It was very wet last night. Dark, wet, and like a movie in Times Square with happy families huddled under their umbrellas in the fuzzy neon light, taxis splashing puddles. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a white family on a weeknigth in New York, but shit, when am I ever in Times Square. Back in Harlem, the streets were littered with umbrellas converted to shrunken heaps of metal rods, turned in-side out, black skin flapping off their little exposed skeletons. And somehow they always end up pressed against a wall or otherwise mashed in, like they tried to crawl away and die out of sight. I don’t really understand it. It may have taken me 25 years to touch a dildo, but I have never broken an umbrella.
Of course, this stands in stark contrast to Saturday, which was by all accounts the nicest day in the history of the world. I spent about an hour of that day at Veselka, the Ukrainian restaurant/ cafe/coffee shop/diner in the East Village. If you crooned at reading that last sentence, stick with me. I can’t cite too many specific individuals or instances where Veselka has come up, but I get this feeling that it has a very devoted following; people who swear by it, who swear “it works” - like Old Spice guys or girls who would dress up really nicely before taking a test in college.
Here’s my thing. I don’t really know shit about Ukrainian food, making it fairly difficult to assess. However, I know their bistro fare is good, but not great. Most dishes come in between $10-14. To put that in perspective, for the price of one bacon cheeseburger here, you can get 9 at Wendy’s. However, it is undeniable the outdoor seating is a huge plus , especially since a portion of it is off of 2nd Ave, where is it quieter and fewer auto fumes are competing for your taste buds’ attention.
But the real kicker is the beer. The 21 oz. Ukrainian Premium to be exact. It is amazing, smooth, and unique. My palette had already been numbed from previous drinks, but I thought I detected something slightly honey-ish. And at $5.50 its costs roughly the $2.75 per standard can. But better than a can, it comes in a big bottle, perfect for social beer sharing, or gluttonous swilling. The 21 oz. Ukrainian Lager, by contrast, is shite. Again, order the Premium, not the Lager. Oh, and it’s open 24 hours, which admittedly is fantastic! Forget the automatic association with L’Express, just around the corner from The Gramercy. And…and, the wait staff has always been excellent. A perfect combination of casual, professional attentiveness, with a dash of strong Eastern European accent.
So, there it is. Sure, Veselka is good. Maybe go test some Ukranian food, share one of their bistro entrees, get a cup of coffee at 4 am. You can never go wrong with a greasy breakfast dish if you are making your way home from a bar or club. But, the real unique thing, that can’t be beat by other spots that I’ve seen is the Ukranian Premium 21 oz bottle. I’m expecting it, so get your hate on in the comments section!
Veselka is at the corner of 2nd Avenue and 9th Street