Here’s one important lesson to keep in mind when searching for superior local food: keep your eyes, ears, and, especially, nose on the lookout for anything edible that catches your senses’ attention. Don’t depend exclusively on scouring the internet, following the Yelp and Tripadvisor lists for all your meals. At least, not if you want to find the really interesting stuff.
Case in point: we knew nothing of St. Volodymyr the Great Ukrainian Catholic Church before we arrived in Utica. Yet, just as we pulled into the parking lot of the Munson-Williams-Proctor Art Institute, we saw a small sign across the street. It was hard to see through the driving rain so we pulled the car up real close and there it was: a pierogi sale!
We whipped out our doorman’s umbrella and dashed across the street, where we discovered a makeshift Ukrainian restaurant in the church auditorium. It was lunchtime but the weather kept all but the diehards away. We picked up a container of potato pierogi, warm (they also sold them cold, to be heated at home). Would we like butter and onions on them? Why, of course!
What we received were the most haimish, soulful pierogi we’ve ever enjoyed. For the five minutes we spent eating these dough pockets we regretted not having grown up Ukrainian. The flood of melted butter and dark, sweet, long-cooked onions certainly didn’t hurt any.
It was only after we arrived home days later that we learned how in Ukraine, the pierogi are called varenyky. So why did the Ukrainian women of the church advertise pierogi? That’s how the locals know them, so pierogi it is. We also learned that we just happened to experience the good fortune of arriving in town during the annual church food fest. They also do a fall Ukrainian festival.
So what can you do if you want great pierogi in Utica and it’s not festival time? We have terrific news. During the spring and fall months, and around Christmas, the good folks of St. Volodymyr’s sell pierogi to go on Fridays (as well as cabbage rolls). Potato pierogi are available for the bargain price of $6/dozen. Cabbage (we believe these are actually sauerkraut) pierogi will run you $7, and cheese go for $8. We recommend you call ahead to place your order to ensure you don’t get shut out. Heating and garnishing is up to you. If we lived in Utica we’d be here every week.4 Cottage Place Utica NY 13502 315-735-5138 315-269-3679 To place your advance order for pierogi St. Volodymyr the Great Ukrainian Catholic Church on Facebook