Since Poland has become known for her pierogi, a dumpling with filling similar to empanadas or wontons, a lot of restaurants offer them on their menu. In fact, there have been numerous restaurants opening up in the city centre and the touristy portion of town that specifically serve pierogi, known as “Pierogarnia.” One of these is Zapiecek, which opened its doors in 2004, the same year that Poland joined the EU (I wonder if there is a coincidence?).
Since then, Zapiecek has become a popular place for tourists looking to get a taste of Polish pierogi and cuisine. It certainly has scored some points with me, because I love their cheese pierogi with sour cream, and their chicken noodle soup. (Then again, I am a sucker for these two things all day, every day, so I’m not sure I’m the best judge of whether either of these are good.) And, the restaurant has numerous locations in Nowy Swiat, and Old Town, so whenever you get weary of checking out the sights, you can stop by.
As a result their location, Zapiecek’s restaurants are always busy. Depending on the hour, sometimes you may have to wait a while before you are seated, and it is difficult for me to say what is the best time to go in order to avoid wait times, as every location is slightly different. Despite this, the locale itself is usually pretty big to begin with, and is done in a very homey, modern cabinhouse style that often brings me the image of a wooden cabin on a plain.
Once you are seated at your table, you can take a look at the menu, which offers a large variety of different types of pierogi–either cooked in boiling water (the traditional way, in my opinion), or fried (modern way, in my opinion)–that are served in 9 pieces per plate. You can either get a whole plate of the same type for a fixed price, or you can mix and match the pierogi with a price per pierogi for a minimum of 9 pieces. Word of warning though–you can only mix and match the pieces in ONE cooking type–you either get all 9 fried or all 9 boiled, not half and half. There are options that the restaurants recommends in a section called “Our Grandmothers Recommend,” so if you’re not sure what to choose, you can try these. (PSST….here’s a little secret….try the boiled cheese ones with sour cream and a bit of sugar. So Yummy!)
In addition to the pierogi, Zapiecek offers several types of soups: beetroot, chicken soup, lithuanian style cold beetroot (what the heck?! I swear that I’ve never heard of this as a Polish person myself, and apparently it’s served from June to August only), beef tripe soup, and sour rye soup. I recommend the chicken soup for drinking, but if you’re in Poland during the winter time, you might want to go for either the beef tripe or the sour rye, as they warm you up, and are a bit on the spicier side (they’re not spicy in the sense that they’ve got peppers, salsa, jalapenos, etc, but they make your nose run and warm you up). Beetroot soup is also good, but it tends to be more of an autumn or spring soup rather than a winter one, because it is more vegetable based.
But that’s not all. Zapiecek also offers meats, pancakes, pancakes with goulash (another what the heck? impression from me), sausages, bigos, potato dumplings (not sure that’s the right word for this dish, but I won’t argue with them), a chicken salad on a corn dish (uhm…what is this?), salmon, and a bunch of sauces and salads. Aside from the sausages, bigos, potato dumplings, pancakes and the meats, I’m not really sure what to make of the authenticity of the remaining offerings as Polish food. To me, they’re not Polish dishes, because I’ve never in my whole life heard of “chicken salad on a corn dish” from either side of my family (and my family comes from two distinct regions of Poland), but I’m not going to debate it, except to say if you’re in Poland, please, please, please try the pierogi. There is something in those pierogi options that is for everyone. If you love meat, we’ve got meat pierogis. If you’re vegetarian, well, guess what? We’ve got blueberries (yummy!), other berries and fruits pierogis. So go ahead, give it a try
Overall, for the food and the value, I would highly recommend this restaurant to any visitor looking to try Polish cuisine. In my experience, they have been highly consistent in the way they make their pierogi and other foods, so that no matter which restaurant you go to in Warsaw, you will get the same good-tasting items. Of course, it will never be my grandmother’s cooking, but it comes reasonably close to what I would expect of Polish food.
One thing that I would not recommend this restaurant for is how impossibly loud, noisy and crowded it can get. It is soooooo not a hard-of-hearing friendly or conversation friendly place, especially once it gets busy.