"So I bet you were enjoying the mild weather this week," says the polar vortex today, as it punches you right in the face with these 27-degree temperatures. Sigh. We may as well go back to our carbtastic, thick-sweater eating habits of yore. Cold weather gives us a craving for pierogi, those delicious Eastern European pockets of potatoey goodness. Here's where you can find them in D.C., ranked from best to meh.
The winner. First of all, when you order Boundary Road's wonderfully savory quark-and-black-pepper pierogi, $16 will get you a huge plate, unlike the three-to four-pierogi that comprise a portion at some other restaurants. Regardless, those pillowy pierogi will disappear quickly.
2. Bistro Bohem
The Czech Bistro Bohem's rotating pierogi offerings aren't for purists: Those who think a pierogi should be potato-based may be surprised to see kale or ham as the main filler. But these pierogi will broaden your horizons, while the hearty coating of sauce will please sour-cream lovers. $8.
Bacon. They're filled with bacon. And cheese and onion and potato, of course, but the bacon is key. Boiled and then lightly fried, Domku keeps it traditional, preparation-wise. If only the portion size wasn't so puny. $8.
4. Mari Vanna
Served with mushrooms, onion and sour cream, Mari Vanna's vareniki -- the pierogi's Russian counterpart -- are a crock of starchy goodness. They even come in dessert form, though the sour cherry vareniki could use a touch more sweetness. When it comes down to it, though, we'll always choose Mari Vanna's pelmeni, or meat-filled dumplings, the focus of a popular special on Tuesday nights, over their less-flavorful potato-stuffed cousins.
It should have been a warning that Ballston's favorite (and only) Russian-Uzbek restaurant lists its vareniki in the "ravioli" section of the menu. Available stuffed with farmer's cheese or potatoes and mushrooms, giant plates of vareniki arrive at the table boiled and buttery, topped with multiple scallion-dappled dollops of sour cream. You get a lot of dumplings for $11.99, and the preparation is traditional, but the flavors are rather subdued.
6. Russia House
Russia House gets points for creativity with its stuffing of lamb confit, potato and leeks. The problem is that the vareniki are too heavy on the toppings -- Riesling cream, and roasted parsnips and salsify -- which, in combination with the meat-filled dumplings, give off a distinct ravioli vibe. And then there's the question of value: only four dumplings for $14?
These are the only deep-fried pierogi we tested. DGS keeps it simple with potato and farmer's cheese inside, but things go awry with the sauce, a somewhat mustardy and overpowering spiced yogurt with mint. Sour cream would have sufficed. $8.
8. Mighty Pint
As a Pittsburgh-themed bar, you'd expect the Mighty Pint to have a whole section of the menu devoted to pierogi, and even a Wednesday "Pitchers and Pierogis" happy hour, where a plate of pierogies sauteed in butter and onions is just $5 from 8 p.m. to close. (Add kielbasa to your order for $2, or a pitcher of Yuengling for $10.) The problem is that the pierogies themselves reminded us too much of the frozen Mrs. T's that we'd make when just out of college. And then there are the "Pumped Up Pierogies," which are covered in a variety of toppings, akin to nachos or tater tots. (Pierogies smothered in buffalo chicken, wing sauce, blue cheese and sour cream? Sacrilege.) The pierogies pictured above are the Green Ivy, which are topped with a basil pesto and a heavy layer of grated parmesan cheese. They do taste better than they look -- just.
Correction: Rus-Uz serves Russian and Uzbek, not Uzbekistani, cuisine.