What: Family recipes straight from Poland being served up for brunch
Where: Kinga’s Lounge in Northeast Denver, 1509 Marion Street (Colfax and Marion)
When: Saturdays and Sundays 11am-3pm
You’ve got to try: The freshly made pierogies and Polish drink specialties like the dangerously delicious Apple Pie while relaxing on the back patio
Pierogies, kielbasa, potato pancakes…Smacznego! Just thinking about those words brings me back to my grandmother’s kitchen, watching her shred and fry and sauté while my mouth watered. But if you didn’t grow up with a Polish grandmother, don’t worry. Kinga’s Lounge, one of Denver’s favorite bars for late nights, is serving up authentic Polish fare and weekend brunch is the perfect way to get acquainted with this often under-appreciated cuisine.
I’ve spent my share of nights sipping away on infused vodkas on Kinga’s back patio, a foliage-lined enclosed area that seems worlds away from Colfax even though it’s right around the corner. But I recently discovered that the patio is also a great place to grab a table for a tasty and affordably-priced brunch. Owner Kinga Klek uses family recipes and takes pride in showing off how Polish cooking developed using simple ingredients, the ones that would have been available in hard times, to create meals that are both scrumptious and filling.
Of course it wouldn’t be a traditional Polish meal without some vodka, and Kinga’s is happy to help you explore their vast selection of their (and my) favorite booze. A list of their house-infused vodkas can be found by the bar, and many of them are perfect in a Bloody Mary. Go spicy with horseradish or habanero, or savory with bacon, or get creative and mix a few up for a custom Bloody Mary creation. For a one-of-a-kind brunch cocktail, though, go for the Apple Pie, a two ingredient cocktail made from unfiltered apple juice and Zubróvka, a buffalo grass vodka, which magically combine to taste exactly like, you guessed it, a slice of apple pie.
You’ll need some food to soak up all that booze, of course, and nothing represents the simultaneous creativity and simplicity of Polish cuisine better than the pierogi (a dumpling, or “Polish ravioli” as Kinga describes it for unfamiliar guests). The Sautéed Pierogies for brunch are made with a soft dough that is stuffed with your choice of potato & cheese or meat, boiled, then sautéed with bacon, mushrooms and onion along with a side of sour cream. The first slightly chewy, slightly crisp bite sent me straight back to childhood and put a big smile on my face. If you’ve only had the frozen kind from a bag, these are a must-try.
For a tasty combo of two Polish classics in one, check out the Potato Burger. This filling entrée features authentically flavored Polish sausage (kielbasa, available smoked or traditional white), bacon, pepper jack cheese, a fried egg, lettuce and tomato stacked between two crispy potato pancakes with a side salad for a dash of healthiness. Another hearty choice is the Country-Style Schnitzel Sandwich. A thin-cut, tender breaded pork cutlet is served on a bun with a fried egg, melted cheese, lettuce, tomato and pickle with a side of fries making for a meal that will get you through any day of hiking or downtown exploring on a full stomach.
There are also plenty of more American-style breakfast items offered as well including a Breakfast Burger, Veggie Burrito Wrap, and Ham and Cheese Crepes. On the sweet side, Kinga’s offers Sweet Cheese Crispy Crepes, their light Polish-style crepes stuffed with sweet farmer’s cheese then fried and topped with raspberry syrup.
While night time drinking might be what brought me, and plenty of other locals, to Kinga’s in the past, their brunch offers whole new reason to visit during daylight hours. Polish cuisine may not require a white-tablecloth, but that’s part of its appeal. Nourishing, full of flavor and reasonably priced, this brunch makes for a satisfying stop during your Denver weekend adventures.