Pierogi Pontifications Nouveau (Sult) Versus Old School (Taste of Europe Deli)

taste of europeAs autumn sets in and the mercury starts to drop, we crave solace in the form of carbohydrates. We headed to Sult Pierogi Bar, a newly opened eatery downtown. We were eager to chow down on some pillowy, potatoe-y dumplings.

On entering the cavernous space, that houses Sult, there were a few things that rankled: Sult has separate pricing for their pierogi and toppings.  At the outset, items appear inexpensive, but, by the time you add up your choice of pierogi and your choice of topping and tax, you pay more than you originally bargained for. It might incur more customer good will if a plate of pierogies and the accompanying topping were listed as one complete price. As it happened, two plates of six pierogies each and one can of soda added up to $35.00, not outrageous, but a little dear for fare that should epitomize homey and humble. Then there is the bizarre layout of the restaurant.   The prevailing fashion de jour in trendy eateries is communal, picnic style seating. Call us crazy, but H.A. staffers prefer a little personal space when we are chowing down. And individual tables avoid awkwardly clambering over a picnic bench, all the while trying desperately not to kick fellow diners in the groin. In another establishment, the name of which we won’t mention here, the communal seating is so cramped you literally cannot leave your table without forcing everyone else to stand up to get out of your way first. In tiny spaces, we can empathize with restaurant owners; they have to get as much seating in as possible in order to turn a modest profit. Sult however, has a lot of space; enough for regular tables, so my presumption is this style of seating is an aesthetic choice.

Then there are the pierogies. Sult has some interesting fillings, pulled pork, kale and serrano pepper, sautéed clam. While we found the fillings tasted okay, we missed the simplicity of traditional stuffing (potato and onion, potato and cheese). Pierogies are supposed the kind of food your bubby made to make it all better and to put meat on your bones. Kale pierogies one could only guess, must be some sort of form of terrible punishment, yet here, Sult voluntarily add this spiny green foodstuff to their pierogi. We are all for eating your vegetables, but please, and this goes for all restaurants, for the love of all that is holy, can we not give kale a break? And, while we are at it, mason jars are for canning (Monty would hereby like to proclaim that his beverages should all be served in martini glasses). The dough on our pierogi was a little tough and a little thick. This was disappointing given Sult’s raison d’etre is pierogi. The ideal pierogi have thin tender dough encasing plump filling. The folks at Sult did tell me they make their dumplings by hand, using a cutter, but why then, is the dough so thick?

We noted on our visit that there were three people working behind the counter and two in the kitchen, and yet, we waited an inordinately long time for our food to arrive. Normally, we wouldn’t quibble as Sult is newly opened and burgeoning restaurants need time to work out the kinks. Office workers are on a compressed time line and will need their food within a half hour. We were perplexed at the interminable wait, and we even more bewildered when one of the three staffers working the counter came over to us to ask how our food was when, in fact, our food had not yet arrived. Had our pierogi been the cats pajamas, all would be forgiven but, unfortunately, the fusion toppings and fussy fillings just didn’t wow us.

Now dear readers, if you are lamenting a dearth of dumplings in the downtown core, and we can hardly blame you, do not fear. It isn’t all gloom and doom. Taste of Europe Deli on 1412 Douglas has pierogis which you can eat in house or at home. Now, we aren’t going to kid you, the owner, Chris is the epitome of a cantankerous curmudgeon, and, if you are unlucky, he’ll regale you with his repugnance for his competitors, and you won’t get a word in edgewise.   But, if you don’t mind running the gauntlet of the pierogi Nazi, you’ll find that the owner, Chris Zmuda, puts his money where his mouth is. Chris’s pierogi are made old school, with the classic fillings, and, once we tasted them, we knew he wasn’t just blowing steam. The difference is in the dough. Handmade pierogi dough is light and delicate. Once we tasted the end product, we hardly needed convincing. Chris’s foible may be his strident compunction to harangue, he won’t win any PR awards soon, but, in a way, we respect his obsession for quality ingredients and traditional methods.   We just worry he’ll frighten his customers away. The proof is in the tasting after all.

So there you have it, our pierogi pontifications. As always, don’t be afraid to let us know what you think. Visit our Facebook or twitter pages. Do you think we are being too hard on Sult? Do you like rubbing elbows with strangers at the dining table? Do you think there should be mason jars and kale forever? Let us know!

In the meantime, happy Friday, pretty ponies. You are all darling dumplings in our eyes.

Until next time,


Monty and the Gang.

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