Streecha: Ukranian Home Cooking in an East Village Basement

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[Photographs: Max Falkowitz]

Since the New York Times wrote about the little basement cafeteria in the East Village serving homespun Ukrainian cooking, the small sign outside and up the stairs—your only street marker—has been replaced by something more spiffy and long-lasting. Some of the women behind the stove have retired, too. But the food at Streecha has largely remained the same.

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Streecha is a small fundraising enterprise for the St. George Ukrainian church on East 7th Street and its adjunct private school. From roughly 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, you can stop in with a $10 and get lunch for two with change.

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The ladies of this cafeteria serve a homespun menu of boiled potato dumplings (varenyky), stuffed cabbage (holubtsi), sausage with sauerkraut, and the like, in renditions that speak more to home cooking* than diner food.

* See also: pierogi to-go around the corner.

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That means there's not much griddle grease, though the boiled varenyky are subtle to the point of blandness, the borscht is watery, the sausage is plain, the pork-stuffed stuffed cabbage (from J. Baczynsky around the corner) is tasty but uncomplicated. Make sure to ask for sour cream and load up on the free bacon bits available at a side table.

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Look past the just-okay food and harsh florescent lighting and you'll find great opportunities for people-watching (especially after church lets out) and a quiet respite from the East Village's rough edges. Dirt-cheap prices help—all that you see here cost less than $20—but what draws me back is that the community hangout takes all comers. This cafeteria may be of and for Ukrainian locals, but it's a place of refuge, and nourishment, for any who stop by.

About the author: Max Falkowitz is the New York editor and ice cream maker in residence at Serious Eats. You can follow him on Twitter at @maxfalkowitz.

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