Summer is road-trip season, so we're taking a culinary tour of America. But because Portland is a city of immigrants from other states, we don't have to leave town to do it. We're traveling to 50 Portland restaurants to try one distinctive food from each state. We continue with Pennsylvania, which was admitted to the Union on December 12, 1787.
The state: Pennsylvania, the Keystone State, so named because it leads the world in consumption of Keystone Light in 30 packs. Also, because its commitment to join the fledgling Union of American States locked the other colonies into independence, and because it was roughly in the middle of the other colonies.
The food: Perogies, a broad term for filled dumplings of Eastern and Central European origin that might be filled with potatoes, sauerkraut and/or meat. These can be boiled, fried or baked. In the Union of American States, the most familiar form is stuffed with potatoes and boiled, then topped with onions and sour cream. Prideful Poles often attempt to claim the dish as their own, but its roots run deeper than current national borders and extend into Belarus Russia, Ukrainian, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. In places where such groups have remained distinct, such as Chicago, Ukrainian dumplings might also be called varenyky, though in the perogi belt of Pennsylvania, northern Ohio, western New York and southwestern Michigan they’re all just perogies.
Other Pennsylvania dishes considered and rejected: Philadelphia cheesesteak, roast pork and broccoli rabe sandwich, Pittsburgh-style sandwiches stuffed with french fries, Pittsburgh-style salads topped with french fries, Hersheys bars, Snyder's hard pretzels.
Get it from: Sellwood’s St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Orthodox Church (8014 SE 16th Ave, 235-7129, ukrainian-church-pdx.org), which sells perogies in the basement every Saturday from 11 am to 2 pm. This is a place where delicious perogies come slippery on a styrofoam plate and where a serious conversation about perogies or the patriarchs of the Orthodox church eventually comes to “OK, who speak Russian or Ukrainian? I explain.” You can buy them frozen to go—$7 per dozen, cash—but I recommend getting them fresh, topped with caramelized onions that’ve been reduced down to a sugary brown sauce and a big dollop of sour cream. Go, sit, enjoy a styrofoam cup of free coffee, and discuss the intra-religious efforts of of Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, with some very nice Orthodox ladies.
Click on the map to see each state's distinctive food and where to get it in Portland.