My Favorite Things: Tom Birchard Edition
We decided it was high time for some of our most ardent and vocal supporters to have a say here on Off the Grid. To that end, we have invited one of our favorite East Villagers, Tom Birchard, owner of Veselka, to let us know his favorite East Village spots.
We at GVSHP highly endorse going out during this fine fall weather and trying out Tom’s Top Picks.
“Since I’m in the restaurant business, I’m more interested in food than anything else. Hence the preponderance of food places. These are just a few of my faves.”
East Village Meat Market
This is my go-to place for freshly smoked kielbasa, homemade cold cuts, fresh, Eastern European bread, jelly donuts, and well-trimmed fresh meats. At one time there were numerous Polish and Ukrainian butchers like this around the neighborhood. I believe this is the only one left. These folks have always been one of the best. They smoke their own meats in the back of the shop and sell prepared foods like stuffed cabbage and blintzes on weekends. But the kielbasas are the star of the show.
One of the great things about New York in general and the East Village, in particular, is the availability of authentic, ethnic foods. Sunrise Mart is a real Japanese grocery store. When you step into the store you can easily imagine that you are food shopping in Tokyo.
New York is known for its ubiquitous, high-quality corner pizza shops. In my book, this is the best single slice place in the city. I feel really fortunate to have them so close by on 14th Street. How can I keep my diet when there is such good pizza just a few blocks away?
This little Italian grocery/deli has everything you need to make a delicious Italian meal. Fresh and dried pasta, fresh and smoked mozzarella, parmesan, prosciutto, bread, olives, cheese, etc. — this place has it all. They make mozzarella fresh every day. Back in the old days, you would see the owner out in front of the shop smoking cheese in a 55-gallon steel drum. They’ve been in the neighborhood since the early 1900’s.
This quirky, narrow little shop on East 13th Street sells only folding bikes. The proprietor, David Lam, is an enthusiastic proponent of the bikes he sells and he stands ready to answer questions and make repairs when needed. A number of years ago I discovered the convenience and pleasure of traveling around on a folding bike. It was a game changer. I use my Brompton for shopping trips, to get to doctor’s appointments, go to restaurants, and visit friends. I depend on my bike and David is always available when I need a quick repair. No Uber or subway for me. One of the things that make the East Village special is the proliferation of small, niche shops like this.
Those are some of Tom’s faves! We hope you will find a fave among them too.