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U is for Ukrainian
Why you dernblasted whipper snappers! The East Village wasn’t always the gentrified capital of globo-hipster monoculture, no sir, it used be an old-fashioned working-class neighborhood. And another thing, it was full of Ukrainians! They were everywhere! And it was good. Times have changed, but you can still get a sense of the old neighborhood at places like all-star diner Veselka (144 Second Ave) or the aptly named Ukrainian East Village Restaurant (140 Second Ave), and for a look at Ukrainian culture, try the Ukrainian Museum (203 Second Ave) and their prized collection of pysanka, or Ukrainian Easter Eggs.
V is for Vietnamese Subs
When you think subs you’re probably more inclined to think of Hoagies than Hanoi, but Vietnamese submarine sandwiches are a lesser-known tradition than the cheesesteak variety made popular in the city of brotherly love. Perhaps because of the long baguettes provided by its French occupiers, the Bahn mi has survived as a delicious and amazingly cheap lunch treat, filled with any combination of spicy meats, fresh vegetables, hot sauce and cilantro. A low profile location that doubles as a video-variety store is Chinatown’s Sau Voi Corp (101 Lafayette St)
W is for Walloon
Belgium is a kooky little country. The top half speaks Flemish and the bottom half speaks French. Kookier still, the French Belgians call themselves Walloons. What’s not kooky about Belgium? Their absolute expertise with two of civilizations greatest accomplishments: french fries and beer, both of which can be found at upscale Meatpacking District restaurant called Markt (401 W. 14 th St). For a more casual, faster Belgian experience, try Pommes Frites (123 Second Ave), where you can take your fries to go in a cone, slathered in one of 26 delicious toppings.
X is for Aix en Provence
Ever since that old, uptown Mexican restaurant (the one that began with the letter X) shut down, this has been a difficult category to fill — so we cheated. Here’s how it works: Aix en Provence is a beautiful little town in the south of France, about an hour from Nice; Chez Jaqueline (72 MacDougal St) is a charming little restaurant that specializes in cuisine from Nice — get it? Yeah, it’s a bit of a stretch, but make sure you try the classic soup de poissons, and the Pavé de Loup Róti à la Tapenade, avec la Sauce Vierge. Trust us.
Y is for Yiddish Theater
For over a half-century, New York was the world capital of Yiddish theater. Beginning in 1892, with the fist Yiddish theater production ever held in America (it was called Koldunya; or, the Witch), the area around the Bowery and Second Avenue gave rise to theaters like the Oriental, the Thalia, the Windsor, the Rumanian Opera House, and many more — in 1914, there were an astonishing 14 Yiddish theater companies. But as totalitarian madness destroyed the roots of Yiddish culture in Europe, the scene wilted in New York, and has only been carried on through sporadic productions by the Hebrew Actors Union. For a little nosh of the past, head to the legendary Second Avenue Deli (156 Second Ave), always a destination point for theatergoers of past generations.
Z is for Zebulon vs. Zum Schneider
Jazz club vs. biergarten, O’Batzda (Bavarian cheese spread) vs. Camembert (spreadable French cheese), Côtes du Rhone vs. Allgauer Büble — no matter how together they might seem on the whole European Union thing, France and Germany are always ready to go toe-to-toe, whether it’s over Alsace or a soccer match. So instead of picking one entry for Z we’ve split the difference between this cooler-than-cool Williamsburg bar and music venue (Zebulon, 258 Wythe Ave), and that lovely little slice of Munich in Alphabet City (Zum Schneider, 107 Ave C). They’re both good… everyone’s a winner