Waiting for the bus after leaving Jubilat Provisions last week, I stuck my face in my shopping bag and inhaled. Ahhh, there it is – the smell of victory. Less metaphorically, it’s also the smell of wood smoke, which perfumes this small Polish butcher shop and the pork products that emerge from its back-room smoker. If you’re thinking Greenpoint it’s a logical guess, but Jubilat stands apart from that Polish nabe’s cluster of meat markets. Instead it sits on Fifth Avenue in the South Slope, near a handful of other long-running Eastern European spots, including Milan’s restaurant, Smolen’s Bar and Grill (no grill exists, unfortunately) and the 70-year-old Eagle Provisions (home, though you’d never suspect it walking by, to an astounding beer selection).
You can buy kielbasa at the latter, but there’s no point in it when Jubilat sits a mere block away. The kielbasa here has no better in the city, and maybe no peer. It comes in four varieties, including mild, double-smoked and black-pepper-flecked swojska, which is my go-to. (They call it spicy, but it’s fairly tame.) At $4.79 a pound it’s a major bargain, and it’s actually quite lean—you can eat it uncooked, and just might.
There are numerous other hanging sausages here, as well as slabs of bacon-like pork belly. Details aren’t easy to come by given a language barrier and countermen that range from taciturn to reserved, but they’re a not-unfriendly bunch, and I have yet to go wrong by pointing at something and asking for a hunk of it. While you’re pointing, don’t miss the double-smoked pork loin ($6.29 a pound), which is blackened on the outside yet impossibly moist within, or the hanging slabs of pork ribs, salty, chewy marvels which should be the envy of a barbecue pitmaster, and run a mere $4.29 a pound, which is less than you’d pay for uncooked ribs in the supermarket.
While the pork is the star here, you’d be remiss to skip the white five-gallon tubs on the floor, where you’ll find excellent half-sour pickles for $1.49 a pound, as well as dills and sauerkraut. (The first time I filled a quart jar and brought it to the counter for weighing, the counterman helpfully sent me back to dump out the brine beforehand, to bring the price down, then gave it back to me to fill up after pricing it.) Giant loaves of crusty rye from Greenpoint’s Old Warsaw bakery run $2.99, as do packaged pierogis in several varieties. And there are sweet baked goods gathered around the cash register, including boxes of pakzki, softball-sized glazed, filled donuts that at 85 cents apiece are worth a trip in themselves if you’re anywhere in the vicinity.
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Jubilat Provisions, 608 Fifth Ave. at 17th Street, 718-768-9676.
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