Last night Mikayla, Kiyo and I met up in the East village after work to grab some beers and then dinner at Veselka, a popular Ukranian restaurant. We chose this location because I recently realized that even though I am practically obsessed with beets, I’d never tried borscht (not only that, but I’m also Russian, which makes the whole situation truly abominable). I promptly went on a search for where to try the mysterious and intriguing soup, and came across a list by the New York Times that claimed Veselka was the place to be. My uncle, as well as Mikayla and some of Zan’s friends all affirmed that Veselka’s was an Eastern European food hot spot, so we decided to try it.
When we walked in, I immediately recognized the place and realized that I had eaten there before, in May 2009 after a Lady Gaga concert that Chelsea, Kyley, Zan, and I (along with some other Vassar people) had driven down for. At some ridiculously early hour we had ended up eating pierogie and grilled cheeses here.
However, this time around I hadn’t stumbled in at the end of a long night; I had come on a mission and it was time to get serious! Mikayla and I split a bowl of the cool (for summer) borscht, and we each got a small plate of pierogi. The soup was, in one word, incredible. The elements all worked together perfectly, and the fact that it was cold during this hot summer made it even more appealing. It had cool, crunchy little pieces of cucumber and beets, and a hard-boiled egg. We were each given a big, soft slice of bread to soak up the soup with (and, as you can see, to catch Mikayla’s spills).
The pierogi were served with sautéed onions, apple sauce and sour cream, each of which I applied liberally. Mikayla’s were fried, and mine were boiled. The filling choices were (I think between the two of us we tried them all, except for the sweet potato, which sounds really delicious as well):
- Spinach & cheese
- Sauerkraut and mushroom
- Sweet potato
- Arugula & goat cheese
Even though I had (shamefully) never tasted borscht, I had eaten many of my grandma’s homemade pierogi, which are heavenly; they are almost always filled with a cheese and potato mixture, and served with onions sautéed in lots of butter. Normally I love indulging in a fried version of any food, but for tradition’s sake, I had to order my pierogi boiled. Eaten this way, the gooey cheese and potato fillings are almost indistinguishable from the dough, and I think that is why they are just as good as they fried versions. Of course, eating something gooey in the center with a crunchy, crispy outer layer is also always appealing. I guess my only conclusion is, the more pierogi, the better. Order all the different kinds, cooked both ways. The goat cheese and arugula was my favorite this time around.
Mikayla and I were seriously satisfied, but unfortunately Kiyo’s dish had been microwaved and was hot and cold all over. He sent it back to be heated again (we were on a time constraint since we were on our way to a show) so he didn’t order something else. He had chosen to order bigos, a hearty “hunter’s-style stew” of kielbasa, roast pork, sauerkraut and onions. It was served with mashed potatoes and a side salad. I took a few bites of the sauerkraut and kielbasa, which tasted great. Too bad they didn’t just leave it in the stew pot, rather than prematurely plating it (and hence hastily re-heating it) before it arrived at our table.
The show we were on our way to see was Kyle McNeill with Ruby Stinson at The Bitter End, in Greenwich Village. Ruby is Mikayla’s roommate, an up-and-coming singer influenced by an eclectic mix of musicians, such as Lauryn Hill, Bette Midler, and Dixie Chicks, to name a few. Her Los Angeles-based friend Kyle is also a singer, songwriter and guitarist, whose baby-face fools you into being pleasantly shocked when you hear his bluesy voice.
We ordered a few beers ($7 Stellas, to be exact, with a two drink minimum, which briefly put a damper on the mood since we had also already paid $10 to get in) and enjoyed the performance.
Ruby is the type of singer whose voice is so smooth and lovely to listen to, she is able to record and post videos of herself singing (sometimes even unaccompanied!) to songs covered by intimidating stars, such as Christina Aguilera.
They sang two covers, and a bunch of Kyle McNeill originals, which were very soulful, and emotional yet upbeat and relaxing. Overall, it was a great night; my first (amazing) taste of borscht, a couple of beers after a long day at work, some great live bluesy/folksy rock and roll, and the first time seeing Ruby perform live.
Location: 144 Second Ave., New York, NY 10003 Phone: (212) 228-9682