Kate Pierson, one of the founding members of the B-52s, recently spoke to Edible Manhattan to recount a New York food experience that evokes a powerful memory for her. She chose The Kiev—a fitting restaurant for the current moment. Though the beloved East Village Ukrainian restaurant shuttered in 2000, Kate’s vibrant memory of it celebrates the country’s comforting food—and will make you want some late into the night.
“When the B-52s came up to New York from Georgia in the late 70’s to play clubs like CBGB, Max’s Kansas City and the Mudd Club, every band did two sets: 12 a.m. and 2 a.m. All that rock ‘n’ roll made you mighty hungry. For after-hours dining when you know it’s going to be an all-nighter—too late for dinner, too early for breakfast—the place to be in the East Village was the all-night Ukrainian restaurant The Kiev.
“Nothing soothes the sleepless alcohol-infused brain like a thick slice of challah bread accompanied by mushroom barley soup, or kasha varnishkas with mushroom gravy. It was high-test punk fuel for the soul.
“The Kiev was one of several restaurants that catered to the all-night punk crowd. Others included Odessa and Veselka in East Village and part of what was called the blintzkrieg neighborhood. They were the epicenter of the punk late-night hang and a lot of rock ‘n’ roll business was conducted from the bank of phone booths located at the back of Veselka.
“I grew up in Weehawken, N.J., in a very ethnically diverse neighborhood, but what we ate at home was super bland—meat, fish, potatoes, canned vegetables, etc. So this Ukrainian food seemed so exotic and yet still felt like home. Punks, poets (like Allen Ginsberg), artists and musicians populated the crowded booths. The wafting homey smell of challah bread, apple pancakes, kasha, borscht and mushroom barley soup makes me miss that old New York all-night haven.”
This story originally appeared in the Spring ’22 issue of Edible Manhattan. To be the first to see stories like this, subscribe to our print magazine here.
Illustration by Marcos Sorensen.