Dinner at Solidarity: Beyond the Plates

Solidarity is a culinary haven that transcends its role as a mere restaurant. Beyond serving delicious Polish dishes with a modern twist, Solidarity embodies a rich narrative of resilience, unity, and the American Dream.  Nestled in a century-old bungalow, this eatery weaves together a tapestry of Polish heritage and contemporary California flair. The story unfolds not only in the delectable dishes served but also in the very walls that echo the narrative of Solidarity, a movement that changed the course of history.

The journey begins in 1979 with the restaurant's rich history, a tale of immigration, reinvention, and familial stewardship. Originally named Warszaw by Polish immigrant Elina O’lague, the restaurant underwent a transformation in 2016. It rebranded as Solidarity under the ownership of Elina’s daughter, Natasha Congdon who has preserved the legacy of her mother's Polish recipes while infusing a vegan touch and sourcing local produce for their cuisine. 

Solidarity, a name chosen with purpose, symbolizes unity—a concept deeply rooted in the family. As Elina faced challenges in the 1970s, raising her children alone in a foreign land, the term gained significance. Simultaneously, in Poland, the Solidarity labor movement was gaining momentum, ultimately shaping the geopolitical landscape of Eastern Europe. Natasha, a late-stage GenXer, born in the pivotal year of 1979 is not only steering the family business but keeping the flame of the Solidarity movement alive.

A Visual Feast: Exploring Solidarity's Unique Space

The restaurant's ambiance seamlessly blends past and present. Walls adorned with symbols of Polish pride and motifs of the Solidarity Movement set the stage for an immersive dining experience. The interior, once a family home, exudes warmth and charm. As patrons transition through the bungalow’s dining area, they encounter a small store (offering Polish snacks, beer, books, shirts and shirts), a kitchen crafting authentic delights, and in the backyard, an outdoor oasis complete with a Pergola, fire pits, strung lights, flaming heating lamps, and a cocktail lounge. It’s a majestic setting for a memorable evening.

Solidarity's Culinary Delights: An Invitation to Taste

The menu reflects a blend of tradition and innovation. A happy hour runs from 5 to 7 PM on weekdays and offers discounts on appetizers and select drinks that can be ordered from your dinner table or at the bar. Happy hour recommendations include the "Pierogi Sampler" and the "Small Plate Taster.” Both showcase the diversity of Polish dishes and flavors. For those unfamiliar with a pierogi, its a dumpling similar to ravioli, Solidarity offers a six piece pierogi sampler with scrumptious fillings including beef, cheese & potato, mushrooms and chicken. The "Small Plate Taster" features kielbasa, potato and cheese pierogis, placki (crispy potato pancakes served with sour cream and an apple compote), and mizeria (a tasty cucumber salad adorned with a yogurt and dill dressing).

The entrees such as the Long Island duck (which can be split between two people) and the lamb dumplings provide a delightful gastronomic experience. The roasted duck is served with Spaetzle (a German origin, long and thin egg noodle dish) along with baked apples and a side of lingonberry sauce. The lamb dumplings are stuffed with seasoned minced lamb and adorned with a spicy Dijon sauce.

There are plenty of other traditional Polish dishes to be found at Solidarity. Try the hot borscht, which is a beet broth with sausage and topped with sliced egg. For entrees, indulge yourself in the beef stroganoff, a stewed beef with wild mushrooms and served over the ever so tasty Spaetzle. The always popular Schnitzel is also on the menu. Diners can get breaded chicken or pork cutlets that are served with mashed potatoes. Or, try the Golabki, a stuffed cabbage served regular with beef or you can get it plant based with rice.

There are multiple mouthwatering desserts, but the sweet creme crepe with a warm raspberry compote is the grand prize.

Solidarity is celebrating its 45th year in 2024 and stands as a beacon of the American Dream. It's more than a restaurant; it embodies the possibilities for immigrants who, like Elina, come to America, work hard and achieve success. The spirit of Solidarity extends beyond its walls, resonating with the changing landscape of worker’s rights and unionization in contemporary America.

As one leaves Solidarity, the juxtaposition of the past and present is evident, especially against the evolving backdrop of Lincoln Blvd. The restaurant becomes a metaphor for the American Dream—small in scale compared to towering structures, yet larger in spirit. It reflects the enduring promise of America for those who strive, persevere, and create their destiny.

To savor the flavors of Solidarity, make a reservation at SolidarityLA.comThe restaurant periodically closes for private parties. Please call or visit online to confirm the restaurant's hours. Phone: (310) 393-8831. Solidarity is located at 1414 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90401.

The Movie - The Peasants: An Animated Tale on the Silver Screen

The Peasants is an animated masterpiece from the creators of the Academy Award nominated film, Loving Vincent. It is based on the Nobel Prize winning novel of the same title by Wladyslaw Reymont. This is an extraordinary hand painted, animated film that required the talents of over 100 artists to complete. 

The Peasants tells the story of Jagna, a young woman determined to forge her own path within the confines of a late 19th century Polish village – a hotbed of gossip and on-going feuds, held together, rich and poor, by pride in their land, adherence to colorful traditions and deep-rooted patriarchy. When Jagna finds herself caught between the conflicting desires of the village’s richest farmer, his eldest son, and other leading men of the community, her resistance puts her on a tragic collision course with the community around her.

The Peasants is currently in theaters in New York at the Angelika Film Center and New Plaza Cinema and opens on February 2 in Los Angeles at the Laemmle Royal (which is approximately three miles from Solidarity).  Coming soon to theaters nationwide. This Peasants is rated R. 

For tickets and more information, visit Tickets.PeasantsMovie.com or contact The Laemmle Royal at 11523 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025. Phone: (310) 478-3836.