The popular Ukrainian restaurant, Veselka, which first opened in the East Village in 1954, has closed its outpost in the Lower East Side’s Market Line food hall, after five years.
The subterranean stall at the Essex Crossing complex was one of several locations in a fairly recent expansion push: Veselka opened a small counter in Grand Central in October and is set to open a larger location in Williamsburg, in the spring.
“We have made the decision to close our outpost at the Market Line as we turn our attention to our new restaurant in Williamsburg,” owner Jason Birchard wrote in an email. The third-generation Birchard took over Veselka from his father, Tom, who retired in January 2020.
The Williamsburg location at 646 Lorimer Street, near Meeker Avenue, is a 5,000-square-foot space, much of which will become a commissary kitchen for mail order and the Grand Central location (and any future satellites). There’s also a 1,000-square-foot retail section that will accommodate 40 seats. The menu will offer its greatest hits as well as collaborations to be announced.
Veselka noted that “there’s been a steady uptick in demand,” for Veselka’s fare nationally, and that has prompted the restaurant to break away from Goldbelly to do its own nationwide shipping. The split also allows the restaurant more flexibility in its offerings.
Veselka has seen a swell of customers at all of its locations since the start of Russia’s war against Ukraine. In its first year, Birchard says the restaurant raised and donated $300,000 from all of its borscht sales to support organizations that help Ukrainians. On its website, it says Veselka has raised $500,000 to date.
Later this season, the restaurant will be the subject of a documentary narrated by David Duchovny, Veselka: The Rainbow on the Corner at the Center of the World, directed by Michael Fiore, and featuring saxophonist David Sanborn, about how it has mobilized to aid Ukraine. The film opens at the Village East by Angelika on February 23.
Birchard says the original Second Avenue location will soon expand its late-night hours — though it won’t go back to 24-hours. The restaurant celebrates its 70th anniversary this year.