Historically Chicago was home to large populations of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe; in 1900 77% of the population was either first or second generation immigrants, with Germans, Irish, Poles, Swedes and Czechs making up nearly two-thirds of the foreign-born population. Recent Census data shows that Polish Americans now make up 6.7% of Chicago’s population, that is, roughly 182,000 residents. As you can image a Google search for “Best Polish Restaurant in Chicago” pulls up a bunch of top five or top ten lists and Pierogi Heaven makes the cut on a lot of them.
Pierogi Heaven is a small, no frills cafeteria style joint where one guy serves up pierogi from a steam counter and another guy works a grill cooking Polish sausage. The food is served on cafeteria trays and plastic plates with plastic forks. They seem to do a fast enough pace of business, certainly at lunch, that the pierogi in the steamer pans are fresh and still glistening.
The Dumplings: All of the pierogi are served boiled only and the choices include meat (a mix of pork and beef), meat and spinach, kraut, kraut and mushrooms, mushrooms, potato, potato and cheddar, potato and cheese, sweet cheese, spinach and fruit mix (strawberries, blueberries, cherries and plums).
I tried the potato and cheese pierogi which were good, but the cheese was so mild I couldn’t really tell what it added to the overall experience. As far as pierogi go, the mashed potato filling was relatively light and fluffy. The best part of the experience was the sautéed onions and bacon they piled on top of the pierogi. The onions were sweet and buttery and perfectly caramelized and the bacon provided a salty, smoky crunch to each bite. This topping is the genius of Pierogi Heaven, think of the pierogi as a conveyance for onions and bacon.
The Sauce: Pierogi don’t come with sauce, just a tub of sour cream.
The Location: Pierogi Heaven is in Chicago’s Downtown Loop neighborhood, right underneath the elevated tracks on N. Wells Street.