Hailed by critics and friends alike, for years people have been telling me to check out the restaurant Polka. Despite its proximity, for one reason or another, it just never happened. Then came last Sunday. Recovering from a party the night before, we all had a desperate need for some serious comfort food, and our friend had the solution: Polka.
On the corner of York and Verdugo (that’s the other side of the 2, if you’re confused) Polka sits unassumingly in a little strip mall opposite two different gas stations. We parked on the street (the lot is small and cramped) and headed in.
As you walk in, certainly you’ll notice delicious smell and a certain warmth that only a kitchen full of great food can produce. But first, by God, you’ll notice the décor. I can’t say it reminds me of my grandmother’s house, but it certainly feels like somebody’s grandmother’s house. There are pictures and posters and bumper stickers around the walls, red curtains, and tacky lamps everywhere. Not the Applebee’s kind of tacky signs and table lamps, but the kind that an old couple has been cherishing for 40 or 50 years and their kids can’t wait to get rid of. Meanwhile, the tables are covered nicely by tablecloths, but then, of course, covered by thick, clear plastic that ensures they won’t need to be changed—ever. The décor is odd to say the least, but charming in that grandmotherly way.
On a Sunday night the wait for a table was a good 30 minutes, although on a more recent trip we were seated immediately. Regardless, the service is not fast. The owner, an older man, is very friendly and welcoming and will treat you like family the whole night, but he will never be in a rush.
Before you even order, homemade soup is brought to everybody at the table. It is excellent, and different every time. Next comes a small salad. Also nice, especially when you are starving and still waiting to order. For the entrees you have a lot of options. I’ve heard everything is good, but our favorites are the Pierogis and Kotlets.
Pierogis are Polish dumplings, filled either with potatoes and cheese, sauerkraut and mushrooms (ok, we haven’t tried these yet…) or pork and chicken. Full of flavor, both the meat and the potato pierogis are fantastic. As one friend said, the potato dumplings are “like biting into little clouds.” Light and fluffy, it’s an easy comparison to make. As one who often requires some sort of meat, I prefer the pork and chicken variety, finding the seasoning wonderful and the surrounding dough just the right accompaniment. The kotlet is either pork loin or chicken breaded and fried, covered with sautéed mushrooms. Tasty and perfectly crispy, I was elated to discover that it stays this way hours later when pulled from the fridge, cold, for a midnight snack.
Be warned, the entrées aren’t terribly cheap (about $15-20), but they are very large and filling, almost guaranteeing leftovers. If you’re worried you won’t get enough, for $25 a person, everybody at the table can order something different and will be given all-you-can-eat. Evidently they won’t let you leave until they are sure you are satisfied. Regardless, when you’re done with dinner, they will bring out desert. Homemade custard, sometimes cake, or many other things, out it comes, and always a great finish to the meal.
Polka is awesome. Everybody in there can’t seem to help but love the old man serving them, or his kind (and most definitely younger and beautiful) wife. Their adorable little daughter plays in the back when not roaming the restaurant and smiling. They all say hello when you come in and goodbye as you leave, always in a genuine and heartfelt way.
It’s friendly, it’s family, it’s comfort all wrapped up like one of their little dumplings. I think my friend Joel put it best when he said “if I were Polish-American, it’s the kind of food that would make me nostalgic for my childhood.”
4112 Verdugo Road
Los Angeles, CA 90065
Something that cemented my love for NELA early on (back when many people thought there wasn’t anything to love…) is the annual Eagle Rock Music Festival. To be honest, most years I’ve been oblivious as to exactly when it will occur, but every year my heart flutters with excitement when I inevitably drive down Eagle Rock Blvd realize it’s in full swing. I love to see the hundreds people out in the streets, and hear the music coming form the Trader Joe’s parking lot, or in the Oinkster, or poolside at the Islander Motel.
This year I don’t want to be oblivious, and neither should you. The Eagle Rock Music Festival will be October 4th.
Below is the local press release full of details and highlights. Don’t miss this, it’s one of the best nights in NELA!
LA City Councilmember Huizar and Center for the Arts, Eagle Rock team up to present a genre-bending, diverse line-up for their 10th annual free music fest including Crystal Antlers, Miko Miko, Dublab Soundsystem, Build An Ark, Gangi, Abe Vigoda, Radar Bros., and many more diverse acts spanning Jazz Fusion, Cumbia, DIY Eclectic Sounds, Classical Indian, Experimental, Hip-Hop, Rock, Folk, and More.
LOS ANGELES (September 17, 2008)- Los Angeles City Councilmember Jose Huizar and Center for the Arts, Eagle Rock present the Tenth Annual Eagle Rock Music Festival, the yearly FREE music festival with a unique and independent community vibe, to take place on Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock, on Saturday, October 4, 2008, from 5p.m.-Midnight.
An event that thrives by the support of local businesses and artists, the Eagle Rock Music Festival is created by the community and for the community, too. This anniversary year, the festival features more than forty diverse artists with local ties to Northeast Los Angeles and the surrounding neighborhoods of the Eastside, and Council District 14.
Musicians perform at sixteen unique one-night-only venues ranging from tire shops and formal stages to coffee shops and even motel poolside up and down Colorado Boulevard, which will be open to pedestrians between Eagle Rock Boulevard and Argus Street. Each venue highlights a different type of music, going beyond genre boundaries to create a place where Angelenos of all-ages can find a melody, beat, or guitar riff to enjoy. By bridging underground artistic expression with the more mainstream, the festival brings together a diverse grouping of artists that would otherwise never be united in one setting.
- Abe Vigoda, Crystal Antlers, Earlimart, Mika Miko, Princeton, Pizza!, Gangi, the Evangenitals and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes (a project of IMA Robot’s Alex Ebert) on the outdoor Emerging Stage, showcasing artists from the diverse variety of independent music scenes in and around LA’s Eastside.
- A Global stage curated by Los Angeles-based collective Dublab Soundsystem, bringing soulful, global roots music ranging from jazz fusion with Build an Ark, Afro-beat inspired dance jams from Fool’s Gold, acclaimed local favorites Very Be Careful and their unique takes on 50s-60s Columbian vallenato cumbias, and Domingo Siete (Son Montuno, Colombian Cumbia, Mexican Norteño and Bolero)
- A stage created by KPFK Divine Forces Radio DJ Fidel Rodriguez, featuring DJs, Filipino MC Bambu and genre-fusing Latin songstress Cava
- Neo-classical Indian world jazz by Arohi Ensemble, featuring Highland Park resident Paul Livingstone and virtuoso Indian guest musicians from Calcutta on sitar, sarod, and tabla (appearing courtesy of the Los Angeles County Arts Commission and the Recording Industries’ Music Performance Fund through the assistance of Professional Musicians Union Local 47)
- A stage presented by Eagle Rock-based recording studios The Ship Studios, Kingsize Soundlabs, and the Eagle Rock Bowling and Drinking Club featuring The Parson Red Heads, Radar Bros., The Flying Tourbillion Orchestra, Landy with The Black Pine, and Amnion; plus Light F.M., Le Switch, Divisadero, Pierre de Reeder, and Human Value at American Tire Depot
- A Kids’ Stage featuring interactive sound exploration for kids with GLANK and Open Gate Theatre, and CA Combo, plus Ellen and Matt, face painting, hoop dancing, and more
- Amplified instrumental music and quieter folk at the American Legion Hall featuring Upsilon Acrux, Emily Wells, Emily Lacy, The Cobra Lilies, The Antarticans and experimental improv with Jesske Hume/Joe Berardi (of Non Credo) plus more at Swork with One Trick Pony
- Award-winning spirituals with Forever Dedicated Gospel Group performing at the historic 1924 Spanish Colonial Revival Church of Christ
- Xicano progressive fusion with Aztlan Underground, plus hard rock and punk with Stab City, Nu-Tra, HDR, The Beeters, Le Face, and the Curs, plus the winners of the 2008 Eagle Rock High School Battle of the Bands at 7p.m. at the Bateman stage
- Selections from 20th and 21st century classical composers performed by youth at Renaissance Arts Academy
- Literary cabaret Late Night Snack: Short Theater and spoken word by Mike the Poet, author of I Am Alive In Los Angeles!, and The Bus Stop Prophet from 5-7p.m
-Live painting by Unification Theory at the Global Stage from 5p.m.-Midnight, with sales of the paintings to benefit Center for the Arts Eagle Rock
Updates on the growing line-up of artists and a schedule can be found on the festival’s MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/eaglerockmusicfestival
A free shuttle service to and from the festival will be available from the Eagle Rock Plaza, where limited free parking will be available for festivalgoers. The Plaza is located off of Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock where the 2 and 134 freeways meet.
The Tenth Annual Eagle Rock Music Festival is being presented with the generous support of Time Warner Cable, Eagle Rock Plaza, the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council, the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, the L.A. County Arts Commission, the Women’s Twentieth Century Club, Eagle Rock Chamber of Commerce, Bateman Water Heating Engineering, Shell Vacations, Curve Line Space, Macy’s, Daisy Rock Guitars, The Ship Studios, Kingsize Soundlabs, and the community and businesses of Eagle Rock. Media partners include Pasadena Weekly, L.A. Record, 88.9 FM KXLU LOS ANGELES, 90.7 FM KPFK LOS ANGELES, Citizen L.A., New Angeles Magazine, and the Arroyo Seco Journal.
The Eagle Rock Music Festival is a centerpiece in the year-round free and low-cost arts programming of Center for the Arts, Eagle Rock, one of the last remaining arts and cultural programming centers in Northeast Los Angeles. Center for the Arts, Eagle Rock is a non-profit 501(c) 3 organization whose mission is to provide multicultural, innovative arts programming to the communities of Northeast Los Angeles. Programs include exhibitions, community festivals, free and low-cost after school arts classes, a Summer Art Camp, and more. For more information on the Center for the Arts, and its creative community programs, call 323-226-1617.
Today is a big day for unincorporated Los Angeles County and for anyone who likes tacos, or simply doesn’t like a nanny-state dictating what choices they can and can’t make. Below is a letter we sent out to those who have signed our sister site/petition, http://www.saveourtacotrucks.org/. To briefly summarize, the Los Angeles Superior Court struck down the county’s recent ordinance effectively outlawing our beloved taco trucks. Look for us out this week, we’ll be the two happiest gabachos at La Estrella.
It’s a great day to stand on the side of hardworking Angelenos, fair capitalistic competition, and delicious food. Today in Los Angeles Superior Court, Judge Dennis Aichroth ruled in favor of our hardworking taqueros stating in part that the recently enacted law effectively banning taco trucks was “too ambiguous to be enforceable” and was “arbitrary and not based upon any rational, intrinsic or natural basis”. Furthermore, Judge Aichroth agreed with an argument we’ve championed from the beginning, writing, “this attempt to restrict the operation of catering trucks [...] is a pretext for creating a “naked restraint of trade” and, as such, must be declared invalid”. In short, Gloria Molina and her developer backed cabal of myopic gentrificationists have lost. The people of Los Angeles have won.
While we would like to declare the “big taco” bureaucrats down and out for good, we unfortunately must temper our joy with the realization that this may only be round one. The county can still appeal this decision, or rewrite the law in an attempt to stay within their constitutionally limited legislative powers. So then, what’s a socially active taco lover to do?
- 1. Write your Supervisor urging them to stop legislating taco trucks out of business. Their email addresses can be found here.
- 2. Take someone unfamiliar with the taco truck lifestyle out for a night of unforgettably delicious food. $3 should buy you two tacos, a drink, and a political ally for life.
- 3. On a self serving note, continue to submit your street food pictures and keep on wearing your “Carne Asada is not a Crime” T-shirts. Photos can be submitted to email@example.com and T-shirts can be purchased here.
While we may lack the money of the business groups and restaurant owners associations that backed this misguided law, we still carry the votes necessary to put these politicians in their posh offices and wield a bright spotlight which they’d rather not have shined on their political handouts. (Especially those who have built their careers on an image of championing the working class, Latinos, and/or the fair market.) Keep up the good work and know that you are on the right side of history.
“Give us Tacos or Give us Death!”
Aaron and Chris