By Dan Jacobs

Both chefs/restaurateurs came to Milwaukee for jobs – Dan Jacobs, when he took a cooking position at the old Brewers Hill restaurant Roots, and Dan Van Rite, when he moved here from Green Bay to open the Third Ward’s former Hinterland. Their staying and planting their feet in the ground was a huge boon to our culinary scene. Now, they’ve got two restaurants and a couple of James Beard nominations on their curriculum vitae.

They’ve been here long enough to understand some key things. Says Jacobs: “As a Midwest native, it's the passion and love that goes into each dish that really speaks to the Milwaukee sensibility. I grew up in Chicago, where you can taste the love in someone’s cooking, and those Midwest roots have really defined my style. We cook food that makes people happy.”

For Van Rite, the “super tight-knit and supportive” MKE chef community is a big advantage, allowing them to “maintain those relationships with our local farmers without any competition or exclusivity. Milwaukee chefs are good about sourcing responsibly and using different farms to make sure our agriculture community continues to thrive.”

The business partners offer Chinese-American and globally inspired, tasting-menu cuisines all under one roof, and their influences most certainly come from the past. Jacobs’ pierogi recipe is one you’ll want to have for those comfort food cravings. If you’ve been to any of his restaurants, you might have eaten them, as far back as 2011, when he was at Roots. Pierogi were also featured on the menu at Fool’s Errand – the Third Ward restaurant the Dans briefly owned – and they pop up sometimes at EsterEv, as well. 

The Dans named EsterEv after two influential women in their lives. For Jacobs, that was his grandmother, Ester. His pierogi are an homage to her. When he was a kid growing up in Chicago, his parents both worked. It was his grandmother who was home to greet him and his brother after school and often cooked dinner for them. And one of the things she cooked? Pierogi. She’d pick up fresh ones from the local Polish grocery store and cook them at home. “She was incredibly kind and incredibly sweet, and these things kind of remind me of her,” he says.

Twelve years of making pierogi brought him to this conclusion. “I think the basic one is actually my favorite, just like potatoes and onion with some really good sour cream [which you can] amp up with the addition of liquid koji and chives, so just kind of give it a little bit of a pop, some pickled onions on top and then some herbs and it just kind of sets the whole thing off.”

When you’ve got the pierogi-making urge, take advantage. “Make a bunch, like spend the day making them so that way, you have them in the freezer, because I'm telling you, they'll keep six months in the freezer in a Ziploc bag and you can just pull them out and throw them in boiling water.”


Makes about 50 pierogi


725 grams flour

15 grams salt

1 egg

275 grams warm water 


1. Mix flour and salt in KitchenAid bowl. 

2. Mix water and eggs in a separate bowl and add to flour and salt in KitchenAid. 

3. Mix until the dough forms a ball, and rest it in the refrigerator, covered, for at least an hour to overnight. 



550 grams potatoes, cooked and mashed 

150 grams caramelized onions 

150 grams ricotta, strained overnight 

8 grams fresh dill, chopped 

10 grams chives 

8 grams salt 

2 grams ground black pepper 


1. Roast potatoes with skin on in the oven. Mash. Caramelize onions with 150 grams of butter and chop, cool and add to potatoes. 

2. Add all ingredients, mix, and test seasoning. 


Seasoned Cream Dressing 

300 grams sour cream 

15 grams soy sauce 

4 grams salt 

6 chives, freshly chopped 

15 grams water 

2 large eggs

29.6 grams of water


1. Mix all ingredients together and adjust seasoning. 


Rolling Procedure 

1. Cut dough into four pieces and cover with a towel. 

2. Roll into logs and cut them into almost 1-inch coins. 

3. Using a rolling pin, roll into circles and cover with a towel again. 

4. Place six disks on a surface. Add a teaspoon to a tablespoon of filling.

5. Whisk 2 eggs and 29.6 grams of water to make an egg wash. Brush one side of the dough with egg wash and fold over. Pinch to close and store on a floured tray. 

5. From this point, the pierogi can be frozen and then stored in a Ziploc bag for up to six months. 


Boil the pierogi in 8 quarts of water until they float and then two minutes longer. For pan-fried pierogi, add a tablespoon of non-flavorful oil (canola or sunflower) and 2 tablespoons of butter to a nonstick pan with a lid on medium heat. As soon as the butter starts to brown, add just enough pierogi to fill out the pan without crowding them. Make sure there’s enough room to flip each one and get color on both sides. Turn every two minutes until light brown on both sides. 


For leftovers or extras, freeze on a sheet tray and keep in a Ziploc bag in the freezer for up to 5 months.


Dan Jacobs and Dan Van Rite are the head chefs and owners of two successful Milwaukee restaurants: DanDan, a Chinese-American mainstay, and EsterEv, a fine dining tasting menu-only restaurant located inside of DanDan. The two chefs began working together in 2016 and have since built what Eater National touted as “a mini Milwaukee empire,” attributing the success to their unique partnership and incredible team. Their acclaimed restaurants have been recognized nationally, landing Jacobs and Van Rite on the list of semifinalists for the 2018, 2019, 2022 and 2023 James Beard Awards: Best Chef Midwest category.

Dan Jacobs and Dan Van Rite

DanDan and EsterEv

Dan Jacobs and Dan Van Rite

DanDan and EsterEv

About DanDan