Almost as Good as Grandma's

Restaurants in NYC open, close, and change name or ownership like clockwork. It definitely must be stressful to be a restaurant owner. But, there are some restaurants that are tried and true, and have been around for years...55 years in fact. When I first moved here, I lived in the East Village, and frequented 2nd Avenue Deli a lot when they were in their original location...on 2nd Avenue. I always noticed another restaurant a block away called Veselka, but when in that area and in the mood for a diner/deli, 2nd Avenue always won out.

When my mom was visiting a few weeks ago, we were heading down to that neighborhood to walk around and wanted to find a diner for lunch. I was racking my brain, and then Veselka finally came to mind. I was excited to finally try it, and new my mom would get a kick out of trying something new...Ukrainian food!

Now, Veselka does have many of the diner staples...omelettes, sandwiches and fries, etc. But, what they are really known for are their Ukrainian specialties. My grandma used to make a huge batch of stuffed cabbage every time she and my grandpa would come visit growing up. As a child who could name the number of vegetables I used to eat on one hand, the thought of eating cabbage was always pretty frightening.

Now that I actually eat (and enjoy) vegetables, I figured this was the perfect change to try this whole stuffed cabbage thing again. I took a look over the menu and thought how it'd be fun to sample a lot of smaller Ukrainian dishes. Low and behold, they had the ideal sampler for me -- the deluxe vegetarian combination plate. This combo came with a cup of soup, side salad, meatless stuffed cabbage, kasha, and three pierogies (potato, cheese, and cabbage). The menu even pointed out that the veggie combination plate was "an excellent 'ease yourself into Ukrainian food' dish." Perfect!

The chicken noodle soup was rich, flavorful, and even sprinkled with fresh dill, just like my Grandma's. The cabbage was stuffed with a rice mixture, and topped with a delicious mushroom sauce. I could have used some extra sauce for the kasha, which was pretty dry the way it was. Each of the
pierogies were unique and very tasty, but the one stuffed with potato was my favorite.

My mom ordered the deluxe meat combination plate, which came with a cup of soup (she had mushroom barley, which was great), a side salad, one meat stuffed cabbage, two meat and two potato pierogies, and a side of beets. The beets seemed a little random, but at least it added some color to our otherwise beige plates!

Needless to say, we were stuffed after this meal! Ukrainian food is definitely the hearty type that sticks to your ribs. I'm not sure this is the kind of food I could eat every day, but it was definitely a nice change of pace...and a fun dining experience for my mom and I to share during her visit.

144 2nd Avenue
@ 9th Street
Menu Pages listing