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Warsaw Paths Group
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03-571 Warsaw, Poland

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Warsaw Milk Bar

Warsaw Milk Bar
January 12, 2017 Warsaw Paths

[img]typical-milk-bar-food-warsaw-poland1152_12822730776-tpfil02aw-31288.jpg[/img][b]Walking along Warsaw streets you may start to feel hungry. That would be a good time to find a sign “Bar mleczny” (Milk bar).[/b] After getting inside you can see an old fashioned interior – little tables with a plastic checked cloth and fake flowers in vases. You sit down and wait for the service. A mixture of various aromas immediately reaches your nose. Smells nice but how to match it with a long list of dishes on the wall? Never mind, you will ask a waiter when he comes. But hold on… where are actually all those fancy dressed waiters competing with each other to get to your table first…?”;s:1:”f”;s:4615:”[img]typical-milk-bar-food-warsaw-poland1152_12822730776-tpfil02aw-31288.jpg[/img]Walking along Warsaw streets you may start to feel hungry. That would be a good time to find a sign “Bar mleczny” (Milk bar).

After getting inside you can see an old fashioned interior – little tables with a plastic checked cloth and fake flowers in vases. You sit down and wait for the service. A mixture of various aromas immediately reaches your nose. Smells nice but how to match it with a long list of dishes on the wall? Never mind, you will ask a waiter when he comes. But hold on… where are actually all those fancy dressed waiters competing with each other to get to your table first…?

You’d better get on your feet, grab a Polish-English dictionary and find your place in the queue to the counter! You are in a milk bar.

A “milk bar” (a literal translation from Polish “bar mleczny”) is a Polish form of cafeteria. The first typical milk bar “Mleczarnia Nadswidrzanska” was established in 1896 in Warsaw by Stanislaw Dłuzewski, a member of Polish landed gentry. Milk bars offered not only milk-based food, but also traditional cuisine meals (however, milk products were the foundation of the menu).

[img]8sadyduze.jpg[/img]The commercial success of the first milk bars encouraged other businessmen to copy this type of restaurant. As Poland regained her independence after World War I, milk bars appeared in most of the country. They offered relatively cheap, but nourishing food, and as such, achieved even more prominence during the economic depression in the 1930s.

The role of cheap restaurants carried through World War II. After the fall of German Nazi regime, Poland became a communist state, and a satellite of the Soviet Union. The majority of the population was poor, contrary to official propaganda, and expensive and even moderately-priced restaurants were derided as “capitalist”. During the post-war years, most restaurants were nationalized and then closed down by the communist authorities. In the mid-1960s milk bars were common as a means of offering cheap meals to people working in companies that had no official canteen. They still served mostly dairy-based and vegetarian meals, especially during the period of martial law in the early 1980s, when meat was rationed.

The prevalent idea at that time was to provide all people with cheap meals at the place of their work. At times the price of the meals served in the workplace canteens was included in a worker’s salary. However, there was also a large number of people working in smaller firms that had no canteen at their disposal. Because of this, during the tenure of Wladyslaw Gomulka, the authorities created a network of small self-service eateries. The meals, subsidized by the state, were cheap and readily available to anyone.

Apart from raw or processed dairy products, the milk bars also served egg (omelets or egg cutlets), cereal (kasza) or flour-based meals such as pierogi. After the fall of the communist system and the end of shortage economy, the majority of milk bars went bankrupt as they were superseded by regular restaurants. However, some of them were preserved as part of the relics of the welfare state so as to support the poorer parts of Polish society.

[img]bar-bambino-warsaw.jpg[/img]In early 2010 milk bars were seen to make a comeback. They became small, inexpensive restaurants that took advantage of welfare state nostalgia, while providing good quality food and customer service. Due to their good locations milk bars often fall victim to gentrification processes and are defended by protest groups.[1]

Some people prefer milk bars over fast-food restaurants because of the homemade-style food and low prices. A typical three course lunch can cost as little as 2-3 euro. Currently every major Polish city has at least one “milk bar” somewhere in the city center. They are popular among the elderly, students, and working class, but are generally looked down upon by other social classes.

Don’t expect an overwhelming gastronomic experience. Do expect a rare insight into Eastern-Bloc Poland. Subsidised by the state, this was food for the masses back in the day. With the fall of communism many bar mleczny found themselves forced out of business although a few of these canteens have survived and, aside from offering an interesting diversion for amateur anthropologists, they make it possible to eat lots in return for a handful of coins.  Value is value wherever you are. One tip is to go earlier as the choice and quality in some tends to fall as the day progresses.”;s:2:”ht”;b:0;s:2:”st”;s:0:””;s:2:”co”;a:0:{}s:2:”cc”;b:0;s:2:”tg”;s:23:”Warsaw,Bar,Food,Eat,PRL”;s:2:”pg”;s:20:”warsaw-food-milk-bar”;s:2:”mf”;a:0:{}}}

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