Wed, 10/1/03 10:38 AM
I started eating pierogy as a teenager, in the home of my best friend, who had a Polish mother and an Armenian father. Mrs. T's were about all I had ever had until I started hanging out in the East Village of New York City a few years ago. Briefly, before the East Village became Bohemian in the 60s or so, it was home to a large Ukranian and Polish community some of whose institutions (and restaurants!) survive.
Of these, the most well-known are Veselka, which has yuppified itself considerably, and Odessa, which very much hasn't.
Two places somewhat less likely to be crowded, but just as likely to please the pierogy palate, are the Neptune and Little Poland. Both offer a wide variety of pierogy: potato, potato/cheese, sweet cheese, sauerkraut, meat, kasha, sweet potato, spinach/mushroom, etc., all available either boiled or fried. My recollection is that at each place an order of seven is about $6. I think that Neptune theoretically serves them with either applesauce or sour cream, but I don't remeber being charged extra after getting both. Little Poland seves them with fried onions--truly superlative--but charges $.50 each for the sour cream and applesauce.
Neptune is on the east side of First Avenue, on one side or the other of 12th Street. The food is good--I especially love the potato dumplings--but the best thing about it is that it has a back yard, set up essentially as a Polish beer garden with Zywiec beer benches and similar trappings.
My favorite for food is Little Poland, on the east side of Second Avenue. For the Sterns: while Little Poland doesn't claim to be the home or originator of anything, its menu does invoke a comparison along the lines of "Our food is like music of Chopin." For the pierogy lover, it also offers pierogy in special sauce (very heavy!) and, in summer, fruit pierogy. Little Poland also has excellent soups, and great dinner specials. Meat (meatballs, lamb shank, kielbasa, a massive slice of stuffed breast of veal) and two veg (kasha; red, sweet, or sour cabbage; cucumber salad; buttered noodles; etc.) are as little as seven or eight dollars, and easily leave over enough for a second dinner. The great bargain, though, is breakfast. If you get there by 11:59 a.m.--and I've had my waitress check her watch!--you get two eggs, any way except shirred; kasha, with gravy and those fried onions; toast; your choice of juice; and coffee or tea for only $2.95. Add ham, bacon, sausage, or corned beef hash, and it's $3.95. The real blowout, a length of kielbasa, grilled and split, makes it $4.50. For an extra $.35, ask for the challah, and get two slices of deep-yellow toast an inch thick, served with butter, honey, and marmalade. I think I'm going to have breakfast there tomorrow, as writing about it is making me crazy, in that good way.