I am in a year of trying out being vegetarian, or vegan whenever possible (i.e. falling back to vegetarian whenever I’m starving). So, can you be a vegan in Eastern Europe? Well, at least on one street in Krakow, you definitely can.
I didn’t book the serviced apartment knowing anything other than it was close to the city center, but it turned out I had picked the animal-product-free epicenter of vegan food in Krakow, on Krupnicza street.
Green Foods for brekkie
I probably picked the wrong meal here — breakfast (like other parts of Europe) is often just “sandwich fixins” (okay that’s a phrase from the US South, not central Poland), but I did get some delicious hummus along with a few veggies and some bread.
Each day after, I made breakfast for myself, with peanut butter toast and some fruit.
Tata Burger for pre-lunch
While not a vegan restaurant, they do offer (last on the menu) a veggie burger. The large veggie burger patty is close to mash potatoes in consistency, but I think it’s chickpea, and a lot of it (yeah for volume), but it doesn’t belong on a bun (one squeeze and 50% of the “burger” shoots out the sides). This is something I constantly struggle with — I don’t need something in the shape of meat to enjoy it, so why does everyone try and make things that look or taste like meat?
Bike Tour — “dinner”
At the end of the bike tour of Krakow, around 3 PM, we stopped at some cafe where our lunch was included with the tour (clearly I had missed this detail). The pyrogi had either meat or cheese, but they gave me a beetroot soup, which was not as delicious as previous Polish beetroot soups. It’s a little known fact that invasions of Poland in the middle ages were not politically motivated or about the acquisition of land, but largely to acquire vast volumes of beetroot soup.
Sissi — for supper
Just a block away from my apartment, was the dinner I needed Monday night. There wasn’t another soul in the restaurant. It was listed on trip advisor as having vegan options, but “vegan option” would have been more accurate. The option (vegan stew) was delicious, the dairy-free focaccia great to finish off the remains of the stew, and the wine (okay non vegan) added the touch I needed. I talked to the waiter about the normal eating habits of Poles, and he explained that dinner is usually around 2 PM, and that most people don’t eat out for supper, and do something simple at home.
Dining alone is sometimes a challenge for me, but never if I have a good book, and none better to dine alone with than Sarah Wilson’s First, We Make the Beast Beautiful, a meandering yet punchy journey through anxiety that often stops you dead in your tracks with something that strikes a chord you really didn’t want anyone playing:
I wished I wasn’t sane. I really did. When you’re sane, you have to witness the whole bloody unravelling with your eyes wide open.
Veganic — Second supper
The second night I ate at at Veganic. You find that a restaurant will say they are vegan, and that usually means they are vegetarian with about a third of the dishes being vegan. It had good atmosphere (bit of a buzz, lots of young Krakowians, outdoor patio), friendly service, and the best beetroot soup I’ve ever had.
The main course(buckwheat pasta) was marginal (possibly too much salt from the salt mines), but the dessert (some kind of brownie pie) helped put a smile back on my face.
I mentioned before that I’ve never really been into the “let’s make it look and maybe even taste like meat” phenomena. Pod was mostly this type of place — essentially a vegetarian asian restaurant. The sushi was pretty straightforward (I tried the nigiri shiitake mushrooms) and the rest of the dishes were fine, but I guess I expected something a lot better.
On the fourth day, I discovered that right across the street from me (no joke, it’s at 9 Krupnicza, and I stayed at 10 Krupnicza) was a fantastic grocery store. I had been grabbing food from what are essentially convenience stores because I couldn’t find a good place for fruit and veg.
It’s an amazing store (with prices that are much higher than the usual Polish prices). Fruit, veg, fresh bread, everything you’d need to fend for yourself as a vegetarian / vegan (or gluten-free or whatever your case may be). The staff was also exceptionally friendly and we talked about all the great shops in the neighborhood.
“Best kebab in Krakow” — attempt 1
I looked up the list of the best kebabs in Krakow, and stopped at one highly ranked place, only to be told they didn’t have any falafel today. So I went with a lower ranked option, and it was fine, but nothing better than what you’d find on the corso in Sydney.
Krowarzywa — Burger attempt #2
Krowarzywa is an all-vegan burger place, so I thought it would go better than my first vegan burger attempt. I made the mistake of trying the “bowl” (i.e. bun less burger you eat with knife and fork out of a bowl), but the deconstructed burger was good, but nothing to include in a blog…
Vegab — Friday AND Saturday
In the continuing quest for a great kebab, I found Vegab on the map, a vegan kebab place. So, so, so good. The pita is grilled and crunchy, the sauces are exceptional, and my only regret is that when I went back Saturday I had the same thing instead of trying some of their fruit-based kebabs (mango in a kebab?!). For the record, smoothie #2 is great, smoothie #1 is not.
My food blogging career starts now. Or maybe never.
Recently I learned, this food blogging is a thing. I am guessing that I could fill a hole in the market — most food blogs concentrate on the usual foodie stuff and who the owners or chefs are, or the presentation and general foodie-ness of the food. I believe my blog could focus on the overall volume (potentially rating each restaurant by how many calories/$$ you get) and spice it up with my incredible personality. I also think my recommendations are really only useful for me, so if anyone actually uses this for their own travel advice, you are potentially in for a surprise.
Smacznego (bon appetit in Polish),
Bryançzççzz (Bryan in Polish)