Is there any food better suited to cold weather than pierogi? The Polish dumpling is as comforting as a pillow.
At Krakowiak, a cozy storefront Polish restaurant in South River, pierogi are treated with utmost care. Begin your meal with an appetizer portion of pierogi. Order them sautéed, and they will arrive at your table with the right amount of sizzle. Split your order between the zesty sauerkraut and mushroom and the mild potato and cheese. Opt in for the sprinkling of chopped onion and bacon. Then, enjoy the chewy tug of the dumpling and the softness of the filling. They’re not too big, not too small, just right for muffling hunger at the end of a winter’s day.
Now you’re ready to explore the rest of the menu.
Everything is hearty and warm at Krakowiak, including the ambience. Parties of four or six people sit at tables lined on either side of the restaurant, while a table for two in the center features coffeehouse-style upholstered chairs. The restaurant does a brisk take-out business. You’ll hear Polish being spoken in the kitchen, and occasionally among customers, as South River counts Eastern European immigrants among its diverse population.
A steaming bowl of soup accompanies each entrée. It’s a tough choice: Rosol z kury, a classic chicken noodle soup, is fragrant with dill.
But it’s even harder to resist barszcz Ukrainski, Ukrainian-style borscht, jewel-toned and loaded with potatoes and shredded beets.
And don’t overlook the soup du jour. It might be wild mushroom. Or even pickle soup. Don’t fret the details; just jump in, because they’re all good.
Krakowiak’s golabki, or stuffed cabbage, also presents you with a choice: Tomato sauce or mushroom? Tomato is the traditional version, but go for the mushroom. Velvety sauce blankets the cabbage and pairs well with the rice and ground meat within.
In the mood for goulash? Again, you’re faced with a decision. Gulasz wolowy, Polish-style goulash, is the classic presentation of beef-and-potatoes. Yet placki po wegiersku, in the Hungarian style, is a goulash that will energize you, with its strong hit of hot paprika and pepper, served over potato pancakes.
Those potato pancakes? In a word, ungreasy. In another word, crisp. And tasty. You might want to choose them as another appetizer or even as a full entrée: placki ziemniaczane.
One caveat about Krakowiak. You’ve heard the expression “The early bird gets the Bigos?” No? Well, take heed, because if you do want to try Bigos, a belly-filling hunter’s stew, or anything else on the menu, you should dine early. Like at 5 or 6 pm.
Krakowiak does run out of things, and they also tend to close their doors long before the posted hour of 8 pm.
Krakowiak, 42 Main Street in South River. BYO. Open Wednesday through Sunday for lunch and dinner. 732-238-0433; krakowiakrestaurant.com.