Although winter is a harsh time for restaurants, chef Ed Hardy timed out the opening of his new pierogi-focused food court stall for the coldest part of the year. Zofia’s Kitchen, operating out of the Ballston Quarter Market in Arlington, doles out fist-sized, crimped Polish dumplings in traditional and newfangled flavors — like a popular everything bagel option stuffed with gravlax — among other Eastern European-style dishes.
Hardy’s goal is to honor Polish cuisine, Chicago delis, and New York diners, all within a dough-wrapped package.
“Zofia’s Kitchen promises comforting Old World cuisine just as we need it most,” the chef-owner says.
Pierogies traditionally contain humble vegetables, like potatoes and cabbage, or ground meat. But Hardy incorporates sensibilities from a fine dining background that includes stints with chef Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group and chef Marcus Samuelsson’s Aquavit and Red Rooster Harlem (all in New York City).
In addition to pierogies filled with pastrami, brisket, or a bratwurst option with sauerkraut, customers will find a vegan flavor full of beet, ginger, and lemon. A Maryland crab rangoon gets touched up with Old Bay. The aforementioned everything-bagel pierogi, which Hardy jokes is “like a savory cronut,” is overstuffed with scallion and everything bagel spice cream cheese, as well as cured gravlax (not lox, he notes, which is smoked). It’s then dusted with more everything bagel spice. Hardy uses crab from Maryland, pork belly from the Shenandoah valley, and bacon he cures and smokes himself.
Other flavors include a tarte flambe, tandoori chicken, Chicago dog, and rosemary schmaltz. All of the pierogies are available three ways: steamed, sautéed in butter, or fried. Beyond the dumplings, Zofia’s brings a few other deli favorites to the table. A Reuben showcases the chef’s braised pastrami, and he makes a Swedish meatball hero that pulls from the chef’s time working for Marcus Samuelsson. One popular novelty has been a latke shaped like a doughnut. Customers can order online for pickup or local delivery here.
Before moving into the food court, Hardy was running a bacon-themed truck around D.C. He was also an instructor at Ballston’s Cookology culinary school. When Cookology shut down at the outset of the pandemic, Hardy got restless. He launched Zofia’s as a ghost kitchen out of the school’s underutilized space. As the ghost kitchen found an audience, he moved to a more public, in-person location at the food court, offering an even larger menu.
“Honestly, I was surprised by the enthusiastic response to the humble pierogi,” Hardy says. “I think we’ve tapped into a need for another different, yet familiar, comfort food. Zofia’s is like the Polish grandmother you didn’t know you missed.”
While the menu is still small, Hardy is thinking big. He is planning to offer frozen pierogies to go, and he hopes to move into the retail market soon. He says the demand has been so high that he’s already searching for a second location.
As for the name, Hardy says he and co-founder Nate Reynolds “thought everyone could use a little extra grandma this year, so we created the concept of a culinary ‘meta-Grandma.’ The Zofia name was picked out of a hat of common Polish names over a bottle of potato vodka.”