Two young people are turning traditional European dishes, like pork schnitzel and apple strudel, into local favourites.
Julia and Victor Polowy are owners and operators of Schnitzels and Strudels North in Porcupine. This marks the second summer they are serving up Croatian and Ukrainian family favourites to area residents.
“We were a little bit unsure about how the community would accept our food,” Victor said. “We knew our food was good. But we weren’t sure if people would have the courage to come out and try it.
“But sure enough, we’ve had a lot of support and we’re very thankful for that.”
“There’s not many places in Timmins where you can get authentic European food hot and ready,” Julia said. “Lots of people come to the truck and say, ‘I’ll take a schnitzel. I don’t know what it is, but I’ll take it.’ And when they try it, they come back and say it was great.”
It wasn’t tough to find recipes for their menu, as the twins have enjoyed them all their lives. They enjoyed their grandmother’s schnitzels, strudels, cabbage rolls and more.
“They’re my Baba’s recipe,” he said. “We’ve been making and eating them for a very long time. All of our food is homemade and they’re her recipes.”
Their Baba passed away last year, making it even more special to share her cooking style with others. And they were pleased with the reaction from the paying public.
“Last year, it was amazing. It was an overwhelming response,” she said. “They come back and they’re trying different stuff. They’re asking what’s the most popular sandwich, try that, then come back and try all the different types.”
The duo gained valuable experience running the business last year.
“We learned so many lessons that first year, it’s almost impossible for me to account all of what we did learn,” Victor said. “Our systems we established last year are the same from where we ended off last year.
“But from the end of last year to this year, there have only been a few little tweaks, everything else is running the same.”
“We carried over the same menu for this year,” Julia said. “The community is taking it well. We’ll see how the summer goes and maybe we’ll add things here and there.”
They each have their personal favourites from their menu.
“For me, it would have to be the Euro Classic Sandwich,” he said. “Every time I eat schnitzel, I have a Euro Classic basically. We’ve got a Golden Crust kaiser bun, a hand-pounded, hand-breaded schnitzel, a slice of Havarti cheese, leaf lettuce, homemade coleslaw and then a grainy mustard/mayo sauce.
“And also, I’m also a huge fan of cabbage rolls — my Baba’s homemade cabbage rolls. My mom, when I go away, she’ll give me a box of cabbage rolls and sauerkraut and I’ll be happy with that when I’m away at university.”
“My favourite sandwich is definitely the Hunter,” she said. “A lot of people are intimidated by it because of the hunter sauce, and no one knows what that is. But it’s a gravy-based sauce cooked up with onions and mushrooms. It’s a German-based sauce. So, I love that one. The sauce comes hot on it.
“And also, the apple strudel. I can always go for an apple strudel. I sometimes have it for breakfast in the morning. It’s always good any time of the day.”
The sauerkraut is homemade, and customers especially like it with the sausage.
There are two other schnitzel sandwiches. There is buffalo ranch, with a buffalo hot sauce and topped with leaf lettuce, havarti cheese and ranch dressing. There is also a parmesan sandwich.
“The parm has our mom’s homemade marinara sauce on it, so it’s very good,” Julia said. “It has mozzarella cheese and grated parmesan.”
Sandwiches all come with a side of kettle chips and dip.
“We have a house dip that everybody loves,” she said. “It’s a homemade dip— garlic parm with lots of spices. A lot of people are, ‘I hope you sell it in jars.’”
On the sandwich menu, there is also sausage on a bun, with or without sauerkraut.
Another side dish features a family recipe for potato said.
“It’s oil and vinegar-based,” Victor said. “That’s the way my Baba did it.”
“It’s European,” she added. “A lot of people have never had it before. And they really enjoy it. Sometimes people think potato salad will be too creamy, and it’s the same with the coleslaw. But it has the vinaigrette base as well. So, it also has a different taste too it. It’s more European.”
All the pork for the schnitzels is pounded out and breaded by hand. And then there is the time-consuming task of making strudel.
“We’ve got a system,” Julia said. “We have an assembly line. We peel the apples and cut them up. Then we make the strudel ourselves.
“Apples tossed in a cinnamon and sugar, baked in flaky pastry, topped with icing sugar.”
One popular item is available once a week, the special Sunday dinner. Special plates are served on Sundays after 3 p.m. There is a cabbage roll plate; schnitzel plate; or Baba’s ultimate feast — which includes schnitzel, cabbage roll, and a half sausage. All special plates are served with two sides. Sides available are potato salad, coleslaw, sauerkraut, or kettle chips and dip.
The money they make from their hard work will help them live their dreams.
“I’m taking neuroscience and human biology at U of T,” he said. “It’s going very well. I finished my first year. I’m excited about what I’m studying and enjoying it. I’m excited to go back next year.
“The end goal is to become a doctor. I’m not sure what route I’m going to go with it yet, but I want to go to medical school.”
“I’m going back to Europe at the end of October this year,” she said. “I’m going back to Belgium for a month, then I’m touring Germany for the rest of time, which is about six more months after that.
“I’ll be trying my fair share of schnitzels over there and trying to get the recipes. It’s nice to have this too, because we’re trying to bring a piece of Europe to the Timmins community.”
For now, Victor and Julia are delighted to serve up a delicious taste of Europe, while sharing their Baba’s recipes.
“We’re so thankful for everybody who has come out to support us, both last year and this year,” he said. “We’re going to continue to do our best to put out high quality food to serve our community.
“It’s kind of on a year-by-year basis. Evaluate at the end of the season to decide our plans and whether to open again next year.”
Schnitzels and Strudels North is located at 730 Falcon St. in Porcupine, phone 705-288-3464,