Still battered by a cold, but tired of soup dinners, I ventured out to my neighborhood and discovered Cafe Europa, a new Polish/Eastern European restaurant on California Street between 5th and 6th, on the same block (and side) as crowd favorite Mandalay.
The menu includes two types of pierogis, homemade pate, mushroom crepes, potato dumplings, borscht, mushroom soup, shopska salata, and gołąbki--dishes that span Eastern Europe, hopping borders from Poland to Croatia.
I ordered a mixed pierogi plate, beet salad and mushroom soup. The pierogi plate (half potato, half cabbage/mushroom) was really good. Handmade dough, lighter and more elegant than the pierogi I'd had recently at Gambrinus (an Eastern European pub by the Panhandle) and tossed in diced caramelized onions. The finished product was a crescent not bursting with filling but with enough flavor to compel another bite. Homestyle, if you have a good cook at home. Beet salad was a rough julienne threaded with raw white onions and left to chill in a vinaigrette that took down the bite. Good but a bit one-note: probably better if shared by 3-4 people, too much even for 2.
Mushroom soup was better than expected: too often these lean heavily on cream (sour or straight) or butter to carry the flavor through a mallet of richness that keeps pounding but never builds to anything greater than that. This had an earthy, almost meaty flavor from mushrooms that paired well with rough-chopped vegetables in a thick broth.I was pleasantly surprised by the number of vegetarian options on the menu, including everything I ate.
Bare bones site with address: http://europasf.com/