S&D Polish Deli pierogies. Photo courtesy of S&D Polish Deli.

Food may be a distant third, when it comes to reasons to visit Church Brew Works, after the beer and the beautiful former St. John the Baptist Church itself. But in the same way that they anticipated the craft beer revolution, they started doing “untraditional pierogies” back when that was a borderline insane idea.

You don’t really know what you’re going to get — like rattlesnake and seared cactus, or spicy pulled pork — but they’ve been doing this long enough to know what works. For traditionalists, the Church also does the classic potato and cheese pierogies, with sautéed onions, melted butter and sour cream.

Beer and bacon pierogies tossed with pheasant sausage, roasted carrots and Brussels sprouts. Photo courtesy of Dorothy 6 Cafe.

Dorothy 6, Homestead

On Eighth Avenue, well removed from traffic and the national chains of The Waterfront, lies Dorothy 6, named after the late steel mill in Duquesne. This is the kind of place that ought to have pierogies on the menu, and these are terrific. These look and feel traditional — the dough is on the lighter side, served with caramelized onions and herbed sour cream. But the fillings — including cheddar and spicy jalapeno — are much less so.

Pierogies Plus, McKees Rocks

The standard by which all other pierogies are judged, and the supplier to most bars and restaurants that don’t make their own. It should be said that making pierogies is hard, and takes forever — so this crew of seasoned Polish grandmas in a former service station in the Rocks has it down to assembly line precision. They make them thick and hearty — sauerkraut and potato, cottage cheese and chives and hot sausage are the classics.

Starlite Lounge, Blawnox

You’ll find the biggest pierogies (is that a burrito? a calzone?) you’ve ever seen — giant pillows of buttery, oniony, potato-filled goodness — at the Starlite. One eats like a meal, but they’ll give you several, of course. Adjacent to Pittsburgh’s home of the blues, Moondogs, this divey, unpretentious spot couldn’t be more Pittsburgh if it came with fries on top. Even Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” gave it their comfort food seal of approval. 

Spinach and feta pierogies at Stuff’d Pierogie Bar. Photo by Shaunna Machosky.
Spinach and feta pierogies at Stuff’d Pierogie Bar. Photo by Shaunna Machosky.

Stuff’d Pierogi Bar

An idea whose time has definitely come … a Downtown restaurant that’s all about pierogies. After a rocky start, they seem to have found their footing. The question of whether the humble pierogie is a meal or a side is answered here — the pierogies are the centerpiece of dishes that either have other things on top (meat, sauerkraut) or on the bottom (salad). Odd combinations abound, like spinach and feta pierogies, with a Greek-style topping of olive oil, oregano, cherry tomatoes, scallions, garlic Kalamata olives and red wine vinegar.

Stuff’d also offers peach pulled pork pierogies, with extra pulled pork on top, and the classic potato and sauerkraut, topped with yet more sauerkraut. You can get them traditionally boiled and finished in a sauté pan — soft in the middle, with seared, crispy edges. Or, if you want them crunchy all over, you can get them deep-fried.

Michael Machosky is a writer and journalist with 18 years of experience writing about everything from development news, food and film to art, travel, books and music. He lives in Greenfield with his wife, Shaunna, and 10-year old son.