Looking back on my column from this time last year, I am struck by how there now seem to be a lot more interesting places to go than there were back then. Krakow’s Old Town has always been stuffed full of cafes but, until recently, it seemed to boil down to a choice of the super-traditional, grungy student bars, tourist traps or a handful of old favourites. Now there are a small number of quirky, independent places popping up that are worth trying out.
One example is Wine Garage Bar, Kitchen & Shop on ul. Poselska 20, which opened a few months ago. It’s run by Mariusz and Agnieszka who also run Wine Garage on ul. Józefitów up near the radio station. They’re independent importers of organic and biodynamic wines from small, mainly European winemakers and their tiny wine bar in the middle of town comes with a kitchen where Agnieszka turns out light, fresh food the likes of which you won’t find elsewhere in Krakow (and I mean that in a good way). She changes their menu every week to take advantage of seasonal products, which is not something I’ve come across anywhere else in Krakow, and takes great care in sourcing her ingredients. It’s not cheap, but it is good. So good, in fact, that the owner and staff of a more famous Krakow restaurant are now regular clients.
Pracownia Café on ul. Brzozowa is another laid back place that is worth hanging out in for a cold beer, a coffee, a chat and perhaps some friendly rivalry over the board games that can be borrowed from behind the bar. Opened at the very start of summer, the name comes from the sign over the front door, which was left by the previous owner, a furrier. It’s looking like a promising place to hang out over the hot summer, thanks to the shaded interior, the board games, the magazines and local papers, the decent coffee and a pischinger that’s almost as good as my babcia’s.
If you’re interested in finding places that are beyond the usual run-of-the-mill, it might also be worth checking out what comes out of a local project called “Sól” (Salt), which was set up by a group of local artists and is supported by the Małopolska Cultural Institute. The name of the project refers to the role of salt in building Krakow’s prosperity and its goal is to create a map of the small businesses in Krakow that have survived the transition from Communism; the sort of places that have their own unique story and are at the centre of their own micro-society of loyal customers and fans. It could be a café, a grocer, a hairdresser, a photographer, a cobbler or an antique shop – what they all have in common is that they play an important role in creating the unique atmosphere and identity of the city. It’s an interesting idea and at a time when rumours that one particular global coffee chain is about to open on the Rynek, it’s one that is much needed. If you have a place you’d like to nominate, check them out on Facebook or at: www.sol-krakowska.blogspot.com