After watching UGA lose to South Carolina yesterday afternoon, I needed something to perk my spirits up once again.  Lucky for me, Dan arrived in NYC for a visit yesterday, and seeing his smiling face for dinner was just what I needed to make me forget the depressing football loss.

Dinner was a very last minute thing.  Matt and I were in charge of picking the place, and since we didn’t know exactly how many people would be joining us or when we would need to be there, we had to pick someplace that was flexible.  Due to our last minute-ness (and truth be told, the fact that we had been drinking all day while watching football), this was not the time to try to get into the hottest restaurant in town; however, we never want to settle for anything merely ordinary.

Veselka won the vote so we headed down to the East Village to try a little something new.  Veselka is nothing fancy.  In fact, it’s a diner; but this diner has a twist: it’s Ukrainian.  That means that instead of bacon egg and cheeses, you’re ordering borsht, stroganoff, and pierogi.  Like most diners, Veselka is 24 hours and most popular for the late night crowd emerging from the East Village bar scene after last call.  Even though it is busiest at 3 AM, it was still packed at 9 because people don’t want to wait for the bars to close to enjoy good, Eastern European food.

Since it was my first time at Veselka, I wanted to try a little bit of everything, so the meat plate was the perfect dish for me.  The meat plate came with a cup of soup and I had to pick the borsht.  When in Rome…The waiter said most people ordered the borsht hot, so that’s precisely what I did.  It tastes nothing like it looks.  It was like a magenta chicken soup – not bad.  The meal also came with a small salad with dill dressing, but I only had a couple bites to save room for the main course: stuffed cabbage with mushroom gravy and four pierogi (2 meat, 2 potato).  I’m guessing the food was authentic, but I wouldn’t really know, so maybe I’m confusing “authentic” with “good”, because that much I can say for sure – it was mighty tasty.  The stuffed cabbage was good, but I was expecting to see exactly what my grandma makes on my plate and the flavor of Veselka’s version was good but different.  Don’t worry, Grandma, I will always like yours best.  I think next time I eat at Vesleka, I am just going to order plate after plate of pierogi because they were amazing.  The dough was thick but did not overpower the filling of which there was tons.  This was not a situation where the dumpling is all dough or noodle with nothing inside.  They come with sour cream, shredded beets with horseradish, and onions.  I used a little of the toppings, but the pierogi had enough flavor on their own that they did not need a single thing.

Veselka is also great for brunch (especially if you still haven’t made it home from the night before), but it can be a little heavy before a night out, so it was a good thing my hot Saturday night plans consisted of a chick flick by myself in bed.  Eastern Europeans have been in New York longer than most of the cultures that now make up our melting pot, so it’s great to enjoy the food from the group that may have flown under the radar but has maintained a constant presence.