Polana is one of the leading webshops selling authentic Polish food in the US. We’ve been working with Polana for quite some time. I am so happy to partner with them! I’ve received many emails and messages from you saying that you used the Polish Foodies discount code when shopping and you are more than happy with the quality of food you received.
I thought you may be interested in to sneak peek behind the doors and getting to know the people behind this famous webshop. Why did they start selling Polish food, how do they care about the quality, and… are they Poles themselves?
I’ve been lucky to interview the founder of Polana Mario Machnicki. You can read our conversation below.
Why Polish food? Tell us how it all started!
When my family and I traveled around the U.S. to visit our Polish friends, we would always bring them a package of Polish foods from Chicago.
These were traditional foods that my friends did not have available locally, as it is nearly impossible to find authentic Polish foods outside of U.S. cities like Chicago, New York, or Detroit where there are large Polish-American populations.
Seeing the joy and sentiment with which my friends opened these packages of foods that connected to their roots and traditions made me realize that perhaps that sort of value could be extended to many other Polish Americans who live throughout the United States.
This is what inspired me to launch Polana Polish Foods. It all started as a mail-order catalog over 25 years ago. The catalog was sent out to American homes across all 50 states and featured elegant images of traditional Polish foods – from rich deli meats to authentic Polish pierogi, bakery items, or classic foods like golabki, barszcz, and more.
With Polana, my family and I were now able to share the delicious taste and sentimental value of Polish cuisine with Americans all around the U.S..
With the evolution of e-commerce in recent years, Polana became an online shop. We no longer ship a catalog but rather feature our selection on Polana.com. Customers can now browse through the pages of our website to find our offering of Polish foods and make a purchase right on the spot, any day of the year to have their favorite traditions shipped right to their door.
Whether you have Polish roots or want to sample foods you remember from trips to Poland, Polana.com offers a wide selection of traditional foods that will connect you with Polish culture in both taste and sentiment.
How did Polana become one of the Polish stores in the US? What is your key to success?
We focus on providing great taste and quality above all else. I think that is largely what has helped us become one of the most recognized Polish food stores in the US.
When people try the foods from Polana, they are often surprised by how authentic the taste is. We work with local vendors in Chicago (Polish bakers, Delis & cooks) to ensure that the foods we offer are based on real Polish ingredients and recipes. These foods are prepared with care and a dedication to tradition, which really gives them a homemade taste.
On our website, people can find a really great sampling of the basics of Polish cuisine. There really is a lot to choose from, which is why I think our customers really look to us when they’re craving to have Polish foods or when they’re planning for the holidays and want to implement the traditions they cherish.
We also put a lot of effort into making sure that our foods are delivered safely to our customers. All the foods are shipped frozen in special packaging that ensures their quality is kept until they arrive at our customers’ door. People know they can trust us to deliver authentic taste, great quality, and great service.
What’s your favorite Polish food?
If I had to choose just one dish, it would probably be gołąbki.
In recent years I’ve become a vegetarian so this is a nice dish that I can enjoy and it’s a very traditional dish of Polish cuisine. That said, it’s difficult to pinpoint just one food when Poland’s menu is so rich.
There has been a lot of culinary innovation in Poland over recent years and I really like to explore the new ways that traditional foods are being prepared when I visit Poland.
I like to try regional specialties wherever my travels take me. I’m really interested in trying food that is not available in the U.S., and I love trying modern takes on traditional recipes.
I’m also very impressed by the way chefs all around Poland today are preparing these foods with gourmet quality. Whenever (and wherever) I am in Poland I seek out the types of restaurants that focus on taking traditional Polish cuisine to the next level.
What do you think about Polish Americans? Are they different than Poles living in Poland or not?
I’m sure that the people of Polish descent who settled here in the States do differ from those who live in Poland. The culture that surrounds you always has an impact on your lifestyle and perspective.
I think people of Polish descent here in the States have a different sense of appreciation for their heritage. There’s a bit more nostalgia for it, because, in a sense, it’s something that has been left behind. They take great care to keep the Polish traditions they cherish alive here in the new country.
There’s a lot of effort that is put forth by Polish communities (like the one in Chicago) to recreate elements of their Polish culture – from Polish restaurants and food stores, to Polish language schools for the youth, or arts & sports organizations that promote Polish works and achievements and provide education and training for the younger, American-born generations.
To Polish-Americans being able to enjoy or experience aspects of their Polish roots here in the States is always very valuable. Being able to have a plate of authentic pierogi is an entirely different experience for a Pole living in America – there’s a great value of sentiment, family traditions, and heritage tied to the experience.
How do you care about the quality of the products at Polana?
We work with only the very best Polish food producers here in Chicago. We carefully source our foods to ensure that they not only taste great but are also made with great ingredients and stick to true Polish culinary tradition.
We make sure our company and all vendors we work with, adhere to all food safety regulations. We’ve also worked hard to develop an effective shipping method for our products.
All foods from Polana are neatly packed in our warehouse on shipping days and placed inside a styrofoam cooler which is part of our shipping boxes. We add dry ice to each package to make sure the foods remain in frozen or cold condition as they travel to their destination. All Polana orders are also delivered within a few days so that their quality is guaranteed.
We have a great team of employees who help us with quality control on a daily basis, ensuring our warehouse is always well-stocked and neat, and that our foods are in great condition.
Working with the right people all around, keeping to high standards, and regular quality control is what allow us to offer foods that are safe and delicious to our customers.
Do you see the difference between the quality of Polish food and American food?
Quality is something that is individually defined by every company in the food & beverage industry, whether it be a food producer, store, or restaurant establishment.
We all determine what level of quality we want to promise our customers, and I don’t know if that is necessarily determined by the country the company is in. You can find poor quality food and great quality food with conscious ingredients in both American and Polish cuisines.
I think perhaps it’s better to address differences – Poland has a much more diverse menu with unique ingredients. American food tends to be a bit more simple in terms of what it’s made of.
Polish dishes, on the other hand, use a lot of vegetables – cabbage, beets, mushrooms, celery, cucumbers, etc. There are also herbs like marjoram, lovage, thyme, or bay leaves as well as spices like cumin, black seed, or allspice and unique ingredients like poppy seed that are commonly used in Polish dishes.
There’s also a wider variety of meats in our Polish cuisine – there are so many different varieties of sausage, deli meats, as well as traditional game meat, duck, or lamb dishes. But I suppose you could say that America is still the best at preparing a great steak!
How do you embrace your Polish heritage in everyday life?
My Polish heritage is very important to me. I continue to speak fluent Polish – sometimes to the point that I even correct Poles in Poland when I hear them incorporating too much English into their everyday language. Keeping true to the Polish language is very important to me.
As a business owner, I’ve always employed Polish people in my companies. I also support Polish culture and tradition by engaging with many Polish-American organizations here in the States. I’ve provided support and even been a board member for various groups from political to arts organizations.
I’m incredibly proud of my heritage and I like to surround myself with Poles who equally value Polish culture and tradition.
Have you ever been to Poland? If so, what places did you like the most?
Yes, I was born in Poland and I travel back to Poland very often. I have a second home there today.
In all my years of visiting Poland, I’ve had a chance to see most of the country. The only area I haven’t yet explored is Wrocław and the Dolny Śląsk region.
It’s hard to choose a favorite place because there’s such a variety of landscapes and cities to enjoy in Poland; however, I recently did a kayaking trip down the Pilica River through the heart of the country, and I loved the opportunity to just observe Poland’s nature and the everyday life of communities who live along the river’s banks.
It was a chance to really become one with the authentic, everyday reality of people living in the heart of the country rather than experiencing it from the typical, tourist’s perspective that you get when you visit one of Poland’s cities. I think this has been my most memorable experience in Poland thus far – just to see the country as it is, in its true setting, running at its natural day-to-day pace.
Overall, I also have to say that as I’ve traveled back to Poland over the last three decades I’ve been incredibly impressed by the improvements I’ve seen the country go through. The quality of hotels, restaurants and various luxuries has really improved.
These are improvements that are not only wonderful for Poland’s tourists but also for the country’s citizens. Lifestyle quality has really improved for Poles with the various developments I’ve seen over the years. Nowadays, I really see Poland as a country for the Polish people more than ever.
I hope you enjoyed reading my interview with Mario! I think he is doing an amazing job to keep Polana’s products as authentic as possible. Most people working at the company are Polish and I truly think it’s awesome!
If you decide to buy some food from Polana’s webshop, be sure to use our discount code.
Just enter coupon code FOODIE15 during checkout to get 15% OFF (minimum order $60).