CHI-TOWN Part 2: Enter the Sha-wahs

Words by Filip Terlecki   Photos by Filip Terlecki and Peter Calak

If you’re in Chicago and up for some authentic Polish Highlander cuisine than the next best thing to actually stuffing yourself mad in the midst of the Tatra Mountains, is Szałas (pronounced Sha-wahs and in Polish meaning “cabin” or “hut” ) restaurant.

Described on it’s business card as ” truly the best ethnic restaurant in Chicago” this eatery serves up a full assortment of hardy dishes including items such as Herring in sour cream, Red Borsch, Pierogies, Highlander Cabbage Rolls and Turkey Cutlet a la “Szalas” (all your favourite home-made Polish dishes). And you can choose from a variety of menus including the Main, Lunch, Banquet and…Funeral (???) menu.

The food is tasty, especially after a long day of exploring Chicago’s many great sites.

What’s even cooler is that Szałas includes an interior, designed according to the customs and spirit of Poland’s Podhale region so after a few cold beers you really feel like you’ve been transported to another part of the world.

But beware…Szałas is more than meets the eye.

Rather than just another dry, boring and tacky ethnic restaurant, Szałas is a social power palace that has everything your social heart desires.

Aside from the restaurant portion, there’s a bar, full dining hall and dance floor. Music comes courtesy of a DJ and a live Highlinder band, Kumaraci.

Szałas is the kind of place where people go to eat great food, drink lots of beer and party…hard. It’s frequented by a polarizing crowd of young and old alike (a bit of New Beverly Hills 90210 meets Jersey Shore). A big guerilla-like bouncer keep a watchful eye, but after midnight things have a tendency to get a bit loco.

However, this is all part of the place’s charm and Szałas is definitely worth a try, because above all else, it delivers an authentic Polish-American Chicago experience.