As far as local foods are concerned, Pittsburgh is in love with the pierogi. If there would be an official dish of the city, we have no questions that this little dumpling would be it.
So what would any good pierogi lover do with this tried and true favorite? Honor it with a festival of course!
Enter the Pittsburgh Pierogi Festival, a one day celebration taking place at Kennywood. We were invited to check out this pierogi-laden event and share our thoughts on it in this full review!
The Pittsburgh Pierogi Festival is Pierogi Overload
It doesn't take long before walking into Kennywood to realize that the Pierogi Festival is going to be pierogi overload.
Within moments of stepping into the park you are inundated with vendors selling all things pierogi- from t-shirts to pillows to pierogi bath bombs (yes, you read that right). In fact, the festival did a great job to go above and beyond to promote all things for this little dumpling with no pierogi themed item left unfeatured.
Admission to the event gets you into the doors of Kennywood, access to dozens of vendors, a few free samples, the ability to meet local media like YaJagoff and Pittsburgh Dad (attended in 2018- cannot guarantee this in the future), events such as pierogi pinching contests, and of course the ability to ride a few Kennywood favorites like the Jack Rabbit and Thunderbolt (note that the park is only in limited operation in the fall so many rides are closed).
Many of these are great additions to the event, but for this one we want to jump to the most important part for festivals such as these: the food.
You'll Be Stuffed on Pierogies
In 2018 there were well over a dozen pierogi vendors from known Pittsburgh food trucks like Pittsburgh Pierogi Truck, PGH Halal, and Pittsburgh Smokehouse, popular Pittsburgh restaurants like Onion Maiden and Dorothy 6, and even local churches known for their pierogies like the Holy Ghost Byzantine Catholic Church.
We really liked this spread because the event allowed for a great contrast between those who have been excelling at the art of pierogi making for years (Holy Ghost Church) and those who made special creations solely for the event (Onion Maiden).
While we were not able to eat at every single vendor, during our visit we were able to try four- Holy Ghost Byzantine Catholic Church, Gosia's, Pittsburgh Smokehouse, and Millie's Ice Cream.
This was enough of a feast for the two of us and gave us a nice cross-section of pierogies from boiled to fried, barbecue topped, and of course dessert style with apple and topped with sweet potato and marshmallow ice cream!
It is really hard to say no to a spread like that.
In general, most vendors had base options for a stack of pierogies for about $5 (often about 4-6 piergoies per order), whereas others had more premium options like Pierogi Cones or barbecue topped with pierogies which pushed prices to upwards of $10.
By opting for the former we had a bit smaller portions to where we could hit more vendors, and overall only spent about $20 beyond the normal ticket price for enough pierogies to stuff the both of us (about 18 or so give or take).
So for about $65 for two you are able to feast on pierogies, ride a few Kennywood favorites, and partake in themed events during the event. A bit high for some, we'll admit, but when compared to other free events elsewhere that are so packed you can barely move, the ticket surcharge helps things out immensely. (And as an added note- take cash. Most vendors did not accept credit card.)
As this is a popular event, one thing all visitors need to be aware about is that the vendors will still have lines.
Within 15-30 minutes of the festival opening the lines went from walk-up to being 15 to 30 minutes long at any given vendor. Many visitors took a strategic approach to this to enjoy pierogies from one vendor while waiting in line at another, which is a solid strategy all around.
What we found a bit interesting was that while the food vendors had a fair bit of line as you went around the park, the rides did not. So we were able to walk right on the Jack Rabbit and Racer in just one or two cycles- a nice opportunity at Kennywood you don't see all too often!
Overall, we really enjoyed our time at the Pittsburgh Pierogi Festival. The ticket price is a bit high for what is simply access to the event, live performances, and a few rides, but we can also understand that this helps keeps the crowds limited at the already popular vendors- a necessity for an event celebrating the city's favorite food.
If you are a lover of pierogies like we are, this is one event to consider when it returns next!
Pittsburgh Pierogi Festival took place in September 2018. We were guests of the organizers for the event. As always, all opinions are our own.