There's nothing particularly normal about The Parked Pierogi, from its name to its tiny dining room to its equally small and eclectic menu and amusing drink list. But that's OK — a draw, even — and all can be explained rather effortlessly.
The name: Business partners Julie Wetzel, Nicole Schoenfeld and Christopher Williamson originally imagined a food truck featuring their starchy, Eastern European comfort-food stars. But they didn't have the dough to invest in reliable wheels and commissary fees, so they opted to rent at a small brick-and-mortar first. And now that it's going so well, Wetzel says, they'll most likely stay parked, soon expanding hours and offerings.
The cozy space: You may remember it as the pricier Amuzé Bistro, before chef Bill Sherman moved that business into the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. Dating back to 1874, it was a bunkhouse and then station agent's house for the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. It now holds a beautifully carved wooden bar with seven seats and 10 more seats around three tables. In warmer months, the patio will seat 40.
The humble menu: It's Schoenfeld's fusion-oriented baby, with everything from hearty pork-bison bolognese (under an egg as a breakfast item, $8) and superb green chile-laced huevos rancheros ($8) to an atypical pierogi sampler (including unique bratwurst and pulled-pork versions, $8.50). Not to be forgotten, also, is a Binghamton, N.Y.-inspired "spiedie" sandwich of extensively marinated, vibrantly herby pork or chicken hunks, served seared on a skewer with Italian white bread slices ($7).
The drinks: Inspired by Fort Collins college years, they include Easy Street Wheat beer blended with Champagne, as the effervescent "Man-Mosa" ($5); coffee with a welcome kick of honey whiskey ($4.50); and the finest Bloody Mary I've had in a long time ($7), consisting of half-spicy and half-mild house mix and a bountiful bouquet of celery, olives, lime, a pickle and a crispy slab of bacon (!) protruding from a salt-caked rim.
Overall, it's a fun atmosphere, where it's clear the kids in the kitchen are playing with creative touches to personalize their food, all house-made save for a couple shortcuts like canned black beans. Gyro meat is house-seasoned and -shaved; meats lengthily marinated and slow-roasted; pierogi dough rolled, stuffed and shaped before meeting boiling water, then a pan-sear for crispiness. A tart wild blueberry barbecue sauce competes for your pierogi-dipping attention, but the agave beer mustard easily wins when it comes to the side kielbasa slivers on the pierogi sampler.
Even quinoa gets attention as a side to the Southwest Egg Rolls ($7) of refried beans, beef, pork and gooey jack and cheddar. The grain gets a Mexican rice-style treatment with a touch too much cumin and chile powder — consider it a lively cowboy chuckwagon with a wobbly wheel.
Grounded familiarity can be found in items like The Classic breakfast plate ($7) of two eggs, an English muffin and wonderfully house-seasoned sausage, but even it comes with an herby mashed-potato-and-cheese pierogi side. Those pierogies, by the way, are easily likeable, though purists may take issue with the post-boil sear. (Admittedly, they didn't move me like the more soft, ravioli-like types I fell in love with in Poland.)
Still, as a creative, collective first effort, Parked Pierogi delivers distinctive style. From its historic bones to cultural classics, the dumpling-driven dive deserves the destination drive.