Homemade pierogies carry on East European tradition
For some, tradition has its value. To others, the art of tradition seems to be disappearing over the hills, lost among youths, fast food and the internet.
But for those of you seeking the old homey Slavic roots, perhaps sautéed in silky caramelized onions and topped with sour cream, The Pierogie Kitchen, a little shop in Roxborough, might send you home smiling or at least put your mind in the old country through one of mankind’s oldest pleasures — eating.
Marie Thorpe, 32, and her employees boil hundred-pound batches (how many in all, she cannot share) of potatoes each day and prepare custom fillings to be pinched between thin dough. It’s all in tune with her grandmother’s recipes, which Marie keeps secret, to make fresh handmade pierogies six days a week.
One can have them sautéed at the shop, located at the intersection of Henry and Roxborough Avenues, just up the street from Dalessandro’s, or buy them frozen by the dozen and half-dozen.
“When I was growing up (in Manayunk), you could get pierogies at any Polish or Ukrainian church on Fridays,” said Thorpe. “As I got older, though, they got harder and harder to find. When I was in my 20s, my grandmom said, ‘We can make them again,’ and eventually we started to.”
Her business venture began just shy of eight years ago, when Thorpe did a one-day promotion that turned into pierogies being sold every Friday out of her ice cream parlor, which used to be where the Pierogie Kitchen and its calming yellow walls are now. She also sold soup and hot sandwiches.
Thorpe saved money to buy a house while she worked as the general manager at the Melting Pot in Chestnut Hill, but ended up purchasing the ice cream parlor from her aunt. She ran the parlor for two years before converting full-time to making pierogies. “I was young enough then to take a risk,” said Thorpe.
And, she was lucky, or just plain good, for “the pierogies were flying out the door. I think I found a niche. Or I fill a need.”
Thorpe has created more than 20 flavors including mushroom, sweet cabbage, BBQ chicken, spinach and jack cheese, blueberry and chocolate ganache. The most popular is potato and cheddar or sauerkraut. Yet some folks like the buffalo-bleu chicken or Philly cheesesteak. And, the traditional, potato and potato-and-cheese. She also has stacker sandwiches and soups, and has added a catering menu.
“I want people to come in here and feel like I felt in my grandmother’s kitchen,” said Thorpe. “There was a friendly and warm atmosphere. It was comfortable and had a good scent.”
And it did remind this writer of his grandmother’s kitchen. It was warm (no air conditioning) but comfortable; there were fans running and the smell of onions. And there was a hardworking woman at the helm who respects tradition and wishes to carry it on.
“This is a really good neighborhood, and I am from an old family here,” said Thorpe, who has considered expanding perhaps to another location in the area.
For more information on The Pierogie Kitchen, 647 Roxborough Ave., call 215-483-5301 or visit www.pierogiekitchen.com.