I grew up in Northeastern, Pennsylvania. Even though I come from a family with Irish & German ancestry, I grew up eating excellent Eastern European food due to a large population of people of Polish, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, and Russian descent in the coal region. We’re talking pierogi, haluski, gołąbki, kielbasa, sauerkraut, etc. These flavors from my childhood left a lasting impression and deep appreciation for these cultures. As a result, I often have a craving for these dishes which I make regularly. I leave the pierogi to the experts, though.
Port Richmond is known as Polish food central in Philadelphia, but if you travel slightly further north, you’ll find a family-run restaurant still making Polish food the old-fashioned way and with a lot of love.
The Pierogi Factory located at 9965 Bustleton Avenue in the Bustleton section of Northeast Philly is making traditional Polish food with a modern twist. Third-generation owner Matt Rynczak, 23, a recent Drexel University graduate and future law school student, is an ambitious young man who wants to help the family business grow. With few job opportunities post-pandemic for recent college graduates, he decided to jump in and help the cozy restaurant get through challenging times.
Opened by his mother (Paulina) and grandmother (Teresa) in 2014, it had seen incredible growth prior to COVID-19. Even with just a few tables inside, the restaurant was in high demand turning out thousands of pierogi every week and making their own smoked and fresh kielbasa among other traditional specialties all by women from Poland, Ukraine, and Russia.
“Business plummeted when everything went on lockdown,” Rynczak told Philly Grub. “We never shut down, but there were days my mom and I would just sit in the restaurant and wait for customers. In the earliest days of the pandemic, we’d maybe have 10 people come by. It’s finally starting to pick up but we’re certainly not at 100%.”
He knew something had to be done to keep the business alive all while applying for jobs and studying for the LSAT. First, he started promoting on social media accounts he set up. As a business major, he knew marketing would be essential to getting the word out that they were still open. He created a Facebook page and Instagram account posting pictures daily. He also partnered with third-party delivery services (Door Dash, Grubhub, and UberEats) knowing that indoor dining would be postponed indefinitely. Finally, bringing the restaurant into the 21st century, he’s working on a new website that is currently in progress and will be launched soon.
While the typical cuisine of Poland will always be the star, he also knew that in order to appeal to a new customer base, they’d need to branch out and offer some different flavors. He’s hoping items like the Philly cheesesteak and Buffalo chicken pierogies (among other creative versions) will draw a new, younger customer base. Sweet pierogi are also featured on the dessert menu in a variety of flavors such as sweet cream cheese, cherry, blueberry, and Nutella pierogi. They’re already proving to be quite popular as they have become best-sellers.
He’s on a mission to make this ethnic cuisine “cool” – if the items I tried are any indication, he’s well on his way!
The smoked kielbasa is some of the best I’ve ever had and that’s saying something because I’ve had a lot of kielbasa in my lifetime. The pierogi is spot-on authentic and served the way I grew up eating them with fried onions and sour cream. The cheesesteak and Cajun pierogis are a delicious, fun novelty, but I will always crave the originals served the old-fashioned way. The gołąbki took me back to my childhood. Flavorful, seasoned ground meat stuffed inside boiled cabbage with a tomato sauce on top. So good!
The potato and bacon pierogi will delight any bacon lover as they are packed with real bacon. Truly the perfect bite. Dough, potato, and smoky bacon – what’s not to LOVE about that? The mushroom and sauerkraut version brought a nice umami flavor. The Nutella pierogi proves yet again that sweet and savory belong together! I could go on and on. 🙂
If you think Polish food is boring, think again. Don’t take my word for it, try for yourself. The Pierogi Factory is a must-visit if you love Polish food. Check out the menu and go get some for yourself! Of course, tell them Philly Grub sent ya.
9965 Bustleton Ave Philadelphia, PA 19115 (215) 516-1111 Monday-Saturday 11:00-8:00