Some restaurants can momentarily transport diners to alternate realities. For instance, while eating in the recently reopened Babushka’s Kitchen, I traveled on an imaginary trip to some Polish city stranded back in the Soviet era. Then again, based on its views and vittles, I suppose I could’ve just mentally touched-down in contemporary Northeastern Ohio, from whence this mini-chain originates.
Moved from its sprawling Clintonville digs to a much smaller building on an immensely unscenic street near the Alrosa Villa, Babushka’s valiantly attempts to provide cheeriness to visitors. I’ll give it an “A” for effort and friendliness.
Babushka’s new, coffee-shop-bright, drop ceiling-equipped space is long and narrow and blanketed with an industrial gray carpet. In between, it amusingly affects an Eastern European grandma’s living room (“babushka” translates to “grandma”), albeit one littered with thrift store lamps and diner-y tables and booths. Most memorable are a wee fake fireplace, photographs of grannies, oompa music playing softly in the background and little old lady curtains decorating glass window panes looking blankly onto papered-over walls.
Babushka’s cooking would suit a granny, too — at least one with a mammoth appetite for comfort food. For a smorgasbord-y journey through the menu’s Polish offerings, I and my companion tried the built-for-two Hunter’s Feast ($16).
Presented by Babushka’s winningly genial staff, that over-the-topper came overloaded with (take a deep breath): a thick and crisply browned carbo-bomb of a giant pierogi stuffed with mashers and cheese and flavored with sauteed onions; two kielbasas, one lean and clean, one juicy and smoky — both benefitting from zesty mustard; sweet-tart sauerkraut; a whopping cabbage roll stuffed with ground meat and rice and slathered with tomato gravy; a large slab of tender roast pork with gravy; and two sides such as more lumpy mashers (in for a zloty, in for a pound) and a relatively refreshing marinated cucumber, onion and carrot salad.
Verdict: If you crave tummy-padding and somewhat bland, Polish granny-style food, instead of going all the way to Pittsburgh or Cleveland — or taking the Wayback Machine to, say, Krakow during the Cold War — you can simply head to Babushka’s on Sinclair Road.
Photo by Tim Johnson