AZ Central Review

Critic Review

Stanley’s Homemade Polish Sausage 4 stars

I get tired of hearing people whine about “back home,” as in, “Phoenix just doesn’t have good (seafood, deep dish pizza, Polish sausage) like we have ‘back home.’ “

I always tell people that Phoenix has virtually everything every other big city has; you just have to look for it.

Case in point: Stanley’s Homemade Polish Sausage Co. I spent 10 years living in Detroit and shopped regularly at the Polish delis and bakeries of Hamtramck, a small city within Detroit. And Stanley’s meat is every bit as delicious – what I was able to try of it.

That’s because Stanley’s is not really a restaurant, so the woman at the counter seemed displeased that our party of four plopped down and insisted on eating in house. There are two tables for two and two tables for four, so it’s not exactly set up for a leisurely lunch with friends. Carry-out is the name of the game here.

For instance, I tried ordering a bratwurst, but they won’t cook it. “This is a deli,” I was told brusquely. We quickly dubbed the woman “the Sausage Nazi” and laughed about it the rest of the day.

I also wanted to try a variety of pierogi – some cheese, some potato, some kraut – but was shot down again as the woman vehemently shook her head back and forth. They come in a dozen, and you must get all one kind.

Still, we managed to make it work. We started with a large jar of Cracovia brand creamed pickled herring ($8.95). While not as good as fresh, the vinegar and cream is well-balanced and I like the diced onions in it rather than the long stringy ones you sometimes get.

The submarine ($5.95) and mild Italian sausage ($5.25) sandwiches came out in a plastic basket on paper, and we dug in. The sub meats had that rich, smoky flavor that you just don’t get at your bland chain places, and the rolls were super-soft. The Italian sausage was huge, packed with caraway seeds and spices and draped in melted Provolone and a zesty tomato sauce.

Next up were the dozen homemade potato pierogis ($6.25) and Polish sausage plate with sauerkraut and rye bread ($6.95).

Pierogis are a traditional Polish dish with filling inside a chewy, doughy dumpling. A friend of mine compares them to ravioli, but the outer layer is much heavier and they’re not served in sauce. Instead, after boiling them to cook them through, they’re usually fried in butter and onions.

Here, they also threw a few handfuls of diced bacon into the pan, making an even richer treat. The dough had a good, thick consistency, and the potato filling was smooth and peppery. Almost as good as Mom used to make.

In fact, a man waiting for an order to go leaned over and, after politely apologizing for interrupting our lunch, asked what they were. I explained the dish and told him to get a plate and a fork. There are few things I love more in life than a good pierogi, and I love to turn people on to them.

He said he’d try just one. I gave him a couple, and one of my lunch pals told him, “You can’t eat just one.” He went outside with his plate, and a few minutes later, stepped inside again looking happy. “Now I know why they sell them by the dozen,” he said.

We all loved the Polish sausage, too – it had a crisp skin and was smoky and earthy without being overpowering. It paired perfectly with the kraut, which was liberally laced with meat. We didn’t detect much vinegar in it, which was unusual, but it was delicious nonetheless. Even sauerkraut haters would probably enjoy it because it lacked that puckery taste.

Throughout our meal, the lunch rush never waned. People stopped in for everything from a sandwich to a bagful of goodies. The tiny deli makes its Polish sausage fresh daily and carries more than 30 kinds of meats. It also has an excellent selection of imported goods such as jars of kraut, pickles and pickled beets; chocolate bars; flavored syrups; and soup mixes.

It’s no wonder this place has been around since 1963. With the attention to quality and the great selection, they’re sure to be around for decades to come – no matter whether people keep moving here from elsewhere and craving the flavors of “back home” or are newcomers to Old World-style delis.

-Geri Koeppel,, Nov. 30, 2007