Friday, November 9, 2007

Weekend Damage: Staten Island Edition

I was required to ride the Staten Island ferry for a photography assignment. I’d never ridden it before; now was as good a time as any to see what went down in SI.

I’m afraid to report, not a whole lot (at 3PM on a blustery Saturday afternoon in November, at least). Strangely enough, for all the people who were on the ferry (many foreign visitors, weighed down by scores of Century 21 shopping bags), once we docked, there seemed to be NO ONE around. Where had they all disappeared to? The assignment never said we had to stay in Staten Island--- we could have just turned right back around on the same ferry, headed towards Manhattan. But the beau and I had already set foot on land, and so, armed with our visitors’ guide (to Staten Island??? Really?), we decided to survey the area.

Quick to sniff out a culinary adventure, I targeted an eatery on our map called The Polish Place. I had never been to a Polish restaurant, the beau is part Polish, and we were both ravenous--- it naturally followed that we should go! The Place was hardly busy when we arrived; the only people seated were the proprietors (we assumed), chatting quietly. Linoleum ceilings peeked through a wooden lattice overhead, and a sectional sofa and TV were in the rear of the dining room. We were essentially in the ground floor of someone’s home, which made me hopeful about the authenticity of the cooking.

We started out with a Tyskie (Polish Beer, $3 a bottle) while we waited for our entrees- opting to share the Kielbasy (served with a plate of beet salad, coleslaw, and sauerkraut) and mashed potatoes and the pierogies (filled with meat and served with sour cream for dipping). We could have not have ordered more typical Polish fare---this I realize--- but figuring we had already landed ourselves in a sketchy situation just being in Staten Island, we opted to stick with what we knew. The salads came out first. To my surprise the cole slaw was actually good (I normally hate cole slaw) and the beets were quite tasty. Next came a generous portion of kielbasy and two perfectly-shaped mounds of mashed potato- not soft and whipped, but a bit chunky- hearty, like it was made with a real potato (does that happen anywhere?). Last to arrive at the table were the pierogies. Soft and lightly pan-fried, they tasted excellent with sour cream (I never knew to eat them that way).

I felt very satisfied--- like we had finished a homemade meal (the pierogies reminded me of Mom’s Chinese dumplings). During dinner, we had been seated across from the kitchen and could see (and hear) the chef at work, which added to this feeling. Pictures from the restaurant’s grand opening lined the walls; the business card mentioned that The Polish Place was celebrating its 10th Anniversary. It was all very charming--- I imagined the owners closing the restaurant to the public while a local Polish family and friends gathered to celebrate a birthday or to toast a wedding party.

The only thing that didn’t quite fit with my romantic (and completely fictional) anecdote was the Polish techno music.

The Polish Place
19 Corson Ave
Staten Island, NY 10301
No website.

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