photo by Voice Media Group
With its bright, bustling space and decided lack of preciousness, Veselka has an old-New York vibe grounded in years of weathering East Village flux. The restaurant began life as a newsstand under Wlodymyr Darmochwal in 1954, eventually expanding into a café that catered to the local Ukrainian immigrant community, then transforming into an all-hours gathering place. Owner Tom Birchard was deemed an honorary Ukrainian when he began dating the founder’s daughter and working in the shop in the 1960s. He led a refresh in 1996, renovating the space and updating the menu so that it deals traditional Ukrainian recipes with nods to American palates (think pierogi with arugula and goat cheese, in addition to the standard potato and meat fillings). Today, East Villagers come to rehash their evenings and eat away hangovers over ruby-red Ukrainian borscht, stuffed cabbage, and kielbasa, or they stop in for takeaway staples like tuna melts and reubens. Few restaurants are more appealing to stumble into at 4 a.m., so expect a crowd, even in the middle of the night.