While in Warsaw, take the chance to branch out to non-Polish cuisine. After you get to the smaller towns, it's mainly Polish or Italian staples. The budget Vietnamese-Chinese eateries here are deft with the sizzling hotplates. As for Indian, the no-frills joints do just as good a job, if not better, than their up-market cousins. And you'll no doubt notice the sushi rage. Locals tend to avoid eating in the Old Town Square due to the inflated price tag. But you don't have to wander far from the square to find reasonably priced meals. And the New Town (Nowe Miasto) is also strewn with eating options. Most restaurants, even the formal ones, welcome kids.
Biting into the Past
For a glimpse of the dining scene during the Communist era, a visit to a milk bar is a must. Bar Mleczny Prasowy (Marszakowska 10/16; tel. 22/628-44-27) is particularly quaint and the place to go if you have time to visit only one. The coffee is awful, but where else can you get scrambled eggs for 3.50 z at 7am on a weekday? Go soon; these old diner-like digs are dwindling fast in a gentrifying city. Also dying are the likes of Lotos (Belwederska 2; tel. 22/841-13-01; www.restauracjalotos.pl), located to the south of the Lazienki Park. This type of "elegant" restaurant was originally limited to bigwigs and those who had scrimped and saved for a special occasion. At Lotos, the clock is stuck in the '80s, from the cloakroom to the dinner clientele, who all sport a bottle of vodka to accompany the traditional Polish food. Service, happily, has moved on and is quite friendly.
- Batida (Krakowskie Przedmiescie 11; tel. 22/826-44-74) has a dessert selection that includes tangy lemon meringue tarts and Warsaw's best French pastry. Another outlet is on pl. Konstytucji (tel. 22/621-53-15).
- Blikle (Nowy Swiat 35; tel. 22/826-45-68) has been in business since 1869 and is famous for its paczki (donuts).
- Pawowicz (Chmielna 13; no phone) is a take-out-only, hole-in-the-wall operation catering to a constant queue looking for fresh, made-on-site donuts and sweet bread for only about 2 z a pop.
- Sodki Sony (Mokotowska 45; tel. 22/622-49-34) serves fancy, mouth-watering cakes in a Laura Ashley-esque rustic milieu.
- Smaki Warszawy (Zurawia 47/49; tel. 22/621-82-68) is the place for pretty parcels of "pepper and vanilla" and kajmak (Polish toffee) tarts.
- To Lubie (Freta 10; tel. 22/635-90-23) is a smoke-free cafe converted from a belfry in the New Town. Tuck in to hot chocolate and homemade desserts like pumpkin cake, and then pick up some cookies for the road.
- Wedel (Szpitalna 8; tel. 022/827-29-16) "chocolate drinking house" has become a nationwide franchise, but the original store is still the place to lap up Old World charm. A must-do.
- Wróble (Noakowskiego 10; tel. 22/825-55-29) has been baking standard Polish sweet snacks since 1921. It's low-key and offers an inexpensive selection.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.