April 30, 2022

SusanSez Explores Ukraine in NYC

SusanSez Explores Ukraine in NYC

A portrait of Susan Birnbaum with her trademark red hair.
Written by Susan Birnbaum
Published
April 30, 2022

SusanSez Explores Ukraine in NYC

If you find yourself in the East Village on 6th or 7th street you may just find you have arrived in Ukraine without even jumping on a plane. The culture of Ukraine, handcrafts, and food can be found dispersed right along the streets here. This was previously posted a couple of years ago but I think it apropos to repost it as a show of support for Ukraine.

Saint George Ukrainian Catholic Church 
( Image by Jeff Rozwadowski )

First, you can see St George’s Ukrainian Catholic Church. With its Byzantine-style onion-shaped dome, it is the largest institute in the community.   Looking at 6th St. over the Church Dome from Cooper Union.

Ukrainian East Village Restaurant. The restaurant is housed in the Ukrainian National Home on 2nd Avenue. They serve holubtsi ( stuffed cabbage, kovbasa, or kielbasa sausages), borscht ( hot or cold beet soup ), and my favorite nalensnyky ( blintzes and gigantic potato pancakes served with sour cream or applesauce.

The Darmochwais family opened Veselka (rainbow in Ukrainian?) in 1960. It looked very different from today’s establishment. In fact, it was a candy store with a soda fountain and a newsstand with a room in the back that served Ukrainian specialties. In the 1980s it expanded and so did its reputation. Today they make 3,000 pierogies a day and 500 lbs of beets are used to make 5000 gallons of borscht per week. It is a favorite of many celebrities and was often visited by the late Anthony Bourdain. It's a great place for brunch and offers a variety of pierogies, blintzes, and more. Today it has an “outpost “ in the new Essex Market.

Streecha Kitchen is found at 33 E 7th Street. Access this one-of-a-kind eating spot is through the basement door of a brownstone diagonally across from St. George Ukrainian Catholic Church with which it is affiliated.  If your timing is right you may just find the church’s women’s group serving pierogies which are soft, medium-sized pillows of dough served boiled or fried and stuffed with cheese, potatoes, or kapust (sauerkraut) as well as some other typical favorites. It is open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The menu offers four main dishes: borscht soup (in cup or bowl), Ukrainian potato dumplings known as varenyky, stuffed cabbage with pork and rice called holubtsi, and sausage with sauerkraut. It has no website but does have a phone number (212-677-7160).

It is open to the public, with operating hours on Friday through Sunday. Periodically an Instagram post goes out to its volunteers or anyone else who wants to help make dumplings (until 11 AM). The proceeds from the kitchen support the church and its private school. 

Streecha Ukrainian Kitchen ( Image by Michelle Young)

The parish of St. George has been in the neighborhood for over a hundred years and Streecha Ukrainian Kitchen’s decor is very sparse. In fact, it looks like a church communal dining hall.  That is pretty much what it is. The fare is simple, prices are affordable with the dumplings at $0.75 apiece, the hearty stuffed cabbage at $4.00, and the cup of borscht soup at just $2.00. Powdered jelly donuts, cinnamon danish, and cheesecake are also available. 

The hours can be unpredictable–Basically, the food’s available until it runs out –so get here on the earlier side of the afternoon and bring cash. Another gem on this block is a great drive bar - Blue and Gold. It is a step back in time complete with a cheap drink, a pool table, and a jukebox.

The Ukrainian Museum is found at 222 E 6th St. The museum was founded in 1976 by the Ukrainian women’s League of America. It houses 8000 objects including wedding and festive clothing. There are great examples of richly embroidered clothing and textiles and of course pysanky- the traditionally decorated Easter Eggs. The history of the Ukrainian people is documented in photographs, documents, and posters. There is also an impressive collection of fine art.

Ukrainian Museum ( Image by seenewyork.nyc )
Ukrainian Pysanky ( Image by Luba Petrusha )

The belief is as long as people keep creating Pysanky the world will continue to exist. Tried to get all the print under the eggs but could not- Help!!!

Arka - A wonderful shop where you can purchase traditional garb as well as Christmas tree ornaments.

With our tummies full and our new embroidered tunics on let’s take a quick ride uptown to the Ukrainian Institute of America on E. 79 St., The Institute was founded in 1948 by William Dzus an inventor, Industrialist and philanthropist. In 1955 the mansion was purchased to house the Institute and to keep the Ukraine culture alive in the opulent Fletcher-Sinclair Mansion on E. 79 St. The building was designed by the preeminent gilded age architect Charles C.H. Gilbert. 

During the pandemic, they have offered a multitude of online programming including art exhibits, concerts, and lectures. Check out the Ukrainian Institute YouTube channel.

For inquiries and questions about tours ( In-person or Virtual ), you can send us an email or call. Stay tuned for Susan's next new blog!

SusanSez was founded by Susan Birnbaum. Susan has had a lifelong interest in history. Susan is a twenty year member of the Guides Association of NYC, and a member of The Bronx, Brooklyn, and New York Historical Societies. In addition to all of this; she is also a docent at at the Museum of the City of New York. She is also the recipient of The Bronx Tourism Award from The Bronx Tourism Council for her unparalleled commitment to sharing the rich history of The Bronx.
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