The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

Veselka's Cheeseburger: Still One of My Favorites

Belly. Get in it.

I recently recommended the burger at Veselka to a friend as a good burger in the East Village. Unfortunately, after eating it he didn't feel the same way.

My first reaction: NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

My second reaction after allowing my blood pressure to normalize: I can't be giving people crappy burger recs. I'll have to try it again.

Left without dinner plans last Sunday night, I went to Veselka to give it a go. In conclusion: Still good. Really good.

But before I go on, I should note that I'm not sure if the burger had succeeded merely on gustatory merits or if the mélange of unrelated demoralizing happenings coupled with low expectations had something to do with it. Maybe it was the gloomy, wet weather; maybe it was the unexpected MTA WTF-ery (aka subway rerouting); maybe it was the attempt to find a dining companion and coming up empty handed; maybe it was the lunch comprised mostly of pretzels and clementines (although that didn't make me sad, just hungry).

Or maybe I just got lucky and ended up with just the right patty at just the right doneness in just the right bun. That's how it felt.

close up

Pink juices slowly dribbled out of the medium rare cheeseburger ($8; $7.50 without cheese) as I took photos of it. Good sign. It got better when I took my first bite: grilled smoky beef 'splosion. The flavor managed to blast through the barrier than is my perpetually mucus-blocked nose.

burger innards

The bun, a brioche bun heavily coated in sesame seeds, is uniquely airy and soft, perhaps the lightest burger bun I've ever had and easily one of my favorites. But instead of being insubstantial, the sponge-like structure holds up to the patty and soaks in the juices without disintegrating. The sesame seeds add a hint of toasted nuttiness and a welcome layer of crunch around the edge, which helped make up for the lack of crust on the patty. And while the burger may not have needed the double slices of American cheese, an extra layer of semi-gooey fat never hurts.

Although I usually find eight-ounce burgers too large for one meal, I had no problem scarfing this one down—the patty was well seasoned and nearly every bite was juicy. My whole meal was shorter than the 45-ish minutes I spent on the subway to get there (yes, I need to chew more). I wasn't in a rush; I just really liked the burger. (If it means anything, for once I exercised restraint and didn't get the requisite burger side of french fries. In Robyn-land, that's eating in moderation.) The simple burger managed to lift my spirits on what would've otherwise been a wasted day.

For a more in depth review of this burger, read Nick's review on A Hamburger Today. Not everyone agrees with the praise—there are reports of inconsistencies, and I know Adam isn't a fan and Kathy isn't into the bun—but I'm definitely going back for another burger. (Veselka is primarily known for being a Ukrainian restaurant and understandably doesn't scream, "GET A BURGER," but if I want pierogies / goulash / stuffed cabbage / etc. I'd rather go to Lomzynianka in Greenpoint.)


144 2nd Avenue, New York, NY 10003 (at East 9th Street; map)


Top 5 Burgers in NYC + Recent Episodes in Extreme Shake Shack-ing


Mikey / January 24, 2010 4:14 AM

Aaaw, Boppy. I can't imagine why anyone wouldn't want to eat with you. Maybe the burger sensed your gloomyness (is that a word?) and upped its spirit-lifting capabilities for you.

Also: FIRST!

TheSpatulaQueen / January 24, 2010 12:12 PM

The Veselka burger is one of my favorites too! Although the first time I went, I split it with a friend who demanded it be medium well, and I was underwhelmed. Next time, I had it medium rare and that sealed the deal. So maybe that's why your friend didn't like it?

Erin / January 24, 2010 12:45 PM

If I lived anywhere even REMOTELY close to NYC, I would so get a burger with you! My BFF asked me (just last night) where we should eat, and I recommended the falafel at Taim. However, we live in MN. NO GO. Sigh...

James / January 24, 2010 2:31 PM

I have yet to try the Veselka burger, but after seeing you post about it at least twice with this much love, it's on the top of my list! Intense sesame seed action will not be denied.

egeria / January 24, 2010 5:17 PM

Well heck, that burger has made MY day too, and I'm only reading about it! Looks fabulous! Even my cat licked his chops when he saw it :D


roboppy / January 24, 2010 7:51 PM

Mikey: It was a combo of people being busy / not wanting to go out in the rain / not wanting a burger. :) I guess sometimes it's easier to eat by yourself: do everything on your own time, eat what you want. Except I usually need another person to act as motivation for me to drag my butt anywhere.

TheSpatulaQueen: Medium well? :( That's no good. Not that medium well equates to a dry burger, but it usually does, eh? Not sure how my friend ordered it, but he said it was dry.

Erin: I haven't been to Taim in ages! I'll go for YOUUUU

Christine: SO MUCH SESAME SEED! It's glorious. Only a problem if you don't like sesame seeds. :)

James: Let me know what you think of it! I don't wanna overhype it.. ;-;

Egeria: Your cat sounds awesome.

Christina / January 25, 2010 2:17 PM

One of the strangest things to me is how the bottom bun usually disintegrates due to the burger juice while the top remains almost perfectly shaped. The buns are supposed to be edible napkins, so it's nice to see this one holds up.

The cheese looks great.

Ani / January 25, 2010 2:27 PM

Your blog is amazing you find wonderful and affordable food that says hey we don't have to eat fast food crap all the time or at all!

roboppy / January 26, 2010 12:35 AM

Christina: This one had no time to disintegrate cos I ATE IT SOOO FAST WOOHOO indigestion.

Ani: I don't eat much generic fast food, but I should probably work on eating more healthily.. :(

Jess: Next time you're in NYC, we can get this burger!

John / January 27, 2010 11:45 AM

I'm gonna have to try that Lomzymmyzonka place. I love good Eastern Euro food.

Robyn you didn't ask me out for that burger! >:O

But I still love ya. :)

Roger / January 27, 2010 3:29 PM

Try the burger next time with slices of the bacon (they get it from across the street at the East Village Meat Market) and you will be in heaven. I'm lucky enough to live just a block away!

Danny / January 28, 2010 11:43 AM

Oh man, it's been too long since I had this burger, but my memory of it is still favorable. There's just too many good burgers to eat in this city.

roboppy / January 28, 2010 12:18 PM

Donny: DO IT!

bionicgrrrl: Thanks! :) You shall come on the next Veselka Burger Outing!

Roger: Never thought about getting it with bacon! Admittedly, I rarely order burgers with bacon..but that could be good.

Danny: You need to reunite yourself with the burger.

Helen / January 29, 2010 3:33 PM

All I want at 3am after drinking and partying all night is a medium rare cheeseburger from Veselka. Yes, it is eaten under those certain conditions but it is damn good.

Eric / January 5, 2013 7:52 PM

Very old post, I know, but after being a pretty avid reader of Serious Eats/Slice/A Hamburger Today/et al., I've been pretty curious about Veselka's burger, and I finally got to try it when I just came up to NY for the better part of a week. I got to this post via Google, but I've followed SE long enough to know that Roboppy = Robin on SE.

We went there late night on the night of New Year's Day, and it was packed, so a restaurant probably isn't going to be at its best under those conditions, but being accustomed to a small handful of good late-night burger options in St. Louis, I just didn't see what was special about Veselka's burger. It was cooked fine and was juicy, sure, but the whole wide-and-thin approach to a 1/2 lb. burger has always struck me as a little awkward, especially when it sticks out of the sides of the bun like this.

The bottom bun was really thin -- it didn't disintegrate for me per se, but it getting basically saturated in grease/burger juice to the point of instant sogginess did make the burger more difficult to pick up and eat. The beef even tasted kind of old to me, less in an aged sort of way than a "maybe their supplier had been taking the holidays off and this is the last day or two they can viably use it before throwing it out" kind of way. Still, even if the beef had tasted fresher, I don't know that it really would have been anything special.

I liked the restaurant -- the housemade hot cider was amazing, and I could easily see coming back for pierogies and latkes, but I just found the burger kind of disappointing.

Otherwise, your suggestions were, as always, an invaluable resource. I came in with a Google Map in my phone primarily of places that you guys have reviewed that I was interested in.

Incidentally, have you Serious Eats guys been to Juliana's Pizza yet? With Totonno's still closed, I figured I'd go there, and while I haven't eaten at enough places to compare the quality of the various Lombardi's descendants, I thought that it was exceptional, basically everything that I had been hoping for from Totonno's.

roboppy / January 18, 2013 12:17 AM

Eric: I'm sorry to hear you didn't have a very good burger experience! Leading people astray makes me sad. I know other people who aren't really into Veselka's burger, though. I must admit, I haven't eaten this burger since...I wrote this post (I tried Veselka's bison burger in 2011, which tasted alright); I should go back and try it.

As for Juliana's, I guess we haven't tried it yet, but I'll assume it's on our Slice radar. Glad to hear it's good!

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