EPHRAIM – If Door County diners think they’ve tried every kind of food to be had there, meet the pierogi.
Tak (that means “yes”), Polish food is coming to the Peninsula when Krzysztof Krol opens his Prince of Pierogi restaurant on Water Street just off State 42 in Ephraim on May 26.
The 29-year-old native of Siemianowice Slaskie, a moderately sized city in the Katowice metropolitan area of southern Poland, will be open for lunch and afternoon service (11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily) to be the only restaurant within a couple hundred miles to serve hearty, homemade Polish foods.
Prince of Pierogi will have indoor and outdoor seating as well as take-out, although the indoor option is on hold until Krol feels it’s safe to open because of the current COVID-19 concerns. Outdoor tables will be spaced for social distancing, the indoor restroom will be closed, employees will wear masks and gloves and customers who come to the window to place or pick up orders will be required to wear masks.
The self-taught chef said his concept is to run a street food-type of restaurant with quick service, along the lines of the foods and service found at small cafes or food trucks.
“It’s becoming a global trend,” Krol said. “Street food is becoming more popular because people are bored with regular food.”
What are pierogi?
The menu is dominated by pierogi, or course. Krol noted that in Polish, “pierogi” is plural for the item while the one of them is a “pierog.”
So, what are pierogi?
They’re small dumplings usually made from a noodle-type dough, stuffed with a variety of fillings and covered with a topping. Traditional and popular fillings in Poland include meat/potato mixtures, often with onions, mushrooms or cabbage, as well as dessert pierogi filled with fruit and sour cream or cream cheese.
“They are … a lot like empanadas or ravioli or pot stickers,” Krol said, “but they’re formed and shaped differently and prepared differently. It’s comfort food. It’s a child’s favorite meal in Poland.”
Krol is offering seven kinds of pierogi entrees with a choice of five toppings and three dessert versions. Four of the entree ones are traditional Polish recipes, including a sauerkraut, mushroom and kielbasa (Polish sausage) filling, while three are filled with ingredient combinations more familiar to Americans, such as a bacon mac and cheese. Several are vegetarian. The entree ones come in servings of six or 10, the dessert ones in servings of four or seven.
Also on the menu are other traditional Polish foods: two varieties of cabbage rolls (golabki), one with beef and one veggie; a kielbasa dog; and hunter’s stew (bigos), made with cabbage, sauerkraut, mushrooms, tomato, beef, bacon and kielbasa.
Some cooks fry pierogi but Krol is boiling and steaming his for a healthier dish. He’s also using as many local food and ingredient suppliers as possible.
Krol said the traditional Polish dishes came from handwritten recipes from his mother and grandmother. While he recognizes the need to offer nontraditional pierogi, he said it’s important to him to bring a taste of his homeland to the peninsula.
“I wanted to introduce some traditional Polish just like you would eat back home,” Krol said.
It’s especially important to him because finding Polish cuisine is difficult at best across Wisconsin, a state with a healthy population of people of Polish descent. The nearest Polish restaurants to Ephraim appear to be in the Milwaukee area and in Custer near Stevens Point, about 180 miles away, with another in Wisconsin Dells.
Krol said he sees a need for a Polish restaurant locally, especially for when tourists are able to flock as usual to the Door from places like Milwaukee and Chicago, the latter of which has almost a million residents of Polish descent in its metro area. Krol has worked for the past five years as a bartender at Bayside Tavern in Fish Creek — and continues to do so at night — and he said he’s seen a lot of Polish last names come through the bar.
“When I find out they’re Polish, I talk with them, and they say, oh, I wish we had a good Polish restaurant around here,” Krol said.
The building housing Prince of Pierogi sat vacant for 19 years before Krol bought it with his savings and set about remodeling it.
“I found a good property that was rundown, and it made me think, what could I do to give back to the community?” Krol said.
Describing it as “really rundown” at the time of purchase, he upgraded with a new roof, new floors, new walls, a new deck and a reinforced foundation, relying on a lot of help from friends and supporters and input on the interior and exterior design from Ephraim’s Historical Preservation Society.
When diners are able to go inside, they’ll see Polish decor and hear traditional and pop Polish and American music.
“It’ll be a fun beach-town atmosphere,” Krol said.
A Polish food trend
Krol first came to Door County and the U.S. in 2012 while a college student in Poland, working in a restaurant through the Work & Travel USA program sponsored by the CIEE — Council on International Educational Exchange. The program allows for a month of travel at the end, and Krol said he enjoyed this country so much, he bought a van and visited 28 states.
He returned the following two summers, working in restaurants in Florida and San Diego while completing his degree in international business and eventually traveling to 40 states and more than 30 countries. But Krol said he liked Door County so much he decided to settle there.
Krol’s travels across the country reinforced the idea that there’s a market for Polish cuisine. He said he’s dined in Polish restaurants in Chicago and Milwaukee, but also in less obvious metro areas like Denver, and he feels he’s getting in on a rising tide.
“I know that (Polish restaurants) are becoming trendy, more popular around the world,” Krol said. “I’ve been to many other Polish restaurants across the country (in my travels).”
And Krol figures the idea of a quick, hearty, Polish lunch will take hold with Door County’s residents and its many visitors.
“Look at tacos, for example, or pizza. No one ever says, oh, I hate tacos or pizza. And no one ever says, oh, I hate pierogi,” Krol said. “It’s a fun, fast, easy food to make. … I feel like I’m going to provide more diversity and complement other cuisines here very well.
“I know it’s a good business to get into up here.”
Prince of Pierogi is in the Shorewood Village Shops at 9922 Water St. S., No. 6, Ephraim. It will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily from May 26 through Oct. 31; outdoor seating and carry-out will be available to start the season, with indoor seating beginning once public health concerns from COVID-19 lessen. For more information, call 920-421-8619 or visit princeofpierogi.com or the “Prince of Pierogi Restaurant” Facebook page.
Contact Christopher Clough at 920-741-7952, 920-562-8900 or email@example.com.
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