My ten-year-old son and I darted through light rain, across the Dundas St. W. streetcar tracks, past trendy bars and hipster restos, and ducked into the warm red glow of The Saucy Pierogi in Toronto’s Little Portugal. The dining space is fresh and bright with a nod to Poland—a welcoming white marble bar sits under a sign boasting ‘Alkohole’ and brilliantly coloured artwork depicting Polish street scenes adorns the walls.
At 6:30 on a Wednesday evening, the seats were mostly empty. The dinner rush doesn’t usually pick up around 8 or so, the bartender told me, and even then it’s never a rowdy crowd. This is great news. Beating the rush is one of my main rules for dining with kids. The food and the service are faster so you can get in and out before a meltdown strikes and fewer diners mean it’s less likely someone will get hit by an errant crayon.
But the main family-friendly draw of The Saucy Pierogi is found on the menu. What kid doesn’t like pierogies? There are eight varieties here, including kid-approved classics like cheddar potato, or bacon and potato, and more grown-up flavours like crab or duck. Most of the flavours go for $6 for a plate of four pierogies, with the three premium fillings costing a bit more. (Note that on Tuesday nights you get four pierogi plates for the price of three.) It’s the perfect food for sharing and even your pickiest eater is bound to like something.
The pierogi dough is made in house and then filled and formed with a special pierogi press imported from Poland. These are a far cry from what you find in the freezer aisle and you can certainly taste the difference.
The first pierogi my decade-old dining companion and I sampled was the cheddar and potato which is topped with a creamy lager cheddar sauce that takes this classic over the top. My son declared this one his favourite. A close second was a moist braised beef shank pierogi, served with a classic beef gravy. It was incredibly comforting and satisfying. The spinach and feta pierogi was likewise bursting with flavour.
The surprise hit of the night, however, was a dish called kopytka. These gnocchi-like Polish dumplings made with potato flour are served in a savoury sauce with braised duck and are so incredibly tender they practically melt in your mouth.
You can round out your meal with other traditional Polish fare like cabbage rolls, schnitzel, goulash, and polish sausage. Do try an order of the classic cucumber salad in a sour cream dill dressing; it’ll be a hit with the whole family.