Exploring Polish Culture in Metro Detroit
IIf you want a taste Without booking a flight, you don’t have to venture beyond Metro Detroit, where Pierogi and Paczki are as ubiquitous as Faygo.
Polish culture has influenced life here steadily since the first great wave of Polish immigrants arrived at the end of the 19th century, created by the ability to secure jobs in the construction of railways and roads. In the 1900s, the growth of Detroit’s booming auto industry – notably the opening of a Dodge Brothers automobile plant in Hamtramck in 1910 – drew even more Poles to the region. In the 1920s, about 66 percent of Hamtramck’s residents were born in Poland. A second densely populated Polish quarter, Poletown East, bordered Hamtramck.
In 2000, Michigan had the third largest population of Polish descent in America, according to the US Census, with most of that population being concentrated in the Wayne, Macomb and Oakland triad, particularly in Hamtramck, Sterling Heights, USA. and Troy. NPR reported in a segment from 2017 that Hamtramck was nearly 75 percent Polish at its peak, despite the city becoming increasingly diverse.
“Hamtramck is a multicultural community, and that includes Polish culture,” he says Melody Malosh, co-owner of Small’s Bar in Hamtramck. “You really see it at events like that [Hamtramck] The Labor Day Festival Polish Day parade in September and the St. Florian Strawberry Festival in May with food, dance, traditional costumes and music. “
Here are some of the best places to experience Poland here on Metro Detroit.
Do not miss
Paczki are ubiquitous in Hamtramck and beyond. // Photo by Gerard + Belevender
Probably the most important Polish event of Metro Detroit is the annual one Day packages Celebration that takes place on Fat Tuesday in mid-February. Polish bakeries across the region see lines out the door for delicious paczki – those delicious donuts that aren’t filled with jam, cream, or pudding. Based in Detroit Detroit City Distillery takes Paczki into new dimensions in the run-up to Fat Tuesday and releases a limited annual supply of Paczki-infused vodka. The day of enjoyment is also characterized by live music all over Hamtramck and during the annual city visit Run packsthat contains a 5K route. “Hamtramck is at the heart of the Fat Tuesday celebration in Metro Detroit,” says Malosh. “It’s like ours
St. Patrick’s Day. “
The yearbook is now taking place in Downrivers Wyandotte Polish Festival of Our Lady of the Scapularwith traditional Polish food, dancing and vendors. The popular late August event that started in 1972 was canceled last year due to COVID. In early March, it was unclear whether it would return this summer. However, a visit to Wyandotte offers other ways to learn about Polish culture, including visiting Pulaski ParkHere is a memorial to Count Kasimir Pulaski, who fought for both Polish and American freedom in the 18th century. An impressive monument to General Thaddeus KosciuszkoAnother Polish patriot who joined the American Revolution is located on Michigan Avenue in Detroit. This monument to the “freedom fighter for two continents” is an exact replica of the monument on Krakow’s famous Wawel Castle.
Ann Arbor is home of the year Polish film festivalwhich takes place every November and includes feature films, documentaries and a Polish children’s book fair. Recently released films include the Polish historical war drama Europa Europa and the short comedy adventure Marcel.
There are also West Bloomfields annual St. Mary’s Polish Country Fairwhich takes place on Memorial Day weekend. The event is filled with carnival rides, games, Polish entertainment and of course lots of pierogi or Polish dumplings. Sterling Heights, meanwhile, is home to the American Polish Festival & Craft Show every June. This year’s event takes place from June 25th to 27th and covers the ninth year Srodek’s Pierogi Eating Challenge. If you are thinking of attending, you had better go hungry. Last year’s winner defeated 49 Pierogi in 10 minutes.
The only true
Fortunately, there are plenty of places to turn when it comes to finding authentic Polish culture. There is a large specialty shop for traditional Polish food Polish market on Maple Road in Troy. The expansive aisles include Polish baked goods, cheese, smoked meat, and hot take-away items. Another option is Srodeks Campau Quality Sausage Co. in Hamtramck and Sterling Heights, known for its meat selection and delicacies.
To get a feel for the past, visit the Hamtramck Historical Museum to learn about local Polish history and its influence. Or to experience Polish life in the present, go to American-Polish cultural center in Troy. There you can find a number of Polish cultural events such as live jazz performances and wedding shows.
Visit for Polish handicrafts Hamtramck’s Polish Arts Center. “The Polish Arts Center in Joseph Campau is a year-round good example of Polish pride in Hamtramck,” says Malosh. “They sell imported Polish artworks, jewelry, books, and other gifts and have been around for many decades.”
Head to the Polonia Restaurant for authentic dishes, including, of course, Pierogi. // Photo by Gerard + Belevender
For traditional Polish dishes Polish village cafe in Hamtramck is a must for unique pierogi flavors like cheeseburgers and pepperoni pizza. It’s not the only Polish restaurant in the region, however – Polonia restaurant is another great Hamtramck eatery for Polish and Eastern European dishes in an Old World style atmosphere. Krakus Restaurant is also celebrated for its fried pierogi. And for classic Polish drinks, be sure to check out the lively one Polish Sea League Bar for a shot of Malört, a liqueur popular in Polish bars.
Further downstream Sabina’s restaurant in Melvindale is known for serving delicious dill pickle soup. Wawel Royal Castle Polish Bar & Restaurant in Troy is great for a homemade Polish cabbage dish. In Detroit’s Gratiot Central Meat Market, see Pietrzyk dumplingswho curates Polish street foods to sit on or eat on the go. You can pick up all of the classic Pierogi flavors like mushrooms, cheddar cheese, or sauerkraut. Those with more adventurous taste buds should definitely check it out Volkspierogi every Saturday at the Eastern Market for Pierogi in “funkified” flavors like “Detroit Coney Dog” and “Corned Beef and Swiss”.
Did you know already?
Metro Detroit is home to the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame, which is located in Troy. It records the legacies of baseball star Stan Musial and college basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, among others. Plus: The museum houses a soccer ball signed by Bob Skoronski, Vince Lombardi, and other players from Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers from 1967.
Detour to Russia
Like the Polish community, Russian culture has developed a significant presence in Metro Detroit. With waves of immigration from the Soviet Union after World War II, many of whom were Jewish, a large Russian population grew in the region.
Hop over the Polish border and take a short detour to nearby Russia. One of the best places to experience Russian culture is West Bloomfield’s Allegro. There is plenty of live music and traditional Russian dishes at this lively restaurant and entertainment center. It doubles as an event space and often hosts large birthday parties and other celebrations.
It’s just around the corner from Allegro New York International, one of Metro Detroit’s premier Russian grocery stores. From Russian sweets to cakes and sweets to smoked fish and caviar, many Russian-born locals and their families buy ingredients for making traditional Russian dishes.