Archive for pierogies

Love is a Plate of Kielbasa and Kraut

Posted in New Jersey Restaurants with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 19, 2008 by restaurantouring

I know I talk a lot about foie gras and tasting menus and fancy dinners sometimes.  Maybe I haven’t gotten around to it too much yet in this blog, but it’s true that I talk about those things a lot in my day-to-day life.  But I’m not all about haute cuisine all of the time.  Rather, I consider myself bipolar.

I say I’ll eat anything.  I guess that’s not really true.  I’ll eat anything that has been carefully prepared.  I’ll eat anything that is new to me (or at least I’ll try really hard to do so, in case I can’t get my mind wrapped around eating something really strange and initially off-putting).  What’s more, (and I know this will sound cheesy, even before I say it.  Bear with me anyway) I’ll eat anything that’s been made with love.

The food of love.  My co-worker, Ben, introduced me to a little dive in Jersey City a little while ago, and I’ve been meaning to write about it for the longest time.  It’s called Sava Polish Deli, and they quite possibly serve the best damn food in all of New Jersey.  It’s run by an adorable old woman named Jadwiga, and she makes the food fresh every day.  Hell, she even ferments the sauerkraut herself!  The commercially available (often canned) sauerkraut it too sour-tasting, she says.  Beyond acidity, the flavor is flat, so Jadwiga will slice and salt cabbage and leave it to ferment in huge barrels in-house.  Fantastic.

Jadwiga (pronounced YAD-zia), the cook!

Jadwiga (pronounced YAD-zia), the cook!

The restaurant itself is small.  It has several small tables and chairs, and a huge fish tank obscuring the view into the place in one of its windows.  To be frank, it does not inspire confidence by most conventional standards.  But that’s all fine, because this woman really knows how to cook.  The menu seems to change slightly, but there’s plenty on the menu that’s there all the time: pierogies, sauerkraut and kielbasa, stuffed cabbages, and a couple other items.  I went back there with Ben to have lunch on Friday, and this is what he got for 11 bucks:

Clockwise from 12 o’clock: Kielbasa, sauerkraut, stuffed cabbage, pierogies four ways – potato and cheese, farmer’s cheese, sauerkraut, and a veal and beef pierogi.  The potato and cheese pierogies are the best.  The farmer’s cheese pierogies are excellent, too — sweet and slightly tangy.  Good flavor.  The stuffed cabbage keeps getting better and better every time we go there, and Sava’s kielbasa and kraut can’t be beat.

I had almost all of that last time I went, plus I’m a huge glutton so my plate was more diversified:

Clockwise from 12 o’clock: pork rib, beef short rib with BBQ sauce, braised pork chop with dill and mushroom gravy, pork goulash on a bed of kasha (buckwheat groats), and a beet and kielbasa stew.  I started with the pork rib, which sadly did not have a lot of flavor.  The beef short rib (my favorite) more than made up for it, because it was ridiculously tender and juicy.  The pork chop with dill and mushroom gravy was probably my favorite, because it tasted the best, and was nice and tender.  The pork goulash was a little dry, but the kasha with the beet and kielbasa stew was fantastic together.

In this case, we overpaid for the variety of items that we got (me especially — I paid 19 bucks!).  Don’t let that dissuade you, though; most normal plates run no more than 8 bucks and change:

This place is so good, it’s even won an award!

Affordable home-cooked Polish food

Affordable home-cooked Polish food

Once you’ve gorged yourself on Polish goodness, Jadwiga’s a blast to talk to.  Last time, I remember cracking up at some of the things she said about Italian food (she is not a fan).  This time, we talked about business, catering, the rising costs of gas, food, and the cost of doing business, a little bit about politics, Polish food, and more.  Ben joked about how if things got more expensive at Sava’s, he’d go eat somewhere else.  Here, Jadwiga sweetly (don’t let the smile fool you!), jokingly threatens us by saying that if we ate someplace else, she would go buy a gun:

A disarmingly sweet smile

A veiled threat

Threats aside, I personally always like going there because Jadwiga gives us treats:

A smaller version of kielbasa, stuffed in sheep's casing

A smaller version of kielbasa, stuffed in sheep's casing

If you don’t go there for the plate specials, Sava also sells deli over the counter.  They carry several kinds of kielbasa, a variety of the usual cold cuts, and even specially made veal hot dogs:

Veal hotdogs (right) and Kielbasa links (left)

Veal hotdogs (right) and Kielbasa links (left)

I bought one of the hot dogs.  Cost me somewhere around 70 cents.  I think I’m gonna take Mike Ruhlman’s suggestion, from his book on Charcuterie, and just saute it and serve it with a steamed bun with some minced onion and good mustard.  I can’t wait.  I can’t wait to go back to Sava’s either.  All this talk about food has got me hungry.

Sava Polish Deli is located on 346 Grove Street, in Jersey City, New Jersey.  When you’re there, get the potato and cheese pierogies.  They are delicious.  If they haven’t sold out yet, get a stuffed cabbage before they disappear.  And of course, don’t forget the kielbasa and kraut.  It’s gooooood.  If you have time to chat afterwards, ask her for her honest opinion of the Italian joint across the street and prepare yourself for some hilariously scathing criticism about the “grrrass” that they put on top of their food (I think she’s talking about parsley).