Borsch Vodka and Tears has been an institution on the dodgy end of Chapel St for many years. It’s modeled off a Kraków cellar bar and having recently been to Kraków I was interested to give it a go. The restaurant seems to be constantly busy, especially the outdoor seating area, and it seems to draw the young hip crowd. Inside, a bar stocked with enough vodka fuel the next space shuttle launch takes a good portion of the floor space, while small intimate tables fill the remaining area. The whole place is lit with about 60 watts total of bulbs, eking out light through wall mounted lamps. I think they’ve succeeded in their attempt to make the place resemble a Kraków cellar bar, but it’s a little too dark to be sure.
We were seated quickly despite having no reservations and the place being busy. Fair warning for when you get the menu, if you’re there to eat rather than drink, start from the back of the menu otherwise you’ll have RSI from turning past page after page of vodkas before you even get to the food. The menu is quite extensive and is aimed at sharing although there are full meals as well. I decided to go with two of the smaller meals, the chicken stroganoff and the 12 hour roast pork. My friend couldn’t quite decide and the waiter was very helpful in assisting her with the menu and in the end she went for the pierogi, Polish dumplings with a selection of fillings. I ordered a mixed drink called “The drink with no name” and my friend ordered a Czech beer called Podkováñ.
My drink was a mix of chilli vodka, pink grapefruit, dry ginger ale and fresh lime. It was also topped with a bird’s-eye chilli which I cracked into the drink to give it a bit more of a kick. The Podkováñ had a very inoffensive taste and you could certainly drink a few.
All three dishes arrived at once and I started with the chicken stroganoff. I’ve only tried beef stroganoff before but it was much less viscous than what I expected from a stroganoff, but perhaps that’s part of the Polish make a little go a long way ethos. It came with a good portion of rye bread to mop up the juices and it was all delicious. The 12 hour roast pork is served on a hotplate and is just the meat with a couple of wedges of lemon. The pork is cooked with a stack of herbs which gives it quite an intense flavour which I liked, but it may not be to your taste if you’re not such a fan of big herb flavours. The pork was delicious although it was best when the juices were spooned over the meat again to add a bit of moisture. I realised after I’d finished the meat that the reason I got so much bread with the stroganoff is that the pork also came with bread and they were in the same basket. Unfortunately I’d eaten it all so I didn’t have any left to sop up the beautiful juices.
My friend was also very happy with her dumplings, and I quite enjoyed sampling them myself. They were accompanied with a salad and six was easily enough to leave her full and satisfied. I think the beef and chicken was the winner of the three flavours.
We avoided the temptation of sipping from the vast array of vodkas until the small hours and called it a night. It was definitely somewhere I’d head back to though to sample more of the extensive and delicious sounding menu – both food and vodka.