Oh, pierogies. Likely, you grew up in the Ohio Valley or somewhere nearby and were raised on them, or maybe you moved here and were introduced. Either way, these steaming hot, Eastern European dumplings are a culinary tradition in this part of the US and there is no way you haven’t had one. Passed around as hors d’oeuvres at a dinner party, gifted to you at Christmastime by a neighbor’s grandmother, and now ordered en masse at the new location of For the Love of Pierogies in Centre Market.
The Lower Market’s newest stall, For the Love of Pierogies began as a home kitchen in North Park by two cousins, Bonnie who grew up in the Ohio Valley and Iryna who grew up in Ukraine. The two began selling frozen pierogies made from family recipes and relied on word-of-mouth marketing. As their business began to grow, they came to realize that they needed a storefront. They chose one in Bellaire, Ohio, where they continued to sell the pierogies frozen, and were consistently asked when they would transition into a sit-down restaurant and sell their pierogies hot. Within six months, they had outgrown their small, non-commercial kitchen in Bellaire. Seeing the community desire for them to sell hot meals, they opened a restaurant with tables in downtown St. Clairsville in late 2021 and expanded their menu to include pasta from Ohio City Pasta and sausages from State Meats in Cleveland. They also made the decision to sell their items retail as well, so that customers were able to shop for dry pasta, packaged sausages, and the original frozen pierogies to take home.
On May 27th of this year, as they continued to grow and receive overwhelming support from the community, the cousins opened a stall in the Lower Market at Centre Market in downtown Wheeling. The women expressed how the other vendors have been incredibly welcoming as they’ve set up their location, with Coleman’s Fish Market even helping them store perishables during the power outage from the storm in June. The community has welcomed them as well, with lines being long most days at the Centre Market location, at the First Fridays event when they opened their market door and served the crowd, and at last weekend’s Italian Festival at Heritage Port. The Centre Market stall, as with the storefront in St. Clairsville, offers much more than just pierogies. Items available both for in-house dining and retail include European natural casing kielbasa sausage, ravioli, gnocchi, haluski, and different types of pasta including saffron linguine, tomato basil linguine, squid ink linguine, egg linguine, garlic and chive fettuccine, porcini fettuccine, black pepper fettuccine, roasted red pepper fettuccine, spinach fettuccine, whole wheat spaghetti, spaghetti, pappardelle and angel hair. They will soon also offer vegan options for many of their dishes!
The location of this newest shop offers more than just a secondary location for a successful store and restaurant, but also a more centralized location for their next big step – nationwide shipping. They hope to have their full website up as soon as possible, where people will be able to order the iconic pierogies from across the country. The new logo, which is being designed for the grand opening of the site, will feature Iryna’s grandmother’s likeness, as the recipes are her living legacy.
The Wheeling community has a soft spot for Eastern European delicacies, as many in the Ohio Valley have ancestors who came from Ukraine, Poland, Germany, Slovakia, and other countries where similar dishes are popular. Most grew up with parents and grandparents cooking the dishes at home. Iryna, who was born in Pidhaitsi—a small city in Western Ukraine—and has lived in the US for about five years, is very proud to bring that taste of home back to the Ohio Valley. She explains that many locals have personally thanked her, explaining that her dishes are the most authentic they have had in a long time, and remind them of their childhoods and grandparents’ cooking. They have said that the recipes feel lovingly nostalgic and sentimental in their authenticity.
That authentic taste, Bonnie explains, is what sets their pierogies apart. The show-stopping dish at For the Love of Pierogies is nothing like the mass-produced pierogies available at the grocery store. As Bonnie says, they “actually taste like our family recipes, exactly.” They source the best, most authentic ingredients and use secret recipes passed down generations, as well as create pierogies that are double the size of typical pierogi and stuffed full of meats and vegetables, so the focus is on the filling. In fact, their motto is “We sell the filling, not the dough.” As far as the number of menu items, the cousins plan to keep it concise and continue to focus on creating the most delicious, authentic Ukrainian culinary creations possible. As Bonnie succinctly put it, their focus is on the quality of their items. “What we do,” she stated, “we do best.”
For the Love of Pierogies is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Centre Market.
In March, Bonnie and Iryna rallied to help raise over $20,000 for Ukraine war relief efforts. Read more about that here.
• Ellery McGregor is a Wheeling transplant from Los Angeles, California. She works remotely for a marketing team in LA and now moonlights as an author for Weelunk. She earned her undergraduate degree in English from California State University Long Beach in Long Beach, California. Since moving to Wheeling over a year ago, she has spent her time helping her family restore an Italianate Victorian row house in Centre Market, picnicking at Heritage Port, and marveling over having actual seasons.