When I hear the word Milk bar, it immediately makes me think of the Korova Milk bar in Stanley Kubrick’s “A clockwork Orange”, a surrealistic bar serving milk spiked with drugs. But the word Milk bar, Bar Mleczny, in Poland is, luckily, a completely different thing and a place you must visit next time you are in Warsaw or Krakow.
A Polish Milk bar is a canteen-styled café serving hearty, nutritious meals at low prices and has its very own history. When during the communist era most regular restaurants became nationalized and many were forced to close down, Milk bars quickly gained popularity and most of them were even subsidied by the state. The main idea behind the restaurants was to provide nourishing and affordable meals for the labourers working in the area. In most cases the meals were even included in the workers’ salary.
Originally the restaurants served mainly dairy based food and hence the name. When the economy was at its worse, the milk bars chained the cutlery to the tables and served the meals in disposable dish ware to prevent them from being stolen. After the fall of the communism system, most of the milk bar became bankrupt and today there are only a few of them left.
They are still serving cheap and tasty food (you can get a 3-course meal for around 3 euros) and is a true cultural experience. Don’t expect fancy interiors or nicely presented food. The menus are almost always in only Polish and the older women working behind the counter are unlikely to speak English. But with the help of a smile and hand gestures you will be able to make your order and get your very own taste of the history of Poland.
Our 3 Favourite Milk bars in Warsaw:
- Familijny Bar Mleczny, Nowy Świat 39, 00-029 Warszawa
- Bar Mleczny Pod Barbakenem, ul. Mostowa 27/29 00-260 Warszawa
- Bar Bambino,ul. Krucza 21, 00-526 Warszawa