I’ll admit it. I was afraid. I’ve been afraid of Podhalanka since I first moved to Wicker Park. Let’s face it, it looks a little sketchy from the outside, doesn’t it? Would you really want to eat here?
And then there behind the bar, there’s homemade who knows what, post cards, and little knickknacks. It didn’t take much for me to fall in love. It was like being in Grandma’s house. Maybe Grandpa’s basement. Love.
Also love: the homemade mystery juice. I asked if it was apple? No. Pear? No. Plum? No. They honestly wouldn’t tell me, but they did say they make it themselves. (Yelp suggests it’s prune juice, which might be why they didn’t want to tell me. But a prune is a plum so I don’t know.)
And the cabbage soup? At just $3.50 a BOWL, with four slices of bread, it’s a tremendously hearty delicious value. (My medium soup at Au Bon Pain always seems to come in at $4.43, and it’s a smaller portion, it’s not as good, and it doesn’t come with four slices of bread.) New favorite routine? Come home from work and head to Podhlanka for a bowl of soup and the nightly news.
And then for the heck of it during my first visit, because I was having such a good time, I ordered up a plate of latkes. Four arrived — two too many for me — so I practiced a random act of kindness and gave two of them to the guy next to me. But after I gave them away, I became tremendously sad because these were, honestly, so so good and I kinda wanted the extras back, but we have a politically incorrect phrase for that in my language. Perfectly cooked and crispy and fresh oil, not old oil. Their only fault was they could have used a pinch of salt, but that was easily remedied.
The Verdict: I love Podhalanka. Love it. Love it. Love it.