Veselka: 114 2nd ave. New York, NY

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A made-at-home dinner a few nights ago including overcooked frozen pierogies inspired a visit to one of Gabriel’s old standbys, Veselka. A NYC East Village staple with almost 800 reviews on Yelp.com, it was a clear choice to go get our craving satisfied with ‘real’ pierogies.

When we arrived, we were seated right away in the obviously popular Ukrainian restaurant. A casual, diner-like setting with a bustling wait staff ensured an efficient dinner service. Menus and ice water were brought out right away as we were given a few minutes to look over the choices. I decided on the vegetarian plate, and Gabriel got the deluxe vegetarian plate. Both came with bread, soup and salad, and ended up being PLENTY of food even though we opted to round out our carb-laden meals with a side of steamed vegetables and a side of kielbasa.

I had never had hot borscht made with meat before and it totally changed my perception of the soup. As far as I can remember, the only type I’d ever tried was the cold, smooth, in-a-jar-from-the-grocery-store type, with a dollop of sour cream on top. This was really hearty and full of flavor. Instead of being smooth and creamy, it was a thin broth with pieces of beef, carrots, onions and beets in it. It was totally belly warming and delicious, and for that alone I made a note to myself to return. The salad was simple, but had a lovely lemon-dill dressing that I really enjoyed. I am a huge fan of dill, but someone who isn’t would definitely not be pleased with this one and might want to ask for another choice.

The vegetarian plate consisted of 4 pierogies (2 cheese and 2 potato) and cabbage stuffed with rice, mushrooms and herbs and covered in a mushroom gravy. It was served with a side of sour cream and a side of delicious chopped, caramelized onions (my favorite part). The pierogies were certainly much better than the ones I’d left in the oven for too long a few days prior, but didn’t blow me away. A little bit on the oily side and very simple, I thought they kind of lacked in flavor and the fluffy filling I was hoping for. The cheese one was better than the potato, but neither were really noteworthy. The stuffed cabbage was on the tough side and filled with so much rice that I felt like I was going to pop after eating it. The gravy was rich, creamy and flavorful. Gabriel’s plate also included kasha, which I tasted. It was okay, but I didn’t feel like I was missing out on much by not ordering it. Our side of vegetables included broccoli, carrots and cauliflower and was very buttery. It helped the feeling over eating a full plate of carbs for dinner, as did the half a kielbasa that we shared. For dessert we shared a blueberry/almond tart with a scoop of vanilla ice cream that was really quite good. The almond-y cake was moist and had a great consistency, although we both would have like to see more than the speckle of blueberries on top. We were probably too full to have ordered it, but somehow we managed to find room.

Although this meal was only an ‘eh’ in my book, I DID feel warm and comforted by the heavy food, and felt that I got a sense of what Ukrainian food really is. As we got ready to leave and admired a case full of desserts, pastries and more, a sighting of a small roach crawling over the cookies left me feeling rather gross. We alerted the cashier to it and left wondering if a return visit was actually in the cards anymore. I know this is NYC and it’s hard to prevent things like rodents and bugs…but really? Crawling IN the bakery case? That’s just eww.

*Photos by Gabriel Sanders http://www.magicsandbox.com

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