You can’t say you’ve visited New York City’s East Village without stopping at Veselka. Since the 1950s, the mom-and-pop restaurant has been the go-to spot for “Ukrainian soul food.” And to this day, the chefs at Veselka churn out dishes based on family recipes, including pounds of homemade borscht, potato pancakes, and over 3,000 handmade pierogies all before most people even get out of bed in the morning.
“One of our staples here is our homemade pierogies,” says third-generation owner Jason Birchard. “Every day we start our day here at 8 a.m.”
Veselka has a team of six chefs who make the pierogies entirely by hand, including the dough and the various fillings.
“We will produce on average, between two and 3,000 in the course of their workday, per day, with up to 5,000 on weekends,” says Birchard.
The most popular pierogi filling is potato and cheese, which contains shredded, oiled potatoes, farmer cheese, eggs, sugar, cream of wheat, salt, and pepper. All of this is mixed by hand before being stuffed into the pierogi dough.
“That’s the lure of what we do here, everything’s handmade, and, you know, it’s a labor of love,” says Birchard. “These ladies come in here and do this every day without complaining, it’s something that they love to do.”
The restaurant also sponsors refugees from the war in Ukraine. Birchard says he’s applied for 12 people to come from Ukraine to the U.S. and 10 of them have been accepted, with most of them working at the restaurant.
Watch the full video to see how Veselka’s cooks make pierogi dough, potato pancakes, and the Ukranian honey cake medovyk, and to learn more about Brichard’s efforts to sponsor refugees from the war in Ukraine.