There’s Something About Ukraine


Veselka :: beceлкa | 144 2nd Avenue (at 9th St.) | 212.228.9682 | www.veselka.com | | | |

LAURA MCCARDLE, WHERE are you? Laura is a girl I met during my brief stint as a telemarketer over twenty years and subsequently dated, quickly sharing an apartment with her, grateful that I no longer had to share a studio with three of my friends—two who were dating—at the George Washington hotel. The apartment we shared was on 13th Street between 1st Avenue and Avenue A, in a decrepit building that also housed prostitutes and drug dealers, living in a one bedroom where the shower was in the kitchen.

This was the very definition of “slumming it” back when the East Village, Lower East Side, and “Alphabet City” were literally slums, and not the shiny, happy neighborhood people know it now to be. This is where young, broke, disenfranchised, non-gainfully employed slackers, dreamers, and “artists” laid their heads on their knapsacks at night while crashing at different friend’s pads for several days at a time, and having a crisp twenty dollar in your hand, after you’ve already bought marijuana, made you king of the block!

Laura and I, luckily and gratefully, with the spare bills we had crumpled in our pockets, could always manage to have, could somehow always seem to manage to grab ourselves a satisfying meal at the oddball corner diner with the oddball late night crowds as well as an oddball name, Veselka, serving, of all things, Ukranian food.

And so as I have been covering the booming variety of culinary fare in this newly modeled and hip area—where more New Yorkers are fighting to move into now than they were trying to move out 25 years ago!—I finally gave in to my irrepressible sense of romantic nostalgia, making an appointment to walk in and have my first meal there in over twenty years.


Veselka

Veselka

Veselka

Veselka


The place looked a lot more polished than I remember it, so they’ve obviously made some upgrades, keeping pace with its eveolving neighborhood. I could only hope that the classic, comfort Ukranian and Polish “soul” food had remained un-”messed” with.

Back then, Laura and I could always barely afford a large plate of pierogies to share, and I remember them being excellent, so I knew I would have some here again. But I wanted to try more as well, so I find the Deluxe Meat Plate offering on the menu, which consists of three pierogis, one each of potato, meat, and mushroom & sauerkraut, a grilled kielbasa, meat-stuffed cabbage with mushroom gravy, sour cream and a beet & horseradish salad. If that doesn’t sound like a bargain already at just under six bucks, the meal also starts with soup and salad, in my case this day, a bowl of mixed greens with creamy dill dressing, and my selection of a cup of matzo ball and chicken soup (another of our favorites back in the day).


Veselka Menu

House Salad, Veselka

House Salad, Veselka

Matzo Ball & Chicken Soup, Veselka

Matzo Ball & Chicken Soup, Veselka


The salad was crisp and fresh, its dressing bright and herbal. The soup was rich yet light, with a firm yet pliable matzo ball steeped in the flavorful, old school-style chicken broth. I had barely dug into my bowl and cup when the rest of food arrived, its several elements so overwhelming the plate and table that I had to take more pictures than usual to capture it all.


Deluxe Meat Plate | Veselka

Deluxe Meat Plate | Veselka

Deluxe Meat Plate | Veselka

Deluxe Meat Plate | Veselka

Deluxe Meat Plate | Veselka

Deluxe Meat Plate | Veselka

Deluxe Meat Plate | Veselka

Deluxe Meat Plate | Veselka

Deluxe Meat Plate | Veselka

Deluxe Meat Plate | Veselka

Deluxe Meat Plate | Veselka

Deluxe Meat Plate | Veselka


There was too much to go into full detail; suffice it say, everything was great. From the snappy, spicy, fatty kielbasa, to the pillowy goodness of the pierogis, to the nicely seasoned minced meat, wrapped in aromatic cabbage and slathered in rich, deep, mushroom gravy, each forkful was a delight of present day culinary standards mixed with old school and old world nostalgia.

Laura and I broke up, as young kids who work very little but smoke pot a lot eventually do, choosing to get on with their hopefully better lives. I can only assume that her level of living and life have improved, as has mine. And improve as we may, I have never lost my sense of self. The same could be said of Veselka, whose space looks better and whose business looks healthier, yet through the decades has, at its core, stayed obviously very true to itself.

If I ever bump into Laura again, who I also hope hasn’t grown out her her excellent personality, first thing I would do is invite to back for a shared meal at Veselka, hopefully sharing not just a plate of yummy pierogis, but also sharing a laugh over how funny we thought the outside mural was.


Mural | Veselka

Bun Apple Tea!

.kac.


Veselka on Urbanspoon


Veselka :: beceлкa | 144 2nd Avenue (at 9th St.) | 212.228.9682 | www.veselka.com | | | |



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