Streecha Ukrainian Kitchen is one of those spots that doesn’t have to try–either to be known or to be hidden. It’s accessed through the basement door of an East Village brownstone that houses a chiropractor’s office, located diagonally across from St. George Ukrainian Catholic Church with which it is affiliated. When it first opened, the only thing that denoted its existence was a piece of laminated paper hanging from a clothes line, with the names of three dishes. Over time, one paper sign became two sheets on the window to today, where there are two vinyl signs, one completely in Ukrainian and the other with the restaurant name on it. Still, it remains nondescript and very easy to miss on a block that has other high profile destinations like McSorley’s Ale House, one of the oldest bars in the city. It has no website, but does have a phone number (212-677-7160) and an Instagram account.
Restaurant is a misnomer however, as it has the feel of a church canteen, which it is. But it’s open to the public, with operating hours on Friday through Sunday. It is about to open again on Sunday following its annual summer hiatus, as reported by EV Grieve. The menu is small but targeted, offering four main dishes: borscht soup (in cup or bowl), Ukrainian potato dumplings knowns as varenyky, stuffed cabbage with pork and rice called holobutsi, and sausage with sauerkraut. The dumplings are hand-rolled starting as early as 6 in the morning by what The New York Times calls a “small volunteer army of elderly women.” An Instagram post yesterday put out an open call for anybody who wants to help out today to make dumplings (until 11 AM). The proceeds from the kitchen support the church and its private school.
The parish of St. George has been in the neighborhood for over a hundred years and Streecha Ukrainian Kitchen is straight out of the 1970s, when it first opened. The walls are of beige tile and sky blue paint. The tables are covered with polyester tablecloths and the metal folding chairs clang around as visitors rearrange the seats along the long communal tables. Condiments like salt, pepper, mustard, and sugar are displayed in tupperware boxes. When we visited one January, an unadorned Christmas tree shared the decorative stage with kitschy Valentine’s Day decorations. Religious paintings hung at regular intervals on the walls complete the picture. Despite the dated atmosphere and fluorescent lights, the place buzzes with positive energy during popular hours, just like a get-together at a community organization.
The fare is simple and affordable with the dumplings at $0.75 a piece, the hearty stuffed cabbage at $4.00, and the cup of borscht soup at just $2.00. The coffee is nothing to write home about, but it’s just $1.00. There’s also an assortment of baked goods like powdered jelly donuts, cinnamon danish, and cheese cake, along with packed Hostess Donettes for some reason.
The hours can be unpredictable–the food’s available until it runs out basically–so get here on the earlier side of the afternoon and bring cash.
Streecha Ukrainian Kitchen appears in our book New York Hidden Bars & Restaurants.