How to Navigate Vegetarian Ukrainian Food at Veselka
The Veggielante is on a mission to spread the word about places to order good, meatless grub. Check out this week's pick.
All photos by Tara Mahadevan Vegetarian plate
Destination: Veselka (144 Second Avenue, 212-228-9682)
Neighborhood: East Village
Overview: In 1954, Ukrainian immigrant Wolodymyr Darmochwal opened Veselka as a newsstand at the corner of 9th Street and Second Avenue. Over the years, the place grew into a full-fledged 24-hour diner, known for its handmade pierogies, borscht, goulash, and potato pancakes. While Veselka rolls deep in traditional forms of Ukrainian dishes, it also serves unique variations, such as pierogies stuffed with arugula and goat cheese or broccoli and Vermont cheddar. Regular menu items are available all day; brunch items are only available Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Highlights: Veselka's vegetarian plate ($13.75) comes with a soup and salad, includes two boiled cheese and two boiled potato pierogies plus wild rice and mushroom stuffed cabbage, and is garnished with a side of sour cream, apple sauce, and sautéed onions. Of Veselka's soup options, only three are vegetarian: the green split pea, mushroom barley, and vegetable soups. We opted for the green split pea, which is thick and somewhat chunky with bits of rice, carrots, and peas.
The cheese pierogi, filled with farmer's cheese, is sweet, the texture slightly lumpy and cottage cheese-like; the potato pierogi is creamy and slightly savory. Both pierogies pair well with the apple sauce, which makes the cheese pierogi that much sweeter, similar to a dessert, and brings a sweet-savory dichotomy to the potato. The wild rice and mushroom stuffed cabbage is covered in a mushroom gravy, which is on the salty side. The cabbage has a nice crunch, though, while the rice is creamy, akin to a light risotto.
Veselka has a few other options for vegetarians, including the deluxe vegetarian plate ($14.50), which adds kasha and a couple of other vegetarian pierogies to the platter. Or opt for the numerous vegetarian pierogies on the list, which you can get either boiled or fried (four for $6.95/seven for $10.95).