Beloved Ukrainian Restaurant Veselka to Open New Locations In Grand Central Terminal and Williamsburg

The East Village restaurant, which has been a fixture in the neighborhood for nearly 70 years, will close its main restaurant temporarily for renovations this summer while it pushes into Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and Grand Central in the big expansion for the Ukrainian restaurant.

| 20 Mar 2023 | 11:12

Residents of Williamsburg and Midtown will soon be able to enjoy the food of beloved East Village institution Veselka a little closer to home.

Veselka, which is nominated in the Outstanding Restaurant category in this year’s prestigious James Beard Awards, is known for its Ukrainian comfort food like borscht and pierogi.

The restaurant, whose name means “rainbow” in Ukrainian, has been a fixture in the neighborhood since 1954 when was founded by the husband and wife team of Wolodymyr Darmochwal (Ukr. Володимир Дармохвал) and his wife, Olha Darmochwal (Ukr. Ольга Дармохвал), who were post World War II refugees. It was once part of over 100 Slavic dining establishments that dotted the East Village neighborhood still known as Little Ukraine. (After COVID, it cut back from 24/7 opening to 8am-11pm on weekdays and 8am-midnight on weekends.)

After the start of the war in Ukraine, people began lining up around the block to support the cause. It became a popular gathering spot for organizing aid for the war-torn nation, and donated proceeds from sales of borscht to the war effort.

While this is the restaurant’s biggest expansion push, it is not the first. It had opened a second restaurant on Bowery and First in 2011 but it closed in 2013.

The restaurant, which is still family-run, emerged as a counterculture hot spot in the 1960s and 70s prior to the East Village gentrification. Its bid to open an upscale spin-off known as Veselka Bowery did not work, and it closed in 2013 after only 18 months. Ukrainian comfort food, as featured in its 2009 cookbook published by St. Martin’s press, remains its forte.

Over the years it has featured prominently in pop culture including Cassandra Clare’s novel “City of Angels,” movies including “Oceans 8” and “Billions,” and been featured in several songs, including “Veselka Diner” by Doctor Rokit. The late Anthony Bourdain filmed an interview there in 2018 in his popular “Parts Unknown” series on CNN and over the years stars including Jon Stewart, Julianne Moore, Chris Noth and Debra Messing have been known to pop in.

Veselka’s daily patronage more than doubled to 1,500 a day after the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.