So based on what I've read here, I went with a friend to Cafe Polonia last night and was blown away by the room, the service, and the food.
I want to make what i think is a necessary clarification to past posts, however:
this is NOT a hole in the wall. It's a newly rehabbed, light, extremely comfortable (if spartan, and i'm ok with that) room that they've obviously taken the time to do right.
Previous Chowhound reviews left me picturing a crowded, darkish room with beer signs and a drop ceiling. That is NOT the case. There's just enough of Poland in the decor to make it clear that this is the real thing, but the room is not crowded (even if all tables are in use) and i would never call it a hole in the wall with all the light wood and soft light.
Last night's dinner was one of the most pleasant (and tasty) dining experiences I've had. I got a great beer recommendation that they were offering off-menu (Hevelius Kaper... a doppelbock, 9.1% alcohol, sort of carmelly and really good with this food.This beer looks light in the glass, but it's richly constructed and full of flavor.). The Polish plate my dining-mate had (pierogies, cabbage stew, stuffed cabbage, polish sausage), and my potato pancakes (2, plate-sized, with goulash in between and sour cream on top) made us very happy on a cold hungry night.
Capped off dinner with coffee and crepes (2, your choice of fruits or cheese - we went with 1 blueberry and 1 apricot), drizzled with chocolate and fluffy whipped cream... crepes is crepes, but these were just right after the dinner. We don't usually have dessert, but we didn't want to leave, needed some time to wind down after the meal.
Only complaint is that the coffee was sort of weak and uninteresting. Maybe that's a Polish thing too? I just don't know. I do know I don't need to eat today, and that I'll be back there with friends soon, to this place that is NOT a hole in the wall in the way that I've learned to think of holes in the wall.
The other folks in the room were probably neighborhood people, all speaking a mix of Polish and English, keeping to themselves and havnig a fine time. I also want to mention that the previous reviews led me to assume (my bad) that this would be a "neighborhood place" in the "who the hell are you and why are you here" sense that I get sometimes at small places in parts of Somerville and Eastie - not based on looks or sound but because they don't know me already... got none of that here, the hostess seemed glad to see us and we had a fantastic time. She knew just how often to come around, and a couple of times started toward the table and ducked away when she saw that I'd just taken a bite. I cannot remember the last time (at a restaurant with everyday-affordable prices) that the server didn't interrupt me mid-bite to ask a question or whisk away a plate that I was still working on.
And let me put in another recommendation for Hevelius Kaper, if you like tasty beers.
611 Dorchester Ave
(Near Andrew Square / Andrew T Station)