For those not familiar with pierogis, their textbook definition can sound more like a wet blanket than comfort food. What's so great about a boiled potato dumpling?
Growing up on a Northeast Ohio peninsula, my only native foodstuffs came from Lake Erie — how I miss fried perch and walleye – but we did have something else going for us: a curious infusion of Polish, Slovak and Carpatho-Russian fare in the form of halupki, kolbasi and the venerable pierogi. As a kid, for me even Mrs. T's frozen pierogis were a treat when boiled and given a quick sautee in butter and onion.
After leaving the land of boiled cabbage and lake-effect snow, I'd moved on to a balmy landscape of boiled crawfish and klobasneks. But the buttery indulgence of a pillowy-soft pierogi has always stuck with me.
While there are spots in DFW where pierogis roam wild, the dish hasn't seen the same repetitive reverence as, say, fried chicken or poke (and thank God for that) – which is why it's kind of fun to spot it on a new menu in one of Dallas' trendiest dining neighborhoods.
IdleRye, which enters its soft-open phase tonight on a busy corner of Elm Street in Deep Ellum, describes itself as so many new Dallas restaurants do: a "modern American" restaurant with a twist. The twist, in this case, is each owner's background: Ray Skradzinski's Polish heritage and brothers Bruce and Daniel Wills' Louisiana upbringing. The resulting culture clash makes for some interesting food.
At a press event last week, we tried a few dishes that piqued our interest. My table described the Texas quail as a grown-up take on chicken tenders; dark quail meat is battered in corn-dog breading, fried and drizzled in jalapeño honey and a spicy mustard sauce, creating a dish that bounces pleasantly between salty, sweet, spicy and juicy.
The crispy Gulf shrimp proved to be the ultimate crowd favorite, with plump, juicy shrimp wrapped in buttermilk batter, fried and topped with Parmesan. The impossibly bright lemon aioli served on the side was good enough to drink on its own; when paired with the warm shrimp, it was damn near euphoric.
And then there were the pierogis. Skradzinski, who is also the restaurant's chef, gives the potato-stuffed pockets a hard saute after they're boiled, which gives them a crunchy exterior. The dumplings are filled with potato, chives and cheddar and are topped with buttery onion that can be made even more indulgent if you dump the accompanying melted butter on top. They don't exactly remind me of the boiled magic I eat every year at the Perch, Peach, Pierogi and Polka Festival in Port Clinton, Ohio, (yes, that's a thing), but when dunked in sour cream, they're a fun bar bite.
There were some dishes that didn't make much of an impression – it's pretty hard to impress anyone with deviled eggs or a wedge salad these days – but the dishes that worked made us want to come back for more. The cocktail list, too, had some fun choices; the Island 2826 was a fun departure with Flor de Cana rum, lime, black pepper-roasted pineapple, coconut orgeat and hemp milk. Classics like the Vieux Carre were executed well.
With a patio, open kitchen and intimate booths tucked throughout the space, IdleRye could find a following in a neighborhood where new restaurants are popping up faster than Dallas' oversaturated food media market can cover. Soft open begins with dinner service tonight (prices are still being finalized, we're told), and the restaurant is aiming at a full opening the weekend of June 2. When it's fully up and running, it'll serve lunch, dinner and brunch, and a pile of buttery pierogis sounds like the perfect way to sop up the half-dozen cocktails you downed at Black Swan the night before.
IdleRye, 2826 Elm St.
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