Just south of the railroad tracks on Great Neck Road in Copiague is a stretch of shops that offer a bit of the homeland to the area’s Polish population: a small hometown away from home with grocery stores and delis, bakeries, a restaurant, video store, hair salon, a liquor store and even a Polish dentystka.
In a strip center on the west side of the street is Alicja’s Restaurant (1635 Great Neck Rd., 631-225-2500). The storefront that used to house B&B Polish Diner is larger than it looks from the outside with more than a dozen tables. Prices are unbelievably low with no entrée more than $9. This is hearty, filling fare for the community; literally meat and potatoes. At Alicja’s, as in many Polish restaurants, the food incorporates favorites from neighboring cuisines such as Hungarian pancakes, beef stroganoff and schnitzel. Staples like kielbasa and pierogi are well represented, but more familiar choices like pork chops, meatloaf and chicken cutlets are favorites as well. At lunch, I was impressed by the delicate Stuffed Cabbage, sided with boiled potato and gravy. It also came with homemade soup—I tried the rarely seen and delicious Sauerkraut Soup filled with shredded cabbage, carrots and potato. Beef Tripe and Bean were the other soup choices. Lunch also came with a salad bar, a small assemblage that included chopped beets, iceberg lettuce, celery and carrot salad. All of this warming, satisfying food came to less than six bucks. Wash it down with a $3 bottle of EB or Zywiec beer.
Sharing the same address but next door is one of Dudek Polish Bakery’s (631-841-3465) two locations (the second and larger store is down the street at 1907 Great Neck Rd., 631-789-1945). Loaves of dark ryes and grainy wheat breads compete with Chalka bread that tastes like a sweeter version of Challah. Pastries and cakes of all kinds emerge from the ovens all day. Next door, is one of Kabanas Polish Deli’s (631-842-3999) two locations (the second and larger location is around the corner at 515 Oak St., same phone). They claim “The Best Polish and European Food In Town.” Polymart International (649 Great Neck Rd., 631-841-2565) does a brisk business at lunch and dinner from the long steam table filled with hot entrees, as does Deli Karolina (1644 Great Neck Rd., 631-842-7215) with its own home-cooking and a fruit stand.
At Euro Deli (1650 Great Neck Rd., 631-842-5084), Grazyna and Roman Rusiecki proudly display dozens of varieties of house-smoked kielbasa, hanging proudly behind the long counter. I try one labeled Wiejska and almost finished it on the way home. Bacon lovers must try the cured slab bacons. The dozens of hams include smoky Poledwica, so unforgettable it will have me coming back for more.
Across the street at Krabal Liquors (1700 Great Neck Rd., 631-532-6711), Anna and Michael Krabal offer the familiar Polish vodka Belvedere but also brands that include Sobieski, Luksusowa and Zubrowska, which has a strand of bison grass that gives it a greenish hue and which some claim is an aphrodisiac. There’s also a honey liqueur with an easier to pronounce but less exotic name called Old Krupnik.