No Jacket Required / Ru’s Pierogi
A Niagara Street restaurant makes some pretty damn good pierogi
Potato and ricotta pierogi
Photos by kc kratt
295 Niagara Street,
ruspierogi.com or 235-8243
Last fall, Ru’s Pierogi joined a handful of locally owned and operated fast casual restaurants in Buffalo. The place is popular, so much so that two weeknight visits found us lucky to get a seat. Ru’s version of pierogi, the popular Polish dumplings, is hearty and uniform in size and texture, though the dough is a little thicker than most.
The tasty, made-from-scratch creations run $11 for a plate of pierogi and complementary sides. Like the signature dumplings of other cultures, pierogi make excellent vehicles for myriad flavor mashups. Ru’s takes full advantage; seven of its preparations echo dishes typically found on pub menus. Cheddar and potato are dressed like loaded nachos with pickled jalapeños, sour cream, and bacon. Another variation features Buffalo’s beloved banana peppers and cheese. This take on a local favorite won’t let you down; it’s as unpredictable in heat level as the original. My favorite offerings at Ru’s are stuffed with potato and ricotta and arrive on a bed of kapusta, a bright, savory/sweet/sour mixture that, at Ru’s, is made up of caramelized onions and cabbage. The only meat-filled pierogi on the menu are stuffed with pulled pork and topped with barbecue sauce and coleslaw. Each order is accompanied by at least one small side, and full-sized sides are also available. If you’re going to stick with pierogi for the night, I’d recommend dining with a few people so you can sample a few different types; I found eating five of the same pierogi to be a little one-note.
Salads are fresh but somewhat uninspired. Though I’m very happy a vegetable option is present, there must be another way to integrate fresh veg into such a potato-heavy menu.
The best and worst offerings we tried were both sandwiches. The Half Ruler Brat is deliciously spiced, splashed with spicy mustard and tasty sauerkraut; I’d go back for this (maybe multiple times). But a special version of Ru’s regular Rustic Parm, which pairs banana pepper pierogi with marinara and mozzarella, was disappointing. On one of our visits, chicken was added to this menu standard. Soaked in marinara sauce, the sandwich’s roll was incapable of doing the job with which it had been tasked, and the chicken breast and spicy pierogi slid all over the place. A crustier roll with some heft would improve not only the eating experience but also the flavor and texture of the sandwich. We can’t help thinking this would be true of the standard, sans chicken, offering.
Ru's pierogi; Half-Ruler Brat
The best thing about fast casual concepts? Some of them have a bar. Ru’s is limited to beer and wine—six wine options, a canned beer selection, and twelve rotating beers and ciders on tap. During my visits, all twelve taps were assigned solid local brews from CBW, Big Ditch, 12 Gates, and others. Sleek and simple, the bar seems the epitome of Ru’s ethos: good, earnest, straightforward. Other interior and design choices are as streamlined as the bar—modern, and clean, clean, clean. Service at the counter is exceedingly friendly, a rarity in this sort of setting and a testament to the management team.
Wittingly or not, this little restaurant is performing the task of anchoring lower Niagara Street on the eve of its impending transformation. Ru’s finds itself giving nonresidents a reason to park their cars and experience the neighborhood as more than just a direct route to the Peace Bridge. It also makes some pretty damn good pierogi.
Christa Glennie Seychew is Spree’s former food editor, an author, and the producer of Nickel City Chef.