Prepare For Borscht Martinis: Veselka’s Bowery Location May Open Next Month

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Despite blog chatter about tables arriving in the dining room, Tom Birchard, owner of Veselka, tells us that the Bowery outpost of his Second Avenue fixture won’t open for about four to six weeks. Veselka Bowery is currently staffing up via Craigslist, but one position in particular remains to be filled: “We’re having a really hard time finding an executive chef,” said Mr. Birchard.

As The Local has noted, Malgosia Sibilska has been making the restaurant’s borscht for about 30 years. Mr. Birchard described the rest of the kitchen staff as “a really good team of Polish and Ukrainian ladies.” The new restaurant, however, will offer “more upscale, refined, creative dishes,” and so Mr. Birchard is looking for “a chef that has gotten around and done stages with the more accomplished chefs like Daniel Boulud or Jean-Georges Vongerichten, but also has a love and appreciation for Eastern European peasant food, or comfort food.”

Rest assured, the borscht recipe will stay the same, but about 75% of the menu will consist of new items, most of them Eastern European specialties such as chicken Kiev as well as seafood dishes that have heretofore been underrepresented at Veselka. Mr. Birchard described the menu as “more strictly Ukrainian,” though he said he was working on at least one crossover dish— macaroni and cheese made with kluski noodles. Don’t be surprised if there’s also a farm-to-table influence: “I’ll be exploring that,” said Mr. Birchard. “I have chef friends who are doing that and I definitely believe in it.” Still, Mr. Birchard said that he hoped to keep everything on the new location’s menu under $20. (At the mothership, the most expensive dish is $14.95).

Meanwhile Eric Greczel, the beverage director, is planning a list of 50 to 100 vodkas, many of them Eastern European. Yesterday, as he finished a beer tasting, he said he was playing with the idea of a borscht martini and also intended to infuse vodka with kielbasa for a Bloody Mary. Mr. Greczel also hopes to age grain vodka in whiskey barrels and potato vodka in rum barrels. “Zabava” (or party) flights will be paired with food.

To match the menu, Mr. Birchard is cultivating what he called a “rustic Ukranian farmhouse theme” via tables that Anthony Rotella, the manager, said were built with wood recycled from the Brooklyn Navy Yard. In addition, the Ukrainian Museum will provide artwork and artifacts on a rotating basis.

“It’s going to be a little more adult,” said Mr. Birchard. “I would say it’s going to be slower, quieter. More of a place where you’d take a date or your wife for a sit-down dinner with a cocktail and some good European food.”

And yes, it will eventually be open 24 hours.