Do you like dumplings? Of course! How about ravioli? Who doesn’t? Kolaches? Duh! And empanadas? Yes. Get to the point. The point is, every culture has its own take on dough filled with something delicious and then cooked. Well the Polish have something pretty fantastic known as pierogi and they’re taking Austin by storm. A couple (Brit and Rob) from New York City NEW YORK CITY!? yes, New York City, are showing Texas a thing or two showcasing traditional recipes and modern twists of a understated delicacy.
On our first visit out to Hill Country Pierogi we got to talk to the owners about their early success and upcoming plans to spread the pierogi love. (Un)fortunately they had a great turnout the previous few nights so the options were limited for us. One item we were happy to order was the kielbasa sliders. Set within the confines of sweet Hawaiian mini rolls is a fantastic smoked Polish jalapeno kielbasa, topped with sweet jalapeno mustard, shredded carrots, cabbage, and mango pepper sauce. I’ll wait while you go get a dozen for yourself. They’re as delicious as they sound and possibly the best slider in the city.
Despite running low on most of their menu, we were more than happy to order up their Bacon pierogi. This isn’t just a sprinkle of bacon bits or a hint of bacon essence. This should really be called Bacon with a Pierogi garnish. How about bacon, mashed potatoes, and caramelized onions inside and topped with sour cream and more bacon. It’s a good thing too much bacon is impossible because this is pushing limits.
See the picture to understand what my words could not convey.
Alongside the Bacon beast was the Veggie Pierogi. It was good, but paled in comparison to the Bacon champ. The walnuts on top added good texture to the spinach, mashed potato, and mushroom filling. What caught me off guard, and is usually off putting, was the Gorgonzola cheese inside and it definitely surprised me in a good way.
What’s that saying?
Dessert: The Breakfast of Champions. There’s always room for Jell-O. Well, I think Bill Cosby would approve swapping “Jell-O” for “Dessert Pierogi”. It’s all the goodness of your butter-laden half-moon of dough filled with some of your favorite pie fillings. We had one apple pie and one blueberry pierogi, topped with a small amount of sweetened marscapone. Both paid proper respect to their traditional pie relatives. The blueberry was particularly good.
On our most recent trip we were treated to some “Mexican Eggs Benedict” by way of Twitter contest. Let’s just say they were too good to step away and take a picture. I can only offer a shot of the specials menu taken after the fact. The salsa was appropriately spicy, though it was curiously red for a “salsa verde”. A cocked eyebrow was all it took for Brit to explain it’s a salsa verde with some red chipotle peppers mixed in for kick. Mystery solved! She also confessed that they aren’t really “Benedict”-y since there’s no Hollandaise, but eggs on top of English muffins is Benedict enough for me.
Last up was the traditional pierogi. Not on the original menu, the crew decided to get back to their roots and add some old school pierogi options. Instead of the Texas-sized half moons loaded with bacon, bleu cheese, or other twists, these petite servings come six to an order. They’re cooked generously in butter, still shimmering in the checkered papers, and accompanied by chive-topped sour cream. Slightly sweet, barely chewy, fully flavorful. It’s not hard to see how a civilization was built on pierogi.
Listen, if everything you saw and read doesn’t get you excited for pierogi, nothing will. But there’s an ace up their sleeve known as The 420. It’s a brownie with a chocolate chip cookie baked into it, topped with dulce de leche, mini marshmallows, powdered sugar, and whipped sweetened marscapone. Take a moment to digest that. Actually you’ll probably need quite a bit more than a moment to digest that.
Hill Country Pierogi serves up real deal comfort food, Polish style. You’ll go for the food and stay for the people. Rob and Brit are doing it right, even sourcing all of their ingredients from local vendors. You know what to do.