Pierogi at Pierogi Heaven

One thing I’ve noticed about online food discussions is that nobody gets into fights about steak or foie gras or other luxury goods. If you really want people to go nuts, start with the most plebeian ingredient of all: flour. People argue about pizza (and its crust), about bread and pie, about pasta, about ramen (and its noodles) and the soup dumplings known as xiao long bao—and, of course, about doing without it (and its gluten). It’s not really unusual that flour should excite such passion—one, many of us eat it, and two, it’s the closest thing to foodie alchemy, turning lead into the gold of supple pasta, toothsome ramen noodles, crusty bread, flaky pie, and bubbly, crackly Neapolitan pizza.

Pierogi hasn’t quite reached that level of obsession yet, but why not? We might as well start now. A good tender wrapper on the outside of some hearty beef or sauerkraut or mashed potatoes draws all the line you need between a good Polish place and a not so good one. It’s why I’ve always been a fan of Smak-Tak on the northwest side for that sort of thing, and now I’m a fan of lunchtime-only spot Pierogi Street as well.

Pierogi Street started as the Pierogi Wagon food truck and then opened on California under the name Polak Eatery, which got the proprietors some flak. So they became Pierogi Street. It’s just as well, since even if you’re not offended (I wasn’t) by the old name, it implied a well-worn place full of Polish contractors shoveling pierogies down indiscriminately. No, that’s Red Apple, and Pierogi Street is a sunny place cute enough to be a coffee shop, with cartoon murals of Polish architecture and wooden bench tables (which, it must be said, are not quite long enough for people sized like Polish contractors such as myself).

But we scrounged up a chair to make room for three and dug into a hearty plate of pierogies in all the flavors they offered—cheddar and potato, braised beef, sauerkraut, spinach and cheese, and mushroom—with all the trimmings (bacon, kraut, braised onions, applesauce and sour cream) on the side. And we were happy with pretty much everything that was enclosed in a light, relatively fluffy wrapper. We also tried one of the open-faced sandwiches called zapiekanka: the Wawel, which has hunks of ham, mushrooms, and horseradish aioli under cheese. It’s not anything that will change your life, but it’s fine. To be honest, I’m not sure anyone is going to ever get riled up about Polish food enough to make it the next ramen or deep-dish pizza—it seems to be a cuisine that puts out fights rather than starts them. But at least there’s a happy, filling lunch for a rainy day for you at Pierogi Street.

The Wawel zapiekanka

Pierogi Street, 1043 N. California, 312-675-8385, pierogistreet.com.