During our visit to New York, Mike and I made a visit to Veselka, a 24-hour restaurant serving up Ukrainian and Eastern-European comfort food. Located in East Village and established in 1954, this place reminded me of a diner.We only wanted to order two dishes, since we were planning on going to Pomme Frites afterwards (our post-dinner snack). We knew we were going to order a plate of pierogies for sure, so we ended up having to choose between the cabbage rolls and kielbalsa. While reading the menu, I noticed they had a Deluxe Meat Plate which included four pierogies, a cabbage roll AND kielbalsa. Problem solved, I thought. Unfortunately, the pierogies that come with this plate only come boiled and the menu explicitly states no substitutions.
So, we ended up going for the Stuffed Cabbage – Meat-stuffed (beef, pork and rice) smothered in savory tomato sauce ($14.25), which was Mike’s preference. He wanted to know how Veselka’s compared against his grandmother’s. For some reason, I always imagined cabbage rolls as small, finger-length rolls stuffed with rice, but they’re actually large meat balls (which contain some rice) wrapped in cabbage.I’m glad we went with Mike’s choice as the stuffed cabbage was delicious. The cabbage was nicely cooked as it wasn’t cooked to a mush, and the meat and rice mixture was moist and flavourful. We only wished it came with a bit more tomato sauce. So, how did this compare to his grandmother’s? He said it was really good, but not better than his grandmother’s. And for those who aren’t feeling the meat, you can also get the meatless option which is filled with wild mushrooms and rice and topped with a mushroom gravy sauce.
This dish also came with a choice of side, of which there were a number to choose from. We went with a cup of Borscht Soup which came with two slices of regular white bread. I must confess I’ve never actually had real borscht soup before. I’ve only had the ones served at “HK-style” cafes, for those of you who know what I’m talking about. The borscht at Veselka had a nice beet flavour and was filled with chunks of vegetables. Very hearty! My only regret is not ordering a full-sized order of this. There definitely wasn’t enough for the two of us.The second dish we ordered was a “Big Plate” of Handmade Pierogies – Ukrainian-style dumplings, handmade daily in their kitchen (choice of 7 for $10.50). You can also get a small plate of four for $6.75. Fillings include: potato, cheese, meat, spinach & cheese, sauerkraut & mushroom, sweet potato and arugula & goat cheese. As mentioned earlier, you can either get these fried or boiled. We clearly went for the fried.
We tried the potato, cheese, meat and sauerkraut & mushroom. My favourite was definitely the sauerkraut & mushroom. I just loved the sourness of the sauerkraut combined with the mushrooms. Mike’s favourite was the potato, which was also tasty. As for the meat filling, we both concluded that this was our least favourite. The meat was just too dry – not recommended.
These pierogies were definitely better than the freezer ones I’m used to, but to be honest, they weren’t mind-blowing. Maybe they just paled in comparison to the stuffed cabbage and borscht.
Veselka is definitely worth a visit. Even if you’re just visiting the city, not to worry, they’re open 24 hours!At a glance:
• Ukrainian/Eastern-European comfort food
• Loved the stuffed cabbage & borscht
• Diner-like restaurant with quick service
• Open 24 hours
• Located in East Village
Ratings (out of 5):
• Food: 4 stars
• Service: 3.5 stars
• Atmosphere: 4 stars