Traffic was at a standstill. Stupid Bucs game. Here it was, my birthday dinner and I was going to show up late. I looked into my rear view mirror, met my eyes and thought, nope, not gonna happen. I quickly swerved my car onto the shoulder and began passing all the football fans. 40, 50, 60 miles an hour. I hit the CCC in no time. It was here that I noticed the flashing lights in the far distance. The police were on my tale. It was only 4 miles to the Pierogi Grill would the catch me? I met my eyes again. Nope, not gonna happen. I pushed the pedal in my Dodge Neon to the floor. I moved in and out of traffic like America moves in and out of foreign conflicts, ran red lights like Britney Spears. It was all to no avail. Right as I pulled into the Pierogi Grill parking lot I was apprehended, cuffed and thrown into the back seat.
But what a back seat it was! Everywhere I looked there were Polish Apple Pies with Ice Cream, Fried Green Beans, Potato Pancakes and Pierogies! If this is what being arrested is all about, sign me up.
The Pierogi Police Car
On Saturday, I rounded up the usual suspects for a small birthday celebration at the Pierogi Grill and Deli , a Polish Restaurant in the middle of Clearwater’s sprawl. Aside from the police car outside, the first thing I noticed was the restaurant’s inauspicious building. It looked more like a Burger King that has been converted into a church than a classy eating establishment. Weird. Inside things weren’t any less crazy. Every where I looked were statues and pyramids. I turned to J-Fur and inquired, “Do they serve pierogies in Egypt?” She just shrugged, probably too winded from our wild ride.
All our guests had already arrived, ordered beers and wrapped my presents. J-Fur and I took our places and quickly scoured the menu. I decided to start with a batch of fried green beans.
The Fried Green Beans and dipping sauce.
The green beans were fat and thickly breaded. Usually I think bigger is better but in this case I wasn’t feeling it. They were fine, but the lingering oil and bread taste in my mouth wasn’t what I had come to expect from fried green beans. The Pierogi Grill probably needs to take a lesson from Mr. Dunderbaks as their green beans are a real party to your palette. But let’s face it, I wasn’t going to a place called the Pierogi Grill and expecting their fried green beans to impress. The real test was coming next, the pierogies.
I was slightly disappointed because the restaurant has four vegetarian options: potato and farmer’s cheese, potato and cheddar, sauerkraut and mushroom and spinach, but no way to try all four without spending twenty dollars. You could order a six pack of one flavor, a twelve pack of two or you could order a twelve pack with 3 farmer’s cheese, 3 cheddar, 3 sauerkraut and mushroom and 3 meat. When I asked about substituting the meat for the spinach the waitress told me the trays were pre-made and they would have no idea which ones were meat. It would seem to me that offering a vegetarian mix wouldn’t be hard to do. Just make the tray that way in the first place. Perhaps that is something that will come in the future, all four veggie options without shelling out an Andrew Jackson. For this night though I had to stick to two flavors. I went with a twelve pack of half spinach and half sauerkraut and mushroom. J-Fur did the same only she went with half potato and cheddar and half spinach.
Sauerkraut and Mushroom and Spinach Pierogies
The twelve pierogies are served on a large plate and topped with butter and onions. This is my preferred method of delivery when I make them at home as well (although I usually do olive oil instead of butter) as the onions seem to enhance the vegetables that are stuffed inside. I was pretty disappointed with the spinach pierogies. There seemed to be a slight sweetness to them. I will say they tasted much better as a leftover than they did fresh, if that means anything. The real pierogi winner was the mushroom and sauerkraut. There wasn’t too much vinegar to the kraut, just enough to let you know it was there. The ‘shrooms were sliced small enough that J-Fur didn’t even suspect them. Falling just slightly behind was the potato and cheddar. This was J-Fur’s clear winner as she liked the mashed potato, onion and cheese combo. She was also not super impressed by the spinach.
The Polish Platter
Our friend Chris celebrated his actual birthday that night (unlike me who was posing) by ordering a Polish Platter which he shared with Mike and Lana. The platter includes a stuffed cabbage roll, pork cutlet, roasted pork loin, polish sausage, potato pancakes, 12 mixed pierogies, boiled potatoes, fries, yellow rice, sauerkraut and a salad or soup. They raved about the platter until their stomachs exploded. The three of them came nowhere close to finishing all that starch. Winners seemed to be the sausage, cutlet and the stuffed cabbage (which is unfortunately filled with meat). I tried the potato pancake and fries. The pancake was decent, though it was served with sour cream and not applesauce which I prefer. The fries were…fries. Hard to mess those up.
Dessert meant Polish Apple Pies (szarlotka) with vanilla ice cream on top.
Szarlotka with Ice Cream
The Szarlotka was good, but it didn’t seem to pack all the punch it should have. I think the ice cream or pie needed some cinnamon to kick it up a notch.
Overall the group liked the Pierogi Grill. I plan to return but will do so on a day where I am not really feeling the urge for appetizers or dessert. Afterall, they are called the Pierogi Grill for a reason.
There were quite a few moments that night where I was forced to “face life’s inevitable choices, to stand firm in contentment or venture into the unknown and brace the next season of life.” This is the story of Jackson Hunt and the title track from his new album The Verge. After listening to the album a few times it is clear to me that “The Verge,” “Breaking Up” and “Dance Dance” are the stand out tracks. One because of its beautiful reflection, the other two due to Jackson’s mile a minute tickling of the ivories. Jackson Hunt is one of the few people that make piano driven, pop rock that doesn’t annoy me. Think of him as the next to walk the ivory path laid by Ben Folds, Billy Joel and Elton John. Get your copy of The Verge.