It’s easy to forget you’re in New York when you’re at Streecha. When the blinds and curtains are drawn, the subterranean restaurant shuts out the sights and sounds of the East Village. Amid the hum of a Ukrainian newscast, the hanging portraits of poet Taras Shevchenko, and the aroma of stuffed cabbage and borscht wafting from the kitchen, it doesn’t take a big imaginative leap to transport yourself to Ukraine itself.
The restaurant is easily missed on 7th street, overshadowed by the crowds at McSorley’s Ale House just a few buildings away. But if you spot the Cyrillic sign, head downstairs into an empty, fluorescent-lit hallway, and enter through a door bearing a sign that swears “We’re open,” you’ll encounter a delightful hidden pocket of the neighborhood’s Ukrainian community. With its humble decor, meals delivered on brightly-colored plastic cafeteria trays, and the bulletin board of upcoming events, the scene resembles a hall in a church basement. This makes sense, given that Streecha is a fundraising effort for the nearby St. George’s Ukrainian Catholic Church. Servers and cooks are all volunteers and many of the customers are parish members.
The restaurant may be a pillar of the local community, but it is open to everyone. Simply walk up to the register, order, and wait for someone to bring out your tray. Favorite menu items include stuffed cabbage, or holubtsi—a satisfying blend of savory pork and rice filling, tender cabbage, and light tomato sauce—and varenyky, boiled potato-and-cheese dumplings that are hand-rolled by volunteers in the morning. Rounding out the usual offerings are dill-topped borscht—a pleasant blend of sweet and sour with bits of potato, carrot, onions, and beef—and sausage, or kovbasa, sourced from a local Ukrainian butcher. There are also rotating daily specials ranging from stuffed eggplant to potato pancakes.
While the fare isn’t flashy, it’s solid, hearty food served in an incredibly warm, homey atmosphere. If you still have room afterward, check out the desserts (which, also depending on the day, can feature the likes of Napoleon cake, cherry turnovers, or doughnuts). And if you don’t, remember to clean up after yourself and take your tray and trash to the hallway outside. This is a spot where everyone is welcome, but everyone is also expected to pitch in.
Know Before You Go
Streecha is open Wednesday through Sunday. Check up-to-date hours and daily specials on their Instagram.