By Shivani Gosai | Opinions Editor
Everyone loves pierogies, especially the people of Pittsburgh. They have been a staple dish of our city, alongside favorites such as the Primanti’s sandwich or Sarris chocolate. We have even gone as far in displaying our obsession by watching pierogies race at Pirates games.
For those of you who don’t know what pierogies are (I assume you are not from Pittsburgh), they are essentially potato and cheese dumplings folded into a semicircle. They are traditionally an Eastern European dish and are believed to be first created in Poland, thus becoming their national dish. They have also been popular in nations such as Russia, Slovakia and Ukraine, eventually making their way to Western Pennsylvania by way of immigrants.
Stuff’d Pierogi Bar opened downtown in mid-September. Located on 130 Seventh St., the bar has about 14 different varieties of pierogies to choose from. I have always loved pierogies and jumped at the chance to try out this spin on classic Pittsburgh comfort food.
The restaurant has a perfect location in the theater district. However, the restaurant itself is quite small. The inside of the bar is a cozy atmosphere with soft lighting — everything from the walls, bar and tables were dark wood. There are openings in the wall facing out to Katz Plaza. The atmosphere is fairly cute and comfortable, minus the loud pop music blasting through the speakers that didn’t seem to fit the aesthetic at all.
There was no hostess or host stand at the entrance. The restaurant was empty, aside from the four people sitting at the bar, which was surprising because it seemed like a show at one of the theaters had just ended, and there was a crowd wandering the area. I waited about 10 minutes before a waitress noticed me awkwardly standing at the front of the restaurant. She proceeded to give me what seemed to be the worst table, located in between two server stations in the middle of the restaurant.
The menu has an array of different types of pierogies — ranging from adventurous to classic fillings such as Peach Pulled Pork, Buffalo Chicken or original Sweet Cabbage. All pierogies are handmade in-house and come six to an order. Once you pick what type of pierogies you’d like, you also get to choose whether you’d like them steamed or fried. All pierogies are tossed in butter and topped with caramelized onions, as well as a side of sour cream. Prices range from $13 to $17, depending on how fancy you choose your pierogies to be. The menu also includes salads (topped with pierogies, of course) and a vegetarian pierogi option that is stuffed with mushrooms.
I chose to go old-school with the classic steamed potato and cheese pierogis, because if your classic pierogis aren’t good, how good can the adventurous ones be? Our waitress was kind and efficient. However, there was a man — who I believe worked in the kitchen — who kept coming out to the bar to chat with a friend. When I say chat, I mean shout. Right next to our table. I tried my best to focus on anything other than this strange, shouting man.
Our food came out pretty quickly but was honestly disappointing. The best part of the pierogi dish was the caramelized onions, which held all the flavor. The potato and cheese pierogies themselves were extremely bland and tasted like nothing. One of my pierogies had mushrooms inside, and one of my boyfriend’s pierogies had chicken inside. That odd mistake turned us off completely. We got our check and left, extremely sad and disappointed with the meal we just had.
If you’re going to create a restaurant based on a specific dish, it would be preferred to create the best possible version of that dish that you can. To price the dish I had at $13 (that is about $2 per pierogi) is way too expensive for something that just made me so sad. I can buy a box of Mrs. T’s frozen pierogies for way cheaper, and they actually taste like something other than cardboard.
However, I understand that running a restaurant is extremely difficult at the beginning. Stuff’d Pierogi Bar has a lot to work on, and I hope to return in a few months to see things turned around. The restaurant has announced that they are working on gluten-free and vegan options, which is a great way to reach out to more customers. I just hope they can do pierogies justice, for the sake of Pittsburgh.
Ultimately, this restaurant was a great concept that is poorly executed.