Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Street Meats of Krakow & Prague: A Tale of Many Sausages, Things on Buns, Polish Pizza, and the Mysterious Kielbasa Man

A Wenceslas Square wiener
Zapiekanka at Plac Nowy in Krakow
Prague sausage!

If you've been following my posts chronicling my recent trip to Eastern and Central Europe, you'll have figured out by now that Poppa Trix and I can eat like nobody's business. From huge bowls of pho to piles of raw meat to kilos of ham to multi-course chef's menus, we are no wilting flowers when it comes to tasting new things and experiencing other cultures through food.
So it only stands to reason that we were all over the street foods of Prague and Krakow. In Prague, many late nights found us in Wenceslas Square, staving off a hangover  with deliciously greasy sausages:

You say kielbasa, I say klubasa ... 
But man does not live by sausage alone! There's is also fried cheese, here presented in sandwich form, topped with mayonnaise:

I loved watching the great variety of humanity on display here, from silly girls  ...
 ... to solitary men:

While we enjoyed the street food in Prague, it wasn't the focus of our dining experiences, but once we got to Poland, street food became a staple. We discovered this local outdoor place at the foot of Krakow's Wawel Hill, sort of a cross between a food stall and an outdoor restaurant. We ate here several times:

Of course we had sausages here:
But for variety, we also tried this kebob:
As well as bigos, also known as Hunter's Stew, a traditional dish of meats mixed with sauerkraut:
And of course - beer!
Elsewhere, we also enjoyed the zapiekanka - sort of a Polish pizza:
It really did remind me a bit of a Stouffer's French bread pizza (one of my shameful dietary staples in college) only with a rather bizarre assortment of toppings.  The one above (and to the right, below) had sausage and pickles and barbecue sauce, while the one on the left was topped with spinach and corn and a garlic mayonnaise:
It's so weird it works. Apparently some places serve wretched microwaved zapiekanka, but we heard that the stands at Plac Nowy, or New Square, in Kazimierz, the old Jewish Quarter, served the real thing - and indeed, it was frequented exclusively by locals and there wasn't a word of English to be seen. Success!

But all of this wonderful Polish street food was building up to one thing: finding the mysterious kielbasa guy. Poppa Trix had heard about him long before our trip - a guy who makes his own kielbasa and cooks and sells it out of a blue van, just past a bridge,  from 8 pm to 3 am.  The stuff was rumored to be the best kielbasa in all of Krakow, and that's saying a lot. A little research revealed that said sausage guy was located near  Hala Targowa (Market Hall), a decent walk from our pension, and so, with beating hearts and rumbling bellies,  we set out to find Krakow's legendary Kielbasa Man.

To give you a full idea of my dedication, I should tell you that just a few days before, I severely twisted my ankle in a hole in Krakow's Medieval streets, and was medicating myself with Nurofen Plus (an over the counter medicine with codeine - I love Poland!) in order to be able to get around. But not even a broken leg would have kept me from sausage man.  Our excitement when we spotted the blue van was worth every bit of ankle pain:
On the back of the van, it says  Kielbaski z Rozna pod Hala Targowa, Poniedzialek - Sobota 20:00 - 3:00, which translates to Grilled Sausages by the Market Hall, Monday - Saturday, 8 - 3.

And after eating the sausage, I can tell you that I would have crawled twice the distance for it:
Herby, crispy, juicy - everything a perfect kielbasa should be, and then some. Truth be told, we were a bit nervous when we first got in line for sausage. What if he was like the Soup Nazi? So, we just pointed, nodded,  and smiled, which I have discovered works in 99% of cases in which you have no idea what's going on.

Be warned, though, the eating experience is a bit odd. You take your sausage and eat it at a sidewalk table, where a very serious assortment of men - and except for me, it was all men - methodically devour their late-night meal. They keep their eyes down and their elbows pressed close to their sides, neither speaking nor looking at one another as they methodically cut pieces of kielbasa, throw it into their mouths, chew vigorously, and repeat until it's gone, occasionally punctuating their meaty mouthfuls with a torn-off hunk of bread and a sip of Polish soda.

This business-like atmosphere made me afraid to ask if we could photograph Sausage Man, but I turned on the charm and was granted permission. But I don't think any of my  apprehension was necessary - turns out he's not scary at all! Behold a master and his assistant at work:

Think Poppa Trix and I couldn't have eaten any more on our trip? Think again. There's more Polish food coming up in a future post!


  1. My goodness! This place is like hot dog heaven!!

  2. Prague... (sigh). I would love to visit Poland too, like you I love discovering the culinary delights in every country.

  3. Oh my worrrrd! Amazing food! My mouth filled up ... I am craving some good Polska kielbasa right now!

  4. Look like Prague is sausage land and bread pizzas, Love to try them.

  5. I love Prague!! And sausages. Never tried the Polish Pizza before - looks interesting! And of course can't miss out on sauerkraut. Looking forward to more photos!

  6. you are one sexy godess girlfriend! Amazing looking dogs here and your look is stunning here!

  7. I would have hobbled and crawled for that kielbasa (or "kobasica" as we say in Serbian:) You are killing me with these posts, and I have to wait another 5 weeks until I go to my homeland!
    I enjoy tremendously your reports of the Central-European trip ( my daughter did it with a friend last summer, but he is a picky eater and she suffered fro it:( But they went to Warsaw, Krakow, Bratislava, Prague, and Vienna, finishing with Budapest.
    You have to be an adventurous eater to appreciate all that food, and you two are the champions!
    Thanks for offering me a piece of soul when I needed it:)

  8. awesome post -- crawling around Krakow late at night, high on codeine, looking for meat in a blue van! that puts a leisurely cruise down Loch Ness to shame (esp. since we couldn't find the monster).

  9. ooooh, I can't wait for more adventures of your eats ... would love those sausages... every last bite and I just love the charm of this food venture, so now I am craving grilled dogs, but I know I will never get my fill after seeing these beauties

  10. Wow. Presented with so many fine sausages on the street like that I wouldn't even know where to start! Very impressive though and I can certainly see why you have such a smile on your face! All this talk reminds me of a vacation I took many years ago. I called him Kielbasa Guy too.

  11. My goodness, I can almost smell it here too! My mouth is watering..... Thanks to you! hahaha... How I wish I can have them right now. Yummm... However, thanks for sharing. (I need a napkin!) & have a lovely day.
    Blessings, Kristy

  12. You're making me darn hungry...I have a major craving for sausage!

  13. Heading to Krakow in the Fall, can't wait to find the sausage man!

  14. Just got extremly hungry! The best zapiekanki are in Olsztyn (Poland, Warmia and Mazury Land). There was even an article in newspaper about them. Greetings from Warsaw! :)

  15. Borscht two ways was one of my meals in Krakow!!! Yum!

  16. oh! you discovered the sausage man from my home! amazing! great post :D

  17. Looks amazing! I want to come visit this fine country !