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May 30, 2005




I feel your pain. I've had a couple of favourite restaurants go belly up in the name of modernisation. They've never been the same since!

Even though I haven't been around, I'm still lurking. And your blogs I still love to read.



Oh man! {errr...woman?} The descriptions of the food coming from its former glory got me so worked up that now I'll have to look up some recipes. My knowledge of eastern european food is lacking. Must go and remedy this!

Regarding your recent comment on fruits and veggies...I am just amazed at the plethora of produce outside of Hawaii. It just makes me nuts whenever I discover something new!

brian w

Luckily you can still run up the block to Veselka!


hi julie! i am so *sad* for you and the fate of kiev...i can't stand it when restaurants go on to ruin food like that. it'd be one thing if they "updating" old classics and they actually sounded good, but why mess with something that's already great, right? (this is also why i often have problems with fusion cooking - LOL!)


Hey Caroline -- it's great to see you here again, and to know that you're lurking!

Rowena, Russian cuisine is in my blood, but I've never actually made my own blintzes from scratch. Someday I'll try, but will they be imbued with the same timeless flavor that my memory bestows upon the ones from the Kiev?

Brian, you've got a point. I remember Veselka's borscht and stuffed cabbage with great fondness. It's just that we all had our favorites in the East Village. For me, the specialties I named above at the Kiev were better there than they were at Veselka or the Odessa or Christine's. But maybe my allegiance can be swayed -- especially when there's no other choice.

Sarah, this has happened to so many great New York restaurants. The original menu at the celebrated and costly Russian Tea Room was authentically Russian and was without peer in New York. They did an amazing business, frequented by numbers of writers and artists, producers, directors and actors, as well as humbler folk. Many of them "took meetings" in the red booths there. The sad day a decade or so ago that I walked by and saw "Angel Hair Pasta" on their menu, I knew the end was nigh. They went through a few more changes of hands, new gimmicks and menus, and then it was all over -- another of New York's great food and meeting institutions bit the dust. That reminds me -- one of these days I have to tell the story of my mother and Henry Miller at the Russian Tea Room...


Hey Julie,

We've all been there. I used to eat at the Kiev too. The challah was the best. I used to have the mushroom/barley soup and the fried potato pierogi. Many lunches and late night snacks were eaten there. I also went back and was very disappointed.

What about Ratners, with the best onion rolls, chocolate babka and potato pancakes. Or do you remember the Grand Dairy? I have not ever had better blintzes or potato soup with black bread.


Oh my goodness, Ernie, Ratners! The onion rolls alone could make you weep, they were so good. I only went to Grand Dairy one time; they were legendary for all their soups, though. My friend Steve used to rave about them.


I don't know why this compulsion exists to remake all the Ukrainian restaurants into silly hipster joints. At least Veselka just expanded and redecorated a bit, but left the menu alone. The new Kiev breaks my heart, but not nearly as much as the cipher that calls itself Leshko's, across the street from the southwest corner of Tompkins Square Park. I used to live on 4th between A and B and I've lost track of how many post-clubhopping breakfasts I've spent at Leshko's. I don't think they changed their menu prices for about 40 years. Now, of course, you can get food too fabulous for the room; you can get food slathered in wasabi, which is delightful if you're going out for Japanese but less lovely if you're going out for Ukrainian. It kills me that never again will I be able to sit in a booth with my bleary-eyed boyfriend, a plate of boiled potato pierogies with onions and sour cream for me, a plate of apple pancakes for him, coffee for both of us.

Lloyd and I used to live up the street from the Kiev, and while we loved it, there were some dishes that were better than others. For me, though, that was the beauty of living in the neighborhood: while you could certainly go one-stop shopping for all of your Ukrainian/Polish yummies, you would never have to. Of course, superlatives are all a matter of opinion, but for now I'll let my opinion rule the day. :) Kiev was where I went when I wanted matzo brei, challah French toast or kasha varnishkas. Veselka was for mushroom-barley soup and Ukrainian meatballs (pork + veal, coated in mushroom gravy, mmmmmm). Stage Diner (which hasn't changed, thankfully!) was for gulyas. Leshko's was for pierogies. Odessa was for pierogies when you wanted the maximum amount of butter, heft and stodge in your pierogies -- when Leshko's, substantial as they were, just wouldn't cut it. (This did not happen often with me.) B&H Dairy was for borscht. The restaurant in the Ukrainian National Home was for boiled beef and pickled beets. Papa Bear -- okay, this one was not in the neighborhood, but it was walkable, on 23rd Street and 2nd Avenue -- was for chicken in the pot, a dreamboat of a soup containing half a chicken, a whole peeled boiled potato, a carrot and a fistful of dill. If you possibly had room at the end of one of these feasts, you could burn at least a portion of it off by hiking to Moishe's, where you could buy a giant perfect raspberry hamantaschen, or a chocolate babka for making your own French toast, or a dozen onion bialies or pletzl for a week's worth of breakfasts. Oh, I'm dying, here, thinking of all this.

The bad news is that I have no idea where Mama is now. The good news is that Molly O'Neill has a recipe for potato and mushroom pierogi in New York Cookbook, and I have made it dozens of times. It's a bit of a fuss, but not a terrible one, and the resultant pierogies are tangy and wonderful.


Leshko's. Another case in point. Even the too-fabulous "new" Leshko's didn't survive -- they closed a while ago. The sorrow is that whoever decided to reinvent these restaurants never understood what they had going for them in the first place. I guess this post is on some level a requiem for all these neighborhood joints.

I had more of a relationship with the Kiev than the others -- I befriended one of the Sergeis at one point, and my friend Nili and I had breakfast there almost every week for years. I don't really know why their pierogies rang my chimes, but they were the ones I wanted. My love for a particular dish in a particular place clearly has to do with association. Potato pancakes? Well, the Odessa's might not have been the best, but they were my faves because my friend Jane simply had to go there for breakfast when she made her semi-yearly trip down from Bangor.

And now, of course, I need to go to Moishe's and get a sack of rugelach at the first opportunity. They'd better still be there.

I just made kasha varnishkes the other night, with a side of buttery caramel-brown onions. My potato pancakes aren't bad either, and I'm sure if I put my mind to it, I could turn out reasonable blintzes. You bring the pierogies, Jen, and I'll bring the kasha and the rest...


Julie, if you can teach me how to make blintzes, and that yummy pot-cheese filling that goes into them, I will be your gibbering love slave for life.

Wow, that shows you how long it's been since I've been in the old hood, at least that far east. Well, I can't say I'm sorry to see Leshko's go. I really try not to have a knee-jerk reaction against any kind of change, I really try to give everything the benefit of the doubt, but I thought the Leshko's redesign -- and Kiev's, too -- was just pointless. No, not just pointless. Craven, too. Someone got the idea that what the East Village needed was more hip places to eat. And yes, sometimes you do want something a little more fancy, which is when you go to the Tasting Room or Prune or Jewel Bako. And sometimes you want an enormous plate of something cheap, delicious, handcrafted and soulful. Trying to make the Ukrainian restaurants hip backfires on two counts: No one whose heart is set on going to Prune will opt for going to the Kiev instead, and the regular Kiev clientele will be pissed off. (Honest to God, "Ukraisian Wings?" What the hell *is* that, anyway?)

I will give Kiev credit for one thing, though: on my last trip there, my friend Sharon got a pierogi sampler that included sweet potato and spinach filling. I tried making my own and home and they were really good. So even though theirs weren't all that hot, they were inspiring. :)

You will be happy to know that Moishe's is still there, and the rugelach, hamantaschen and babka are all still fabulous.


Phew. Okay, I'm scheduling a trip to Moishe's for sometime in the near future. And I'll have to try to find some reasonable pierogi in the neighborhood as long as I'm going downtown.

Craven is the word, Jen. Perhaps there is justice in the universe, since these pathetic hybrids don't seem to last very long. One can only hope that the owners of the surviving neighborhood Ukrainian/Polish/Eastern European places learn some lesson about leaving well enough alone.

The Blintz Conundrum (I'm sure you've heard of it) has to do with the dearth of actual pot cheese available in these parts. The question remains whether or not farmer cheese will be an adequate substitute. One can only hope, and try. I'm thinking this time of year it would be nice to side some blintzes with a simple rhubarb compote like the one you recently described on your blog...


I forgot about Moishe's, yummy chocolate babka for sure.
Is Gertel's (I think that was the name)bakery still around? they had some good stuff too, although that was LES stomping grounds.

Julie, I love pot cheese. Luckily I can find it here in Jack. Hts. Nothing better than egg noodles with pot cheese.

On a separate note, I used to love Juniors rugelach, they were divine. A few months ago I made a pit stop, but alas the rugelach are no longer the same.


So, Ernie...have you got a good blintz recipe for using all that lovely pot cheese?

I had the same experience with Junior's rugelach. I bought some (at no small expense, mind you) at the Junior's outpost in Grand Central Station for a work-related breakfast. Deeply disappointing. But if Moishe's are still the cream-cheese dough wonders that they once were...


I want some good rugelach now.

I've only made blintzes once, now we go to a Polish place in Forest Hills for cheese blintzes.

I'm getting lazy!


Speaking on delicious plates etc...I happened upon a restaurant soon to be opened in the East Village called Mo Pikins. They were having a tasting on the day I stopped by so I ventured in to find a wonderful mix of Jewish and Latin food. Everything from a Cuban Reuben, to Mom's Brisket, to potato pancakes and chopped liver. I can't wait til it opens.....they told me soon....That Mo Pitkins House of Satisfaction was a month away.....

JoAnn Conrad

Does anyone have their blintz receipe...

Nothing stays the same....we die.

I imagine the cooks died.

How sad not many people learn the old ways...where are all the bakers...I remember missing bread having lived in the midwest too long and running into a Brooklyn baker at Joes crab place in miami...havnt had that good brooklyn bread since....

We have good whole food bakers but I miss the old stuff.

Lisa Nishi

Living now in Mabou, Nova Scotia, about to make mushroom barley soup with dill picked from the garden and fresh bake a challah.
Late night at The Pyramid and 4 o'clocks or
11's at The Kiev. Who could ever forget the food that fed and artistic nation!!!

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Oh my goodness, Ernie, Ratners! The onion rolls alone could make you weep, they were so good. I only went to Grand Dairy one time; they were legendary for all their soups, though. My friend Steve used to rave about them.

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Regarding your recent comment on fruits and veggies...I am just amazed at the plethora of produce outside of Hawaii. It just makes me nuts whenever I discover something new!

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