The Vegetarian Option: Lomzynianka
Greenpoint is a rapidly changing neighborhood. It is home to one of the largest Polish communities in New York, and despite the artisan ice cream and Neapolitan pizza places that are opening up, you can still find good old fashioned (and un-trendy) Polish food. Lomzynianka serves up some of the city's most authentic, in an atmosphere that makes you feel that you're dining in someone's home. You seat yourself, the food is rustic and comforting, and the smell of dill wafts out of the kitchen every few minutes.
Everything I tried could have been a small meal unto itself. Although the menu isn't very large, and there are no vegetarian options listed under the "Entree" part of it, vegetarians can eat very well for not a lot of money. Many of the soups are completely vegetarian, including the broth. I started with the zupy Ukrainski, or borscht and vegetable soup ($3). It may not be photogenic, but it's a rich and hearty soup filled with chunks of potato, cabbage, and beans. The broth tastes mostly of tomato, rather than the traditional beets.
There are a few different vegetarian pierogies on the menu. The ones pictured above are the pierogi z kaputsa i grzybami, or sauerkraut and mushroom ($5.50). I got them fried, though you can opt to have them boiled if you'd rather skip the grease. The thick crust is fried until crackling on the outside, and the cooking process mellows out the sharpness of the sauerkraut inside. The minced mushrooms don't add much flavor, but they do lend a little bit of crunchy texture to the filling. The dollop of sour cream adds a much-needed cooling sensation to your mouth as you're eating, while the caramelized onions add a surprising burst of sweetness.
Although not technically listed as a dessert, the nalesniki z serem, or cheese blintzes ($5.50), taste something a grandmother only makes on special occasions. The rich tender crepes are just crisp on the outer edges, and the sweet crumbly cheese on the inside is accentuated perfectly by the powdered sugar and sour cream.
There's nothing pretentious or trendy about the cooking at Lomzynianka. What you'll find instead is the Polish version of soul food, traditional food that tastes like it's been cooked by a family member, just for you. Eastern European cuisines are not usually known for their vegetarian options, but Lomzynianka bucks that trend with plenty of choices at very good prices.
About the author: Howard Walfish is a Virginia native who has been living in New York since 2003. He is, in fact, a vegetarian, and is the co-founder of Brooklyn-based Eat to Blog.