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Review: Hubert’s Polish Kitchen at The North Market

 Morgan Kelley Review: Hubert’s Polish Kitchen at The North Market
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This North Market vendor originally opened as Hania’s Olde World Cuisine, later changing the name to Hubert’s Polish Kitchen. Don’t let the switch confuse you though… Hubert Wilamowski has been at the helm since day one and continues to serve up authentic Polish cuisine for his loyal fanbase.

Unlike our neighbors to the north, Columbus doesn’t have the same type of Eastern-European heritage, and therefore we really don’t have a whole lot of options when it comes to authentic Polish eateries in the region. Thankfully, Hubert’s is the real deal, as the man behind the business immigrated straight from Poland in 2005 and has the cooking know-how to properly prepare his family’s secret recipes.

I do have to warn you up front… Polish food isn’t always photogenic. I did my best to capture the food presented in the North-Market-approved-yet-environmentally-unfriendly styrofoam containers, but looks aren’t everything. Don’t be too quick to judge any of these books by their covers.

The Mielone ($5) has the nickname of “chicken meatball” scribbled on the description sign, which I found to be only semi-accurate. The breading exterior provides an almost southern-fried crunch while the interior mix of chicken cutlets, onions, mushrooms, kraut and cheddar cheese provide a casserole-type combination that goes above and beyond any ordinary meatball. The larger portion is a factor here too, as this baseball-sized treat is bigger than most meatballs you’ll encounter. It definitely requires eating with a fork and knife, but unfortunately you might find yourself struggling with the flimsy plastic silverware provided.

The Mizeria ($3) is a classic Polish dish comprised of cucumbers, sour cream and dill. It’s really so simple that there’s not a whole lot else to say…it tastes exactly like you would expect. The consistency was slightly on the soupy side, but not to the point of being worth complaining about. The portion was ample for the price, but I’d more enjoy a half-portion option as a side.

Hubert’s Pierogi ($1.50 each) are wonderfully stuffed with potato, cream cheese and onions, and are drenched in a butter sauce. It seems like little effort went into the presentation of these treats, but that was more than made up for by the rich flavors and savory ingredients used. I found the dough to be slightly on the thick side, which made the exterior a bit chewy, but that’s really a fairly minor complaint. These pierogi were definitely the stand-out item of the meal and almost dangerously addictive (I’m craving more of them as I type this).

The Chicken & Beef Goulash ($4/cup, $8/pint, $16/quart) is a newer item on the menu, which contains potatoes, onions, carrots and tomatoes in addition to the aforementioned meats. The broth is rich and complex with strong paprika flavors, obviously slow cooked for some time. This thick and hearty dish can be eaten on its own as a stew, or served over mashed potatoes… which is heavenly. Which we’ll continue below:

The heavenly Mashed Potatoes ($2) are honestly some of the best I’ve had in a long time. When it comes to making good mashed potatoes, the general rule of thumb is that the more butter and more cream you use, the better. I’m happy to report that Hubert must subscribe to this rule, because the potatoes were creamy and rich and pillowy. He definitely knows his way around a potato.

The Stuffed Cabbage ($6 each, includes your choice of stew) is another baseball-sized dish from Hubert’s. These rolls contain a blended mix of beef, rice, tomato and garlic, very similar to what you’d find inside a Mexican stuffed pepper with some spice substitutions (subtract cumin, add paprika). I found the mixture to be slightly peppery, which wasn’t spicy, but still slightly overpowering when compared to the subdued use of the cooked garlic. I’d probably rank this dish toward the lower end of the spectrum of items I’ve tried from Hubert’s, which isn’t to say it’s a bad dish at all on its own. It just doesn’t stand out as much as some of the others.

Lastly, the Spicy Leczo Stew ($4/cup, $8/pint, $16/quart) contains a mix of beef sausage, chicken, kielbasa, onions, tomatoes, carrots, pickles, mushrooms and spices. The kielbasa stands out as the most significant flavor of the group, reminding me quite a bit of a soup version of a grilled kielbasa sandwich you’d get from a food cart. Paprika, chili peppers and onions add the most complimentary flavors to the dish, rounding it out once again as a nice stew on its own, or even better served on top of mashed potatoes. My one complaint is that my portion was served lukewarm, which I don’t believe was intentional. Something may have been wrong with the chafing dishes (Hubert’s is served cafeteria style) but it was enough of a distraction to leave me just slightly disappointed in what could have been a top notch dish.

Overall, I’d say that Hubert’s easily ranks up at the top of the North Market’s A+ offerings along side Kitchen Little, Jeni’s and Clever Crow. A few of the items here can start to add up quickly if you want to try a little of everything, but the prices are justified by the quality ingredients being used. I would love to see Hubert’s food someday served in a semi-formal setting where presentation is more important and tableware isn’t disposable to truly make it feel like a home-cooked meal, but the current tradeoff is the quick and easy fast-casual serving style which makes for easier lunch-crowd access.

If you’re looking for something new to try at the market, or searching Columbus for something that reminds you of the ethnic cuisine of Poland (or Cleveland), then make haste to Hubert’s.

Hubert’s Polish Kitchen is located inside The North Market, located at 59 Spruce Street in Downtown Columbus. More information can be found online at www.northmarket.com.

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