When it comes to vegetarian food, there are two things that Russian cooks do better than most: mushrooms and pickles. Witness Kebeer, a bar in Brighton Beach with a full menu that features plenty of vegetarian options. If, like me, you arrive on a cold winter day, I recommend you start with the mushroom soup ($5), made with vegetable broth (my server informed me that the borscht is also completely vegetarian). When you stir in the optional dollop of sour cream it lends a much-needed tangy richness to the peppery soup. I also suggest an order of the dark bread ($2) to go along with the soup; at first it may seem that the bread is so dense that it will never soak up the broth, but if you tear off some pieces and let them sit in the liquid while you eat the mushrooms, carrots, and barley, you will be rewarded.
Once you've warmed up, you're ready to enjoy any number of salads. Start by sharing the plate of pickled vegetables ($5). In addition to the normal cucumber pickles you'll get crunchy, sour green tomatoes and herb-infused overripe red tomatoes. The real standout is the red cabbage, served in big, salt and vinegar-infused chunks that still maintain the crisp texture of raw cabbage. You may want to save some of that bread to balance out the intense flavors.
For something milder, try the radish salad ($6.50). The combination of thinly sliced radishes and onions and the sour cream dressing, flecked with dill, is another perfect match for the dark bread. All of the salads and appetizers come in big enough portions to share, and if you like something so much you've got to take it home you'll probably find it at the Russian food emporium Brighton Bazaar, located right next door.
Kebeer serves more familiar vegetarian fare: falafel, hummus, stuffed grape leaves, and the link. That's not what you make the trip out to Brighton Beach for, though—stick to the Russian food, and wash it all down with one of the excellent beers on tap, and you won't be disappointed.
1003 Brighton Beach Ave, Brooklyn NY (map) 718-934-9005
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