over the chicken noodle broth.
Rabbit, braised in white wine and served with a white butter sauce, impressed from the first tender mouthful. This underappreciated dish deserves a bigger audience. It came plated with pillow-soft potato dumplings and a mix of carrots, broccoli and cauliflower.
A fellow diner declared the baked half duck with peach-orange sauce she ordered a complete success. The bird was served with apples, dumplings and a trio of small side salads: apple-studded carrot, shredded pickled beet and dill-accented sauerkraut.
U Gazdy also serves grilled salmon, steamed white fish and Galician-style sauteed rainbow trout as well as lamb chops, baby back ribs and a grilled chicken breast wrapped with smoked bacon. Shepherd’s Delight, which requires at least 30 minutes’ preparation, is described as filet mignon, pork tenderloin and chicken tied together and sauteed in garlic butter, then served with hunter’s sauce.
Desserts are limited, but for those who press on, I can recommend the blintzes ($6.90). Two freshly-made crepes filled with a sweetened farmer’s cheese are plated with small mounds of whipped cream. Feel free to skip the canned peaches and pineapple.
Service is diligent and the waitstaff will happily answer questions and make food and drink recommendations.
Thomas Witom is a local free-lance writer.