Pirosky Pirosky’s meatball marinara piroshki. Credit: Pirosky Pirosky

What: Pirosky Pirosky’s second Berkeley pop-up
Where: The Rare Barrel 940 Parker (between Ninth and Eighth streets), Berkeley
When: May 2 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., orders must be placed online by 3:30 p.m. April 25. There is a $50 minimum for all orders.

Update April 29, 2022: Piroshky Piroshky owner Olga Sagan told Nosh that on their first visit to Berkeley this week, a bug on their website meant that “about 40 people” placed orders that her team never received, and left the pop-up empty-handed. As a result, “we are coming back for a second date to correct our mistake,” she said.

For this second pop-up on Monday May 2, preorders should be placed on the Piroshky Piroshky website by 3 p.m. on April 30. If you do not receive a confirmation email when you place your order, Sagan asks that you call 206-764-1000 or email her at cs@piroshkybakery.com.

Nosh’s original article on Piroshky Piroshky, published on April 19:

There’s much to be said about a chef who focuses on one dish exclusively. In addition to perfecting the dish — like Olga Sagan does to the humble piroshki, a hand-held meat pie, at cult-fave bakery Piroshky Piroshky — they’re able to deconstruct, manipulate, and reconfigure it into something that goes above and beyond its humble beginnings. But don’t take my word for it: Sagan will bring her new-fashioned pies, which have gained a cult following over the years, to Berkeley on April 27, for a single night at the Rare Barrel alehouse.

The Eastern European-born piroshki got its start as a simple hand pie, using either sweet or savory filling (usually leftovers), wrapped into a pocket of yeasted bread dough or pastry, baked, and served in all of its flaky glory. Seattle-based Piroshky Piroshsky was founded by Sagan’s relatives, Estonian immigrants Vladimir and Zina Kotelnikov, in 1992. After years in other industries, like HR and accounting, baking proved to be Sagan’s ultimate passion. She joined the bakery in 2001 and became sole owner in 2017, redefining these Russian-style pastries along the way.

Under Sagan’s watch, Piroshky Piroshsky’s pies evolved to suit contemporary palates, with offerings like meatball marinara, chocolate hazelnut cream studded with chopped hazelnuts in the dough, salmon pate and beef and cheddar. The bakery offers more traditional fillings like potato and mushroom to satisfy purists’ taste buds.

As to how Piroshky Piroshhky got its inspiration to branch out from conventional piroshkis to postmodern pies, Sagan says it was a bit of a balancing act. “It started by taking traditional recipes and adding American northwest and Pacific Basin cuisines,” she said. “But the key was to keep it different while familiar at the same time because if it’s too different it’s hard to fit in; you have to find common ground.”

Noting that the market was tougher 20 years ago, long before Food Network’s barrage of competitive cooking, Bon Appetit’s test-kitchen ratpack and the overstuffed field of celebrity chefs, Sagan says it was initially hard to get people to warm up to her then-unusual piroshkis. But decades later, Piroshky Piroshky has lines coming out the door, packed with patrons eager to get their paws on the Russian pastries (Sagan notes that one pie is an entire meal in and of itself) that use seasonal and, when permitted, holiday-themed ingredients.

Pirosky Pirosky’s chocolate cream hazelnut roll. Credit: Pirosky Pirosky

Now celebrating its 30th anniversary, the bakery has also earned its fair share of acclaim, including praise from consecrated gastronome Anthony Bourdain, who, during a 2007 visit for his TV series, No Reservations, gruffed, “If these guys were down the street from me, I would go on a bender — like, I would eat it almost every day for a month and then O.D.” In 2013, Smithsonian Magazine anointed Piroshky Piroshky as one of the top 20 “iconic” food destinations across America. Not too shabby for a joint that got its start in a stall at Pike Place Market, where it can still be found today. 

On Wednesday, April 27, Piroshky Piroshky will make a pitstop at Rare Barrel in Berkeley as part of its Bay Area tour, with additional stops in Redwood City (April 29) and South San Francisco (April 28). However, customers can’t just show up willy-nilly and expect to buy the prized pies sans reservation; orders must be placed in advance and are due by 3:30 p.m. April 25 for April 27 pick-up from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Rare Barrel, 940 Parker (between Ninth and Eighth streets), Berkeley. A $50 minimum order is required. The pop-up menu will include the aforementioned meatball marinara and chocolate hazelnut cream, as well as raspberry swirl; rhubarb; Impossible beef and onion (vegan); chicken curry, and rice; chipotle; bacon, hashbrown, and eggs and a garlic cheddar offering. 

Like I said, these are not your Russian great-grandmother’s piroshki, but Sagan isn’t worried that Bay Area residents will shy away from her 2022 take on the classic. “Berkeley is diverse and adventurous enough,” she said, “that even if people don’t know us, I’m sure they’ll love to try something new.”