ShareThis Page
The battle is on at Kennywood in annual Pittsburgh Pierogi Festival |
Food & Drink

The battle is on at Kennywood in annual Pittsburgh Pierogi Festival

A pierogi hops a ride on Kennywood Park’s Jack Rabbit coaster at last year’s Pittsburgh Pierogi Festival. This year’s festival is Sept. 23.
Gwyn Zollinger of Happy Camper Cakes, Jeannette, will be selling her pierogi-inspired cupcakes at the Pittsburgh Pierogi Festival, including, in front, Kenny Wears a Babushka, a vanilla funnel cake with cherry pierogi filling, Swiss meringue buttercream, cherry reduction and fried pierogi dough twist topper.
Grandma Cyl’s Homemade Pierogi of Butler will be among the vendors at the Pittsburgh Pierogi Festival Sept. 23 at Kennywood Park.
Tribune-Review file
John Kaczor of Ford City works on a batch of pierogies. He will be among the vendors at the Pittsburgh Pierogi Festival Sept. 23 at Kennywood Park.
A plate of pierogies from S&D Polish Deli in the Strip District, one of the vendors at the Pittsburgh Pierogi Festival at Kennywood Park.
Gwyn Zollinger of Happy Camper Cakes, Jeannette, will be among the vendors at the Pittsburgh Pierogi Festival Sept. 23 at Kennywood Park.

What’s your pierogi pleasure?

Latin-inspired deep-fried Chica Pierogies topped with fresh chunky salsa, sour cream and avocado cilantro sauce from Las Chicas Food Truck of Wexford?

Buffalo pierogi, fruit pierogi and Thanksgiving-themed Gobblerogi with turkey breast, gravy and cranberry from Babcia’s Lunchbox of East Palestine, Ohio?

How about some cheddar, jalapeño and beer pierogies from Dorothy 6 Blast Furnace Café, Homestead? Or vegan and handmade kimchi pierogi and pickled jalapeño pierogi from Onion Maiden of Pittsburgh’s Allentown neighborhood?

The possibilities are endless at this year’s Pittsburgh Pierogi Festival on Sept. 23 at Kennywood Park, where more than two dozen pierogi vendors will offer their variations on the traditional favorite Polish — and Pittsburgh — comfort food.

Local restaurants, food trucks and pierogi purveyors will compete for People’s Choice Award honors while offering their specialties for sale.

Defending pierogi champ

Last year’s winner, Pittsburgh Smokehouse, is bringing back its Smokey ‘Rogi, a pierogi topped with beef brisket and chipotle sauce, and is introducing Smoked Bacon Haluski topped with a pierogi, served with or without the brisket and chipotle.

Andy Wincko of Plum, who operates his Pittsburgh Smokehouse business out of the Italian American Citizens Club in Wilkins Township, says there’s no such thing as a bad pierogi.

“It’s a Pittsburgh thing. You can top them and design them any way you like — they’re never bad,” he says.

He’ll have plenty of competition, including John Kaczor of Ford City, who claims he’s “the absolute best pasta maker in the world and I’m coming to win!”

Kaczor’s creations include his deep-fried fruit-filled pierogi stuffed with lemon, blueberry, apple and cherry, and his potato/sauerkraut and potato/cheddar pierogi made from his mom’s and late aunt’s recipes.

He says he walked away from a factory job as a machinist five years ago to start his Kaczor Ravioli Co. He sells ravioli, gnocchi and pierogi at local festivals, for fundraisers and at area grocery stores.

“It’s a passion for me,” he says.

Pierogi-inspired cupcakes

Several vendors will offer their sweet takes on traditional pierogies, including Gwyn Zollinger of Happy Camper Cakes, a small-batch bakery in Jeannette.

Zollinger will have three special pierogi-inspired cupcakes: Kenny Wears a Babushka, a vanilla funnel cake with powdered sugar dust, cherry pierogi filling, Swiss meringue buttercream, cherry reduction and fried pierogi dough twist topper; Crafty Sauerkraut Saul, made of sauerkraut chocolate cake, craft brew stout ganache, chocolate frosting and chocolate chip sauerkraut truffle; and Pow Pow Lekvar, cinnamon cake with plum bourbon jam, brown sugar Swiss buttercream and plum-shaped pastry topper.

She says Pittsburgh loves its pierogi because of the heritage they represent.

“Western Pennsylvania in general seems to hold on to tradition and pass it on from generation to generation,” she says. “Who doesn’t love a soft pillow of dough filled with … hey, just about anything delicious. It’s comfort in a dumpling.”

Sugar Spice Truck of Baldwin will feature its Sweet Cheese Pierogi Sundae, made with two sweet cheese pierogies, homemade vanilla ice cream and cinnamon apple compote, with a caramel drizzle.

Pierogi crepes, egg rolls and tacos

The festival will feature pierogi in all shapes and sizes, including a new vendor, Le’s Oriental, with its potato/cheese, potato/fried onion and sauerkraut/onion pierogi egg rolls; PGH Crepes of Oakland, offering pierogi crepes stuffed with potato, cheese and onions, and Halal’s Foods with its lamb, chicken kabob and falafel pierogies.

Grandma Cyl’s Homemade Pierogi of Butler will have its potato and cheese pierogi, deep-fried pierogi taco and pieroli, a pierogi with steak and provolone cheese.

Michele’s Mobile Meals of Export will have her Pittsburgh in a Cup, featuring handmade potato cheddar pierogies, kielbasa, sautéed cabbage and onion and a blend of cheeses, served with a souvenir cup.

Two local churches will join the event this year with their homemade pierogies, Holy Ghost Byzantine Church of McKees Rocks and St. Mary’s Orthodox Church of South Side.

Festival promoter Eileen French Jordan says organizers hope to grow church involvement in upcoming years to support “the beloved cultural centers of Pittsburgh’s pierogi tradition.”

Pierogi pinchers

The festival also will host the first Pierogi Pinching Contest sponsored by The Pittsburgh Bakery Society, in which 40 preregistered contestants will compete for prizes by assembling pierogi in a timed competition.

There will be live musical entertainment by resident DJ Pandemic, Eastern European band Cetiri Jedan Dva Bend and polka bands Mon Valley Push and Unnecessary Polka.

Other activities include “Paint Your Own Pierogi” with Paint Monkey, pierogi-inspired chalk creations by The Chalking Dad, a pop-up pierogi marketplace, face painting, balloon art, a photo booth and beer garden for guests ages 21 and up.

Kennywood rides open during the festival will include the Merry-Go-Round, Thunderbolt, Jack Rabbit, Racer, Turtle and Noah’s Ark.

More than 6,000 visitors attended last year’s festival, according to organizers.

Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.