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Published: Friday, 12/17/2004

Restaurant review: Busia's Narozny ***

Busia's Narozny, a Polish restaurant on Lagrange Street, recently celebrated its fifth anniversary by opening another Busia's on Laskey Road. One of the twice-monthly specials at both places appears on the check as "cup of duck," or "bowl of duck." But unless you're Polish, it's almost surely not what you imagine it to be.

Neophytes may well take "cup of duck" to mean a cup of soup with duck meat. Trust me, that's not it. In the Polish language it's called "czarnina," a soup that combines noodles, sugar, raisins, dried prunes, vinegar, and - brace yourself - duck blood.

Actually, because of some murky health laws, duck blood hasn't been used in czarnina for at least 30 years, according to a local Polish butcher. It has been replaced with beef blood.

I grew up on Lagrange and know many Poles who have savored czarnina from childhood. I tried it one time as a boy and knew I would never acquire the taste. A sampling of it at Busia's the other day hasn't changed my mind.

Busia's Narozny - literally, "Grandma's Corner" - specializes in rib-sticking Polish dishes: kielbasa, pigs in a blanket, sweet and sour cabbage, sauerkraut, and pierogis, all in the $6 to $8 range.

Czarnina ($1.50 a cup, $2 a bowl) is available on the first and third Tuesdays of the month.

But American comfort foods dominate the menu. There's a big choice of homemade, reasonably priced food to choose from: a full menu of American breakfasts each morning, and for lunch and dinner, spaghetti, meat loaf, steak, fried chicken, burgers, BLTs, hot dogs with chili sauce, and even an Irish Jigg's dinner as a Thursday special. Tacos are served every Tuesday, and Fridays feature an all-you-can-eat fish fry.

During two lunchtime visits, we found both the Lagrange eatery and the larger Laskey Road Busia's to be cozily crowded with hungry people being served by convivial servers.

Right off the bat, we ordered the Polish combo ($7.75), which pleased us no end. The plate was loaded with nicely grilled and seasoned kielbasa, also available as a sandwich ($2.75); saucy pigs in a blanket stuffed with ground chuck; pierogi (dough pockets containing potato or cheese); sweet and sour cabbage, and a choice of roll or rye bread.

The American specials, which change regularly, all looked good, but the idea of a Jigg's dinner so far away from St. Patrick's Day was too tempting to resist, combining thick, tender slices of corned beef with cabbage and potatoes. We should have tried, but didn't, the equally tempting dessert specials: red velvet cake, butter pecan cake, pumpkin pie, and cheesecake ranging in price from 85 cents to $1.95.

I dropped by the new Laskey Road place just to see what differences there might be. Except for slightly longer hours (see accompanying box), there weren't many. Both restaurants live up to their "Grandma's Corner" name by actually being on a corner - the original Busia's at Lagrange and Weber streets, and the new location at Laskey and Tractor roads. But the menus, ambiance, and friendly service remain the same.

I did wonder, however, about the restrooms at the Laskey eatery. In the men's room, all manner of hard hats, tools, saws, goggles, and welding equipment were draped on the walls and fixtures. I asked the waitress about the unusual dcor and she replied, "Well, the owner kind of wanted it to look like a 'man's man' bathroom,"

Then I asked what kind of dcor was in the ladies' restroom, and she gave me a stricken look, exclaiming in mock horror: "Roosters!"

Please note: Credit cards are not accepted at either Busia's.

Contact Bill of Fare at fare@theblade.com



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