Veselka is an East Village classic, serving up Ukrainian food around the clock to locals and late night bar crawlers. Today’s full service restaurant had it’s beginnings in 1954 as a news stand that also served soup and sandwiches and then in 1966 expanded into a full coffee shop. A subsequent expansion brought Veselka to its current design; a classic styled coffee shop counter and stools in the front and an open dinning room in the back. It is currently owned by the founder’s son-in-law and managed by the founder’s grandson. Veselka serves up some classic diner fair and a great selection of classic Ukrainian dishes, including; stuffed cabbage, Kielbasa, meat balls, Bigos, Goulash and absolutely amazing potato pancakes, it also sells Ukrainian beer. But obviously the reason we came was for the pierogi.
The Dumplings: on an average day Veselka hand makes around 3,000 pierogi that can be ordered either boiled or fried. The menu includes the classic dumplings stuffed with potato, cheese, meat (beef), spinach & cream cheese, or sauerkraut & mushroom and some more nouveau offerings such as arugula & goat cheese and short ribs. They also sell a rotating offering of seasonal pierogi, which are currently pumpkin pierogi.
For this outing, excepting the meat pierogi, we stayed with the classics. The potato, cheese and spinach & cream cheese were all great, but the sauerkraut & mushroom pierogi were spectacular, especially when eaten with the grilled onions. The vinegar in the sauerkraut and the onions provided a sour and sweet duet and the mushrooms provided an earthy umami that accentuated both flavors. All of the pierogi were light, even the potato filling was whipped and fluffy.
The Dipping Sauces: each order of pierogi comes with sauteed onions, apple sauce and sour cream. My only complaint with this spot is that they need to serve bigger portions of these sides, especially the onions, they don’t really provide enough sauteed onions to smother the pierogi.
The Location: Veselka is part of a clutch of Ukrainian and Polish restaurants along second and third avenue that have been serving up Pierogi and Varenyky for decades. Veselka is on the corner of 9th street and 2nd avenue, a couple of doors north of the Ukrainian National Home.