What Is a Polish Boy?

Eugene P.

A Polish boy is a type of sandwich that originated, and remains popular, in Ohio and a few surrounding states. It consists of a piece of Polish sausage, or kielbasa, which is placed on a roll and topped with coleslaw, barbecue sauce and French fries. Some variations also include pickles, hot sauce, chili and cheese in the toppings. The sandwich is commonly sold by street vendors and in restaurants that serve eclectic cuisine. The sandwich also has been the inspiration for some derivative foods, such as the Polish girl.

Kielbasa, which is included in a Polish boy.
Kielbasa, which is included in a Polish boy.

The first element of a Polish boy is Polish sausage. The sausage is usually fried in a skillet, although some establishments choose to deep fry it instead to crisp the exterior for a contrast in textures. Smoked kielbasa also can be used, though is not as common as the un-smoked variety. Once cooked, the kielbasa can be split down the center so it is better able to hold the toppings.

The final topping of a Polish boy is french fries.
The final topping of a Polish boy is french fries.

The barbecue sauce used on a Polish boy is one of the features that separates one chef’s version from another. In some of the more well-known establishments that sell the sandwich in Ohio, chefs make their own barbecue sauce from secret recipes. In general, it is intended to be sweet, sometimes with a certain amount of spicy heat. Alternately, a homemade hot sauce can be used on the sandwich instead of barbecue sauce.

For some crunch and acid to cut through the other ingredients, coleslaw also is layered onto a Polish boy. Again, some chefs use a custom recipe to make coleslaw that is better attuned to the robust flavors of the sandwich. The liquid that drains from the coleslaw is sometimes regarded as part of the overall dish, with the expectation that it will mix with the barbecue sauce and be soaked into the French fries.

After the roll for a Polish boy has been filled with split kielbasa, barbecue sauce and coleslaw, the final topping is French fries. These can be made fresh as they are ordered, or they can be premade and kept hot. The purpose of the French fries is partly to soak up the juices from the other ingredients, but it also might be a convenience so the entire meal is self-contained with no side orders necessary.

When ordered, a Polish boy can be eaten on its own, as it is made, or it can have more traditional hotdog condiments such as mustard or onions added as toppings. Some restaurants offer chili and melted cheese as toppings. One variation is known as a Polish girl; it is almost identical to a Polish boy, except that sliced pork shoulder is piled on top of the French fries.

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