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Local Couple’s JK Deli Serves Up Award-Winning Polish Dishes

Photographer / Jubilee Edgell

Renee Baczynski and her husband frequented the Bass Lake area for years prior to moving there and opening the award-winning JK Deli in Monterrey 12 years ago.

As a Poland native, some people are confused when they stop into the deli and hear Renee’s accent. Customers often get curious and begin to ask questions — such as how did she wind up in a small town in Indiana? The story is simple, and one that Renee loves sharing with customers.

“I was born in Poland, but my grandma and great-grandma were born in [the] United States and they moved back to Poland. So, I was born there, and when I was 12, we moved back,” she says.

Renee lived in Chicago for more than 20 years after immigrating, running her own daycare center there. Throughout the years, she and her husband traveled with their children to Bass Lake to go camping. As they visited more and more, they began to love it. After their sons grew up and moved out on their own, the couple decided to move down to the place they had enjoyed on vacations so often.

“We kept passing by this place and thinking it would be nice to own it,” Renee says. “And two weeks later we passed by, and it was for sale, so that’s how we wound up getting the place.”

While they made some renovations to the attached gas station, the real changes came inside. They transformed the store into a “mini Chicago.” The menu featured fewer sandwiches and more traditional Polish dishes. Today, visitors have to make the tough decision of what to try: there are so many options, and they all are delectable.

“The most popular [dishes are] homemade pierogi, Polish sausage, Polish burgers,” Renee says. “We have homemade jerky, and Kiszka is really really popular.”

Pierogi are pockets of dough stuffed with a variety of things: cheese, meat, potatoes, sauerkraut, mushroom or fruit. They are then fried or boiled before serving. Kiszka is a blood sausage.

In addition to the atypical menu, the JK Deli stands out for its dedication to freshness. They choose the highest quality ingredients, including sausage that is brought in from Chicago twice a week.

The combination of interesting food, freshness, and the dedication to service all helped the JK Deli win the title of Best Deli in Starke County.

Customer service is really what it’s all about for Renee. The deli gives her a place to meet people and talk about different cultures —she gets to speak in Polish with some customers, and she works to teach people the language.

“Usually there are a lot of second- or third-generation Polish people, and they ask me how to say things in Polish, or I had a guy who is 90 years old, and he hasn’t spoken Polish in 50 years, and he started crying when he heard us speaking it,” Renee says.

To give its award-winning food a try, you can visit JK Deli at 8995 US Highway 35 in Monterrey or call 574-946-7022. It’s open Monday – Saturday from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. and on Sunday from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

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