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Food Review: Veselka

My good friend from home, Sasha, was in NYC and since we are both Ukrainian I decided we needed to go to my favorite Ukrainian diner in NYC: Veselka. Located at 144 2nd Avenue, Veselka, which means rainbow in Ukrainian, is in the heart of the East Village — their slogan is actually “Ukrainian soul food in the heart of the East Village.” So the East Village area used to be the Ukrainian area of NYC. Fast forward 60 years since my grandparents lived there and now it’s a hipster hot-spot — wished they had bought the apartment. I follow Veselka on Facebook and they actually have posted some pretty funny photos of Gossip Girl filming an episode there. For the full history of this interesting restaurant check out the NYTimes article.

As far as our meal goes, I like starting out my day with a cup of Joe and a bowl of borscht – the classic Ukrainian/Eastern European beet soup. I love beets and I love borscht. It’s a great soup and the variations on it are endless: with meat or with out, some add beans to it, some cabbage. You can eat borscht hot in the winter and cold in the summer. You can have red borscht or green borscht. This is starting to sound like a Dr. Seuss book. But my point is that borscht is an absolute classic so you should try it and see if you like it.

The other thing you must absolutely try: pierogies (also known as varenyky, the method they are cooked determines the name). These dumplings are pure goodness in your mouth. You can get them steamed or fried (the ones pictured below are fried). I have the best memories of childhood when my mom and grandma would make me potato filled varenyky. So what I am saying is that you should definitely try the potato filled ones – they are classic, hello Eastern Europe, the home of starches.

You need to put sour cream and caramelized onions on the varenyk before you eat it to have the full experience. Veselka is great because they have so many varenyky filling options and you can mix and match! So you can have: meat, potato, cheese, spinach and cheese, sauerkraut and mushrooms, sweet potato, and arugula and goat cheese. The really creative ones are goat cheese and arugula and sweet potato. I like them both.

So if you are ever in the East Village you should go. Have some borscht and varenyky. But if you go at normal lunch and dinner times you may have to wait a bit for a table – who knew my grandmother’s food would be in demand? Gotta love New York.

I spotted Mikhail Gorbachev in SOHO later in the day. He wishes all you comrades a good week!

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