A New York taste from the ‘The Veselka Cookbook’

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Feb. 2, 2012, 10:57 p.m. | Food & Nightclubs — by Natalia A. Feduschak

The Veselka Cookbook was published in 2009 by New York restaurateurs.

Natalia A. Feduschak

In 1954, Wolodymyr and Olha Darmochwal opened a newsstand and candy store in the area largely inhabited by Ukrainians in New York’s lower East Side called Veselka.

A hangout for many Ukrainians who lived there, the reputation of this small cafe grew far outside the community’s confines.

In 1975, Wolodymyr died and his son-in-law, Tom Birchard, took over management of the restaurant. Veselka’s popularity became so widespread that in November, Birchard opened a second restaurant, called Veselka Bowery, not far from the original eatery.

In 2009, Birchard published a cookbook featuring some of Veselka’s most popular recipes.

“The Veselka Cookbook” contains more than 150 recipes, covering Ukrainian classics to sandwiches (one is named after Ukraine’s richest man, Rinat Akhmetov, and another after actress Milla Jovovich), to breakfast fare, as well as a section that highlights Christmas foods.

In addition, the book provides a glimpse of how the Ukrainian neighborhood has changed over the decades.

The popularity of Veselka restaurant in New York translated into a network of eateries and a cookbook. (Courtesy)

There are the stories of Julian Baczynsky, the butcher who supplies Veselka with 200 pounds of smoked pork-and-beef kielbasa weekly, the four women who spend their days making the restaurant’s trademark pyrohy, or dumplings, and a walking tour of the area.

In pondering the changes that have occurred at Veselka and the neighborhood, Birchard wrote: “What would amaze Wolodymyr most is that the restaurant is open 24 hours a day now, and is almost always crowded.

When the original Veselka had even a half-dozen customers, he’d grow jittery and nervous and start moving around very briskly.

Now a ‘busy day’ means we’ve served over 1,000 people. I think he’d be proud to see what a success Veselka is, and I know he’d be very pleased that we still have plenty of Ukrainian specialties on the menu. He took his Ukrainian heritage very seriously, and I’m pleased, too, that we’re able to carry on that tradition.”

Kyiv Post staff writer Natalia A. Feduschak can be reached at

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Mykhayl Feb. 3, 2012, 12:46 p.m.    

QUOTE: "plenty of Ukrainian specialties on the menu. He took his Ukrainian heritage very seriously, and I'm pleased, too, and I'm happy we are able to carry on that tradition". QUIT QUOTE Another Feduschak slice of Ukrainian life.

Cookbooks are a necessity aspect in today's society to carry on the "tradition"; or rather "customs" [better being "Tradition" is to the why not what]. That which we use to learn from "Baba" [Granny} and took for granted concerning yesterday's ways are now elusive in print. Todays secular mindset is incapable to savor that it is not the "what", but rather the "how" to the "why" in materializing our Ukrainian Mystical Tradition. For instance Pascha [Easter} falls on a no work day / Sunday [Lord's Day] so not only are all the foods precooked, they are served without reheating in accordance to Sabbath observance [before you start read Matthew 5:17] On the eve of the Nativity the star announces the suspension of the FAST. Vegan ABSTINENCE follows not as monastic requirement but a baptized kitchen church sensitivity in nature. Originally the rescue of the Sun princess through the resurrection of the Lord Yur to which nature was manipulated, today's Incarnation in the Sun of God's virgin birth leading to His/our resurrection. Serving a vegan fair underscore the why of the how, which is more significant in meaning than the what of the preparation.

It would be wrong if Ukrainian nationalism saved our mysticism during the worst persecution not only of Christendom but religion, yet it could not survive in today's "patriotic" secularism as Ukrainian custom.

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