One of Detroit’s most sought after pop-up restaurants, Pietrzyk Pierogi is preparing to settle into a storefront in Eastern Market. Founder Erica Pietrzyk tells Eater she plans to bring her plentiful Polish dumpling operation to a more permanent location inside the Gratiot Central Market within the next month.
Pietrzyk has made pierogi since she was tall enough to reach the counter in her family home. She received a crash course in large scale production as a kid making pierogi en masse out of the Transfiguration Church basement with her sister’s Polish Wawel dance troupe. Pietrzyk’s nascent pierogi pop-up began five years ago with her bringing food to friends at the Painted Lady Lounge in Hamtramck where she worked as a bartender.
In 2016 after leaving the Pink Lady, she began to formalize the operation into a bar pop-up with appearances at Nancy Whiskey Pub in Corktown. “[During] our second pop-up there we had a line out the door,” she recalls. “People were standing in the snow to get inside to stand in line and there were people sitting on the floor.” It was in that moment that Pietrzyk realized she could turn Pietrzyk Pierogi into a real business.
Pietrzyk Pierogi became an official company in 2017, offering pierogi making classes and working out of a commissary kitchen at Saints Peter & Paul Orthodox Community Center in Southwest Detroit. As the pop-up grew, Pietrzyk found herself struggling to find adequate storage space or time for production in the busy, shared kitchen. Through her pop-up operation, Pietrzyk was able to connect with Dan Carmody at the Eastern Market Partnership who helped her identify the future Pietrzyk Pierogi storefront inside Gratiot Central Market across from Star Fish & Seafood.
At its new kitchen and food counter, Pietrzyk Pierogi’s team of five employees will be able to produce pierogi all week long. Pietrzyk, who has amassed more than 90 recipes for pierogi fillings, plans to offer a rotating selection of dumplings available wholesale to local businesses as well as in frozen packaged dozens for customers at the shop. And about those fillings: Pietrzyk Pierogi makes the classic Polish pierogi fillings such as potato and cheese, but has earned a following for its more creative options. The most popular version, the Becky (named after a friend who used to eat the pierogi the Painted Lady), features jalapeños, cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and egg. There’s also a cheeseburger pierogi with ground beef, cheddar cheese, and mustard and the Holiday Special with turkey, potatoes, stuffing, and green beans.
In addition to the retail side, store will serve a small menu with fresh pierogi and zapiekanka — a Polish street food developed during the Cold War, which Pietrzyk describes as a cross between an open-faced baguette sandwich and pizza. Customers can also expect dill pickle soup, chicken soup, and sorrel soup in the winter and paczki annually on Fat Tuesday.
Once the business is up and running, Pietrzyk plans to work with local organizations such as the Turning Point Shelter in Macomb County to provide job training. Pietrzyk is a supporter of fair wages and says employees start at $12 during training. She hopes to eventually increase pay for regular staff members to between $15 and $18 per hours. “That’s a realistic view of what you need to survive,” says Pietrzyk, who has worked several service industry jobs at once throughout her adult life. “I don’t want my employees to have to work two jobs.” Pietrzyk wants to be in a position to provide employee health insurance and 401k plans within the next two years.
Pietrzyk Pierogi is in the process of getting its final inspections and equipment in August with the goal of opening before the end of the month. Unexpected repair costs did push Pietrzyk over her budget for establishing the business. Last week, Pietrzyk started a $10,000 Kickstarter campaign to help the pierogi company acquire its initial packaging for distribution and case coolers to store frozen pierogi. The campaign has raised a little over $2,800 so far.
Pietrzyk plans to open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. As for the bar pop-ups, they’re expected to continue but on a less frequent basis. Stay tuned for more updates on an opening date.