Man Food: Pierogi at Café Polonia
Welcome to Man Food, where burger pro Richard Chudy steps away from his usual beat to explore food challenges, street eats, and other gut-busting delights. Ladies are welcome, of course.
As the son of a Polish immigrant, my expectations when it comes to quality pierogi, half-moon shaped stuffed dumplings, are exceptionally high. It doesn’t hurt that my girlfriend, who also has Polish roots, makes one hell of a pierogi herself. In order to see if anyone else could perfect this traditional Polish dish, I ventured into Café Polonia in Southie with my father and girlfriend in tow.
This quaint restaurant has an instant hominess to it. That, coupled with the Polish eagle emblem in the back of the space, it makes you feels as if there’s an apron-clad grandmother in the kitchen slaving away at the stove. In lieu of butter for your bread, the restaurant sends out a ramekin of bacon fat— and with that, I knew we were in for a great meal. Then it was time to order the pierogi ($12 for 8), which came with a variety of filling options (potato, cabbage and mushroom, cheese, or meat). You can get them either boiled or fried, and fried is definitely the way to go here.
Comfort food is frequently discussed with a deep connection to childhood or ethnicity. It’s the kind of stuff that you grew up with, and for me, this is it. There’s something special about the crispy and buttery exterior giving way to a hearty and warm interior. The cabbage and mushroom filled pierogi take on a meatiness that is pleasing and delightful; the cheese pierogi are fresh and creamy, while the potato filling is reminiscent of mashed potatoes. The beauty of the pierogi that no two are alike— rustic in appearance and each unique in their own way, they are the snowflakes of the food world.
Not wanting to miss anything, we also ordered the Polish Plate ($16), loaded with kielbasa sausage, bigos (a type of stew loaded with cabbage and beef), golabki (cabbage stuffed with rice and pork and smothered in a homemade tomato sauce), and, you guessed it, even more pierogi. The crackly crisp of the kielbasa is among the best I’ve ever had, while the golabki is hearty enough to be a meal all on its own.
While the food, especially the pierogi, at Café Polonia is delicious, I think I’m going to skip the trip to Southie to eat the ones that can have in my home, anytime I want. But for those of you who aren’t fortunate enough to have a Polish girlfriend or grandmother at the ready, Café Polonia is a great introduction into the stick-to-your-ribs wonders of Polish fare. Even three of the toughest critics of Polish cuisine can agree on that.
(Café Polonia, 611 Dorchester Avenue, South Boston 617-269-0110)
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