img_6831It’s not every day you hear someone say, “you’ve just got to try their pierogi!” – at least not in Washington you don’t.

We may be awash in a sea of tapas joints…
We may proudly boast about our plethora of Ethiopian restaurants…
We may have more pho than we can shake a stick at…

…But the classics of Eastern European cuisine still don’t show up on too many menus around town.

img_6843Which makes it that much more impressive that Elizabeth was able to track down Domku, a restaurant that specializes in “Scandinavian and Slavic Comfort Food” a few weeks ago.  She was looking for some place special to take me in celebration of my new job, and she knows how much I enjoy the cusines of Eastern Europe (blame the Russian side of the family for my love of mushroom-barley soup and kasha).  I had never even heard of Domku, tucked away on Upshur Street just off of Georgia Avenue.

But now I can’t wait to go back.  Everything about this Petworth gem, from its Bohemian decor of luxe chandeliers and mismatched furniture to its lengthy list of house-infused aquavits, made me feel all warm inside (okay…the aquavit may have had the most to do with that).

More photos and some great ethnic delights after the jump.img_6826Finding Domku is something of a feat in and of itself.  Even when you know where you’re going, the lack of obvious signage means you could very easily miss it on your first pass (voice of experience here).  Even once you walk through the front door, you could be forgiven for thinking you had accidentally stumbled into a coffee house circa 1994.  Mismatched tables and chairs are fun, but they hardly give off a sit-down restaurant vibe.  But take a closer look at those tables, and you’re likely to see small “reserved” signs here and there indicating incoming reservations.

img_6835Opened by chef and owner Kera Carpenter in 2005, Domku has been turning out pierogi and other specialties ever since.  Carpenter drew from her experiences throughout the Nordic countries and Eastern Europe to craft a menu that offered everything she craved but couldn’t find here in DC.  So it stands to reason that Polish pierogi, Hungarian goulash, Czech dumplings and Swedish meatballs should all coexist on the menu.  Whatever the reason, it’s absolute heaven if you grew up with this stuff.

Even if you didn’t, there’s a lot to like about the menu.  We started with an order of Mama Alicja’s pierogi – an entree-sized portion of the boiled pasta pockets served with sour cream.  The filling, a mixture of potato, cheese, onion and just a hint of bacon, is hearty and satisfying from the first bite.  If you’re planning to share with your fellow diners, do yourselves a favor and get at least one order of the pierogi.

img_6837For our entrees, Elizabeth ordered the nalesniki, Polish crepes stuffed with kasha (coarse barley), leeks, mushrooms and chicken and served “smothered” with tomato sauce.  I opted for the Hunter’s Stew (Bigos Warszawski) and found myself digging into a bowl of kielbasa (smoked sausage), ground pork, carrots and shredded cabbage.  The flavors were rich and intense, but the ‘stew’ didn’t really live up to the name.  There was quite a bit of liquid in the bowl I was served, but it was slick with fats from the meats used in the stew, so I ended up avoiding as much of the liquid as I was able.  It’s safe to say Elizabeth out-ordered me this time around.

img_6841To wash down our salty, heavy meals, we tried a few of Domku’s homemade cocktails, most of which started with a base of (STRONG) aquavit.  Their infusions, which number more than a dozen, are a great way to cut the naturally harsh flavor of the high-test spirit and to render it capable of being used in cocktails.

We couldn’t stay all night, as we had somewhere to be at 9, but the atmosphere and the food would have made it very easy for us to do so.  Prices are generally moderate ($12-$20 per entree), and Domku’s hours make it a good fit with the surrounding neighborhood. 

We’re already plotting to bring friends with us next time – whether to sample the various flavors on offer at next month’s pierogi night or to belt out standards over karaoke on the first Saturday of the month.  Either way, it’s going to be a fun little slice of home for me.

Domku (aka W Domku Bar and Cafe)
821 Upshur St., NW
Washington, DC  20011
(202) 722-7475
W Domku Bar and Cafe on Urbanspoon