Sociologist and trend forecaster by education, promoter of the “good life”, since 2008 she has kept one of the most popular women's blogs in the Polish blogosphere. She often posts illustrated guides to places she has visited, allowing others to follow her footsteps to restaurants, cafés, shops and other places worth recommending, which is why we requested that she create a guide to contemporary Jewish Warsaw for us. Another reason she was the right person for the job is the fact that after moving to Warsaw she chose to live on Nowolipki Street, Muranów district.
This route has been designed by a person with very little knowledge of contemporary Jewish culture. Moreover, I am not a great fan of hummus, falafel and the like; as such I am not a regular guest of Israeli restaurants. Nevertheless, preparing this mini-guide gave me a lot of joy and made me feel like a tourist in my own city. All the places included here had an exceptional ambience and most ended up on my visit-again list!
The square in front of the Polin Museum, 6 Anielewicza Street is the place I visit most often, actually almost daily. As someone who only recently moved to Muranów and who owns a very energetic dog, I know few other places in the area where I can safely let him off the leash. In addition to dogs and their owners, I come across many people cycling, walking and exercising in the open-air gym in the corner of the square – interestingly, the latter group consists often of retirees.
Although I have not had a chance yet to see the square in the summer, I am sure it will be a great place for a picnic or a lazy afternoon with a book, the more so because the nearby Krasiński Garden is out of bounds for my dog. The proximity of the modern building of the Museum and the distinctive hill with its picturesque tree gives the square a London feel.
If you get hungry on your walk, you can stop by the Besamim restaurant located inside the museum building. The menu features not only Jewish cuisine, but also a large choice of snacks, sandwiches and desserts, and you can have a glass of wine with your dinner. I usually choose one of their lunch sets, affordable and different every day. The restaurant is unpretentious, elegant and modern, a good place for a quick meeting at lunchtime. It is not kosher, but there is a kosher minibar with snacks, drinks and ready-made dishes that can be reheated.
A veritable pilgrimage site for enthusiasts of vegan, gluten-free and Israeli cuisine is Tel Aviv, 11 Poznańska Street. This landmark on the culinary map of Warsaw is especially interesting because it was the impulse that set off the transformation of the formerly quiet Poznańska Street into a bar, restaurant and café hub. Tel Aviv was recently renovated and the simple, stylish interior was fitted with a common table, a necessary element of any modern joint and at the same time a very nice touch. Hummus, shawarma, lunch, brunch – so many options to choose from, and you can order a kosher cocktail or wine with your meal. My favourite is mango lemonade, currently served with spicy laffa bread. Delicious! It is a popular place, so on weekends you should book a table beforehand.
Perhaps the most traditional and definitely the most fascinating place on my list is the Kosher Store in the basement of the Nożyk Synagogue, 6 Twarda Street. The underground garage-like interior contains an exotic flavour paradise. Its shelves hold countless types of halva, jars with mysterious vegetable contents, sweet date pastes, but also kosher versions of well-known products like Wedel chocolate. It is possible to order kosher meat, and the transports of fresh challah on Thursdays sell out almost immediately. A large proportion of the products come from Polish manufacturers
Interestingly, apparently the majority of customers come simply because they appreciate the flavour and low prices of the products. Strike up a conversation with the salespeople for a chance to learn plenty of interesting details about the store.
Boker Tov at the Jewish Community Center, 9A Chmielna Street, was my greatest culinary discovery. Late Sunday breakfasts known as Boker Tov (boker tov means “good morning” in Hebrew) are a common-table affair. They are open to everyone, both members of the association (who get a discount) and others from the outside. You walk in, pay 25 zlotys, pour yourself a cup of tea or coffee, find a seat at one of the three large tables and wait. JCC refers to Boker Tov as “Sunday lunches”, but I definitely recommend visiting on an empty stomach.
The abundance of food on the tables is incredible. The predominant type of dish is paste – vegetables, eggs and various kinds of hummus, served with delicious, gooey bread sprinkled with coarse salt. You can come across unusual combinations of ingredients, such as pickled pumpkin with pomegranate, which won over my heart, or actually my stomach, at the last two Sunday meals. At the end, when your stomach is full to bursting, you still have to go through dessert, which turns out to be the star of the event.
The food is absolutely outstanding, as is evident from the crowds that show up every Sunday at the bright, modern JCC building. The atmosphere is nice and casual, everyone is welcome, and it is a great place to spend a lazy Sunday with friends. I recommend keeping an eye on the JCC event programme, which includes regular sports activities (yoga with the former Jewish club Makabi), various lectures and special fairs.
As it turns out, contemporary Jewish Warsaw is not only about food, but also fashion, among other things. Risk Made in Warsaw (6 Szpitalna Street) is a new Polish brand, for the last few years offering their customers the opportunity to dress head to toe in gray sweatshirt fabric. If the word “sweatshirt” makes you picture baggy tunics or sagging pants, abandon that mental image right away. Risk means fitted dresses with seductive open backs, feminine blouses adorned with bows (made of sweatshirt fabric, of course!), and even... sweatshirt tailcoats. The Jewish roots of one of the founders inspired the emergence of a daughter brand, Risk Oy. It offers a range of jumpers and T-shirts with catchy slogans and graphic motifs which prove that Jewishness is super cool. “You had me at Shalom”, “Oy, oy, my boy is goy” and “Thanks to my mum” make you want to review your family tree. The products are available online and from the brand's boutique in Warsaw.
The renowned Warsaw café Między Nami has recently expanded its business with a mini-delicatessen offering tasty products in the spirit of slow food (Między Nami Sklep, 20 Bracka Street). Next to truffle oil imported from Italy, bread from the nearby bakery and goat's milk from a farm in the Beskidy mountains, you can find a shelf with sweets that conform to the laws of Kashrut. The shop contains such a variety of delicacies that if the girls from Risk hadn't told me where to look, I might never have found that one special shelf with pralines made in Wodzisław Śląski by Słodka Manufaktura Leona. Beautifully packaged, they make a fantastic gift for the discerning lover of genuine chocolate.
Last but not least, I recommend a nondescript place, with the interior design of a dull bar, which nevertheless serves cuisine more impressive than many an elegant restaurant. 8. BeKeF, 40 Hoża Street, is a tiny lunch restaurant with a casual ambience, serving Israeli fast food: falafel, hummus and shakshouka. Behind the counter you can find a large selection of vegetables that can serve as side dishes or be composed into a salad. I was absolutely blown away by the pickled eggplant. It is solid, filling cuisine, simple and delicious. The owner is a native Israelite, so the dishes come with an authenticity guarantee, but keep in mind that the bar is closed on the Sabbath. It is a great place which I heartily recommend to all enthusiasts of Israeli flavours.