Perogies A-Plenty (Rozmaryn Restaurant & Bistro)
Editor’s Pick for Best Polish Food (Updated December 2012)
The Polish community of North Trenton is one the last remaining, strong European ethnic communities in town. The Italians have mostly left town. The Poles (really Eastern Europeans – there’s more than a few Romanians and other nationalities mixed in) were continuing to immigrate to Trenton throughout the 1990s. Now, with economic reform and the admission of Poland into the EU, as well as the decline of the dollar vs. the Euro, the economic drivers that were stimulating the immigration are greatly diminished.
Nonetheless, centered on the intersection of Olden and Brunswick Avenues, there’s a vibrant (if not fully thriving) Polish community that supports a number of fascinating establishments, especially Rozmaryn (Polish for the herb, Rosemary).
Rozmaryn is the successor to a restaurant called Julian’s, purchased from the previous owner. The new owner has changed the name, upgraded the interior, created a website, and generally spruced the place up, but it’s so similar, I’ve updated the Julian’s listing rather than scrapping it. Keep in mind that some of the older comments refer to Julian’s.
This is the real deal. The owner, who may wait on you, speaks English semi-fluently, but most of the customers will be conversing in Polish. Clientèle seem to be a mixture of locals: families and factory workers. The latter use Julian’s as a place for home-cooking away from home. Many are here temporarily, sending dollars back to their families still living in Europe.
The food is classic eastern European fare with an emphasis on meat, potatoes, and cabbage, although chicken, fish, and a variety of vegetable dishes are also on the menu.
The fried pork chops are excellent: boneless, pounded thin, expertly breaded and fried. There are several varieties of perogy (Polish ravioli) stuffed with cheese, cabbage, or mushrooms. The home-prepared cabbage salads are fresh and tangy. Potato pancakes to die for. Check out the “Gypsy Special” which is a goulash slathered between two fabulously crispy potato pancakes.
Portions are ample. Prices are reasonable, though not bargain-basement. The interior decor is pleasant if basic, and the owner is charming. Keep in mind that Rozmaryn closes early: 8 PM on weeknights.
However, if you can get there early enough, you’ll enjoy another wonderful ethnic meal from hidden Trenton.