You can get good pierogis all over Philly, but Port Richmond is the city’s pierogi central.
Case in point: Pierogi Week at Green Rock Tavern. The narrow bar at the corner of Lehigh and Livingston near Aramingo Avenue has run its celebration of the humble Slavic dumpling for eight years now, and more than 700 people pack the 40-seat room over the course of the week. Parents bring their kids, young adults go on double dates, and grandparents drive in from the Northeast to meet up with aunts and uncles and pinch cheeks on new babies — all in the name of exploring pierogi possibilities.
During Pierogi Week, Green Rock gets pretty crazy. Waits for a table can stretch up to two hours and the line sometimes wraps around the block. It’s a fun adventure, but if you don’t feel like dealing with the madness, there’s good news: In addition to markets where you can buy them to cook at home, the heavily Polish neighborhood has plenty of other restaurants serving housemade pierogis, and they’re all fantastic in their own way.
Here’s seven great places to eat pierogis in Port Richmond.
Green Rock Tavern
This decade-old bar, which has become equally beloved among the hipster and hard hat crowds, serves pierogi all year round. But during this one week in February, the cooks in the tiny kitchen really let loose. The dumplings here are flash fried, which gives the dough a different texture than the traditional pan fried or boiled — it almost tastes like a wonton. Some options are done in palm-sized pockets, like the “Ruben,” which is stuffed with corned beef, drizzled with Thousand Island dressing and paired with a side of pickles. Others come out in one giant half-moon, like the all-time best seller “Thanksgiving Day,” filled with house-roasted turkey and served with a side of mashed potatoes, stuffing and gravy. No matter the shape, each plate has around 12 ounces of food, and comes with a pint of Pilsner Urquell for a total of $12.
2546 E. Lehigh Ave. 215-283-0840
The Dinner House
If you’re looking for a polar opposite to the vibe at Green Rock, you’ll find it here. Walk up the row house stoop to enter the dining room, where five tables and a counter have been squeezed into what looks like the living room (carpet and all) on the diminutive first floor. If you have time, start with a bowl of soup — there are more than half a dozen choices, including restorative flaczki, rich and brown and full of tripe — and finish with a giant plate of galumpki, the pork-stuffed cabbage doused in red sauce and paired with shredded beets. But don’t miss the pierogi, which come out in plump boiled nuggets, their heavy appearance belying a delicate taste. Spinach is one of the more unorthodox fillings on offer, but it’s a winner, especially when the salty-spicy greens are tamed by dollops of sour cream. Any of the five varieties are $7 for a plate of six.
2706 E. Allegheny Ave. 267-596-7727
As photos hanging on the wall attest, Robin Williams stopped into this modest dining room one day in 1998 (no one working there could pinpoint why), and the whole place looks like it could have been a set for Mork & Mindy. Some of the food is served cafeteria style — if you order the cabbage and kielbasa stew called bigos, which you should, it’ll be scooped out of a pan behind the counter — but the pierogis are cooked to order. Unlike some other spots, the rules here are strict: No mix-and-match. Also, the fried onions that are traditionally served on top will run you $1 extra. It’s worth it, because the robust and hearty boiled dumplings (five for $5) come out piping hot for a fully satisfying meal.
3173 Richmond St. 215-634-3954
This Polish grocery is filled with shelves lined with beet relish, pickled mushrooms, herring and plum butter, but it’s also home to Staroploska Restaurajca. The full-service restaurant takes up the sunlit front corner of the shop. You might not get your table wiped when you sit down, but you will get a fresh paper placemat and quick service. Order one of eight Polish beers (nutty amber lager Warka is a good choice) and choose your pierogi poison. If you’re in early, proprietors say the sweet farmer’s cheese is a breakfast favorite, but the classic potato and savory cheese is the most popular option, with sauerkraut and mushroom following close behind. You can pick boiled or pan fried — go with the latter, which browns the centers but leaves the edges of the thick dough soft and chewy. A plate of six, with lots of sweet onions on top, will run you $6.95.
3150 Richmond St. 215-426-4336
New Wave Cafe
The sign marking this corner tavern is decorated with a tropical beach scene in bright primary colors, but the interior is pretty much the opposite. Dark and glittery, with a set of cloth-draped tables forming a sultry dining room alongside mirrored walls, the bar feels like it could have been plucked right out of Eastern Europe. Polish language films play on the big TVs, and Polish beers fill the cooler (with a taste like a Slavic Yuengling, Zywiec is another good pick). Pierogis are available either fried or boiled, but the servers will recommend the former, and you should listen to them — the skins here are thinner than most, and brown nicely to a crisp. Try all three varieties if you want (six for $6) but know that the meat version here is intensely rich — turns out it’s made with chicken liver.
2620 E. Allegheny Ave. 215-634-3224
M & M Restaurant
When Margaret and Martin Cudnik first bought the tiny diner back in 1993, they started off serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. But it turned out that the location, right next to the Allegheny ramp to I-95, didn’t draw an evening crowd, so they trimmed the hours (2:30 is closing time) and cut back on Polish specialties, offering mostly American breakfast foods instead. Except the pierogis. Tucked in a corner of the egg-and-scrapple-filled menu are three varieties of the dumplings, all made in house. Order the combo platter so you can contrast the creamy potato-cheese filling with the herbal sauerkraut-mushroom and the earthy meat ($6.95 for seven, sour cream is extra).
2736 E. Allegheny Ave. 215-423-4990
Regulars will tell you the place has cleaned up a lot, but this late-night haven still counts as one of the best dive bars in the city. Grab a seat at the bar so you can take advice from stalwarts like Pat, whose wrinkled eyes wink as she whispers tidbits of gossip, and accept offers of shots from the construction workers speaking Polish at the far end. Friday nights bring a big crowd for karaoke, but the thick, stick-to-your-ribs pierogis are good any day of the week. The meat variety is interesting — it’s made with loose crumbles of spiced ground beef, instead of the more usual tightly-packed mix of pork and beef. But for pure comfort food, the buttery potato-and-cheese are the way to go, six thumb-pinched pockets for $6.95.
2732 E. Allegheny Ave. 215-426-7618