Stage Restaurant

Cooks behind the counter at Stage Restaurant
Cooks behind the counter at Stage Restaurant

About two weeks ago we went to a place called Stage Restaurant, a Ukrainian and Polish restaurant at 128 2nd Ave in Manhattan. I can’t believe it’s been that long already. With classes going, time is flying by.

We wound up in Stage because we were looking for a place to take my mother for a late birthday lunch. She happened to see an article in the paper about Stage potentially closing due to leasing problems and she wanted to spend some money there and support local neighborhood establishments. A lot of other restaurants that had been in the neighborhood for decades have been driven out by rising rent costs, including places that we used to go to often as kids, like the 2nd Avenue Deli. Now the 2nd Avenue Deli is way up town on 75th Street. I haven’t been there since they moved, because it’s so far out of the way. I remember the food being really good. I suppose we could go there before or after visiting the Met one day.

Anyway, we found out later from one of the employees that Stage has a long lease already set up that can’t be broken by the new building owners, so hopefully things work out for them. It seems like a lot of property in the area is getting bought up by NYU for classrooms and dorms. The whole character of the neighborhood has changed since NYU put those dorms up at Union Square. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. The place looks a lot nicer. On the other hand, it runs up prices on everything and the neighborhood was predominantly lower income before. Basically, people were run out of their homes because they could no longer afford to live there. That’s gentrification, I guess.

French toast and apple blintzes.
French toast and apple blintzes.

Stage Restaurant is a hole-in-the-wall sort of place with one long bar for seating directly in front of the cooking area. The latkes (fried potato pancakes) pierogies were recommended in the news article, but I went with the French toast.  My wife and I shared a plate of apple blintzes. I can’t remember what she ordered now, but she didn’t have any complaints at the time. My mom went with a plate of pierogies, stuffed cabbage, sausage and sauerkraut. The portions were huge and she had plenty of food to take home for another meal.

Pierogies, sausage, stuffed cabbage and sauerkraut.
Pierogies, sausage, stuffed cabbage and sauerkraut.

Stage Restaurant isn’t fine dining, but it’s fast, comfortable, and the food was good. It was also busy. Every time a seat opened up, someone sat in it. I don’t think the restaurant is going anywhere anytime soon, so I’m glad we found it. We can add it to our list of potential lunch venues when we’re in the neighborhood.

Veselka: Ukrainian Soulfood

Veselka's 1

In 2008, one of the last things I did before leaving the United States and moving to Asia was to have lunch with family at Veselka’s in the East Village.

I don’t remember too much about the visit, except that the pierogis were awesome.  They were so awesome, that I lamented the fact that pierogis weren’t available (at least that I ever saw) during my stay in Asia.  Maybe they were.  Maybe they were hiding on a menu in an overpriced boutique restaurant in an upscale mall somewhere.  Who knows?  Either way, I kept telling my wife about how good they are, pierogis I mean, and I was excited to take her to Veselka’s so she could experience them for herself.

 Veselka's 2

Veselka's 3

Needless to say, she was a bit overwhelmed.  When we got there, she just sat at the table, looking at her phone.  I asked her if she was going to choose what she wanted to eat, and she said, “Oh?  I thought we were having pierogis?”  I told her, “Of course we are, but you have to pick which kind of pierogis you want.”  Then she got excited!  There are plain potato, cheese, meat, spinach & cheese, sauerkraut & mushroom, sweet potato, and arugula and goat cheese.  There’s also the “boiled” or “fried” option to think about.  Veselka’s offers two pierogi plates: the big plate (7 pierogis) and the small plate (4 pierogis).  We both went with the big plate.  Might as well get what we went there for, right?  My wife tried one of each and with the exception of the sweet potato pierogi, which seemed to just not be consistent with the rest of the dish, she said they were all excellent.  I picked and chose but had one of everything but the sweet potato and meat pierogis.

Matzah Ball Soup
Matzah Ball Soup
Ukrainian Borscht
Ukrainian Borscht
Fried pierogis
Fried pierogis.

Dessert board at Veselka's

We thought about having dessert, but after the pierogis and a bowl of soup each, we were full.  The best part is that the food is good quality, but priced to not break your bank.  You can take a look at the full menu by clicking here.

Also, I was happy to see that the murals on the walls in the dining area had been replaced with something more upbeat.  I found two old photos I took in 2006 of the wall murals:

 Old Veselka's Wall Mural 1

Old Veselka's Wall Mural 2

Somber looking aren’t they?

This is definitely better:

New Veselka's Wall Mural

Thanks again for the good food, Veselka’s!  We’ll be back.