Back in July I had lunch with my good friend Peaches, who has been very sick for a very long time; we hadn’t seen each other in a while. We wanted to meet somewhere between the two of us — she coming from Harlem, me coming from Brooklyn. For some reason the first place that popped into my head was Veselka, the 24-hour Ukrainian diner in the East Village. If you haven’t heard of Veselka, it’s a serious NYC institution but one that I never really got familiar with. I had a mediocre meal of their famous buckwheat pancakes way back when I first moved to NYC, but that was the last of it. We met there and waited about 10 minutes to be seated — there’s no list, the servers just kind of keep an eye on who has come in and who will be seated next.
I chose the Deluxe Vegetarian Plate, which would give me a sample of lots of different Eastern European classics. You get your choice of soup, and I chose the cold meatless borscht. This was only my second time eating borscht, but man was it good. Sweet and rich from beets and (maybe) cream, garnished with a sliced hard-boiled egg and diced cucumbers, I drank it down it record time.
The plate itself came with the following: three pierogies (cheese, potato, and sauerkraut & mushroom), kasha (aka buckwheat groats), and meatless stuffed cabbage with a mushroom gravy. Lots of browns on that plate. It was all pretty good, though nothing stood out as excellent, and it was not nearly as exciting as the borscht.
Veselka — 144 2nd Ave, NYC