The Bite: Warm Your Belly With Varenichnaya’s Comforting Grub

The Bite: Warm Your Belly With Varenichnaya’s Comforting Grub
Varenichnaya on Brighton 2nd Street.
Varenichnaya on Brighton 2nd Street. (Photo: Alex Ellefson / Sheepshead Bites)

THE BITE: Looking to escape from the blustery winter weather and warm up with some hot grub? Duck into Varenichnaya, a cozy, Russian cafe tucked away on a quiet side street just off Brighton Beach Avenue.

The restaurant, located on Brighton 2nd Street, makes for a welcoming winter refuge. The wood paneling and exposed brick on the walls, which are decorated with paintings of the rustic, Russian countryside, create the atmosphere of a glowing woodland cabin. On a breezy Sunday afternoon, customers crowded around the long wooden tables sharing quiet conversations, sipping tea, or passing around small vodka bottles. The loudest noise in the room was the rattle of plates moving around in the kitchen.

I have to admit that on my fist visit, it went completely over my head that the restaurant’s name, Varenichnaya, signaled their specialty is vareniki, an Eastern European dumpling. Oh well, I guess I have an incentive come back again. The place offers various kinds of vareniki, which are filled with fried cabbage, potatoes, mushrooms, meat, cherries, or cheese. All cost $6.95.

Instead I ordered a cup of tea ($2), veal stuffed pelmeni ($6.95), a smaller dumpling, and the lula kebab.

The tea at Varenichnaya.
The tea at Varenichnaya. (Photo: Alex Ellefson / Sheepshead Bites)

The tea was a piping hot, black English tea. Perfect for unthawing my belly. The pelmeni, meanwhile, was delightful in its simplicity. The dish had no spices or fancy sauces (except for a dollop of sour cream on the side). What made it special was that the ingredients were prepared perfectly. The wrapping was delicate, soft, and fell apart in your mouth. The meat was succulent and fully comforting.

Varenichnaya's veal pelmeni.
Varenichnaya’s veal pelmeni. (Photo: Alex Ellefson / Sheepshead Bites)

The Lula kebab, a hearty piece of ground meat, had a delicious charcoal flavor, as if it had been hauled out of a stone fire pit. Served on a gleaming metal spit with a side of of onions, this dish is a tummy-pleaser.

Varenichnaya's lula kebab.
Varenichnaya’s lula kebab. (Photo: Alex Ellefson / Sheepshead Bites)

It’s important to note that Varenichnaya is a cash-only business. It’s also BYOB if you would like to pass around a bottle with friends in this comfy neighborhood joint.

Varenichnaya, 3086 Brighton 2nd Street, between Brighton Beach Avenue and Brightwater Court, 718-332-9797. Open daily, 10am – 9pm.

The Bite is Sheepshead Bites’ column exploring the foodstuffs of the Sheepshead Bay area. Each week we check out a different offering from one of the many restaurants, delis, food carts, bakeries, butchers, fish mongers, or grocers in our neighborhood. If it’s edible, we’ll take a bite.

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