When you hear Russian being spoken first thing as you walk inside Babushka’s Pierogi European Cuisine, you know you’re in for some authentic cuisine.
The owners ran a catering business in Russia before moving to the U.S. eight years ago. They came to Charlotte a year ago and this is their first restaurant, according to Yuliya Feland, the daughter of one of the owners.
I started my meal with the Solyanka soup—imagine a savory combination of beef, potatoes, olives, dill, lemon & spices, served with a dollop of sour cream.
The soup is only made on Saturday and Sunday – the rest of the week the soup flavors alternate from cabbage soup on Tuesday and Wednesday, and Borsh on Thursday and Friday.
For my entree, I had the the chicken pelmeni.
Yuliya suggested the butter and chive sauce, which is traditional–delicate and savory.
Pelmeni is a traditionally Russian dish, according to Yuliya, but Americans tend to be more familiar with pierogis.
And for dessert, homemade Honey Cake – a giant hunk of heavenly buttercream, walnuts and honey.
The cake had at least 10 layers of walnut-based pastry with buttercream layers and a buttery flavor. Imagine a cake made from baklava ingredients with the texture of a wedding cake.
What should you order if it’s your first time trying Russian food?
Yuliya recommends the cabbage rolls, which are popular in America in addition to the pieroshkis—a flaky bun with filling. And definitely soup. The borsh flavor is beets, a traditional Russian soup ingredient.
For kids, Yuliya recommends starting with the pelmenis and the sweet farmer’s cheese pierogis.
“Sweet farmer’s cheese is like cottage cheese mixed with a ricotta-like texture, and we make it ourselves. Blintzes are popular with kids—flavors are also meat, egg and chive and farmer’s cheese,” she says.
In addition to the restaurant, Babushka’s sells traditional Russian deli items: specialty sausages, Polish sausages, smoked fish, plus grab-and-go frozen food like pelmenis and pierogis.
Yuliya said there are plenty of Russian stores in Charlotte, but no other Russian restaurants.
Her family chose Charlotte because they saw a need for authentic Russian food here. Since Babushka’s opened a few weeks ago, patrons have been coming in and telling them just how long they’ve been waiting for a restaurant like this.
“We try to make everything from scratch–pieroskis, the dough for everything,” says Yuliya. “Even are Pelmenis are made from scratch.”
Babushka’s Pierogi is open for lunch and dinner 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. (closed Mondays). Their location is off 51, on the way to the Carolina Place mall, in the tower place shopping square area.