Veselka, which means rainbow in Ukrainian, was founded by Volodymyr and Olha Darmochwal in 1954. Volodymyr and his wife were Ukrainian refugees in the late 1940s and found a home in the Little Ukraine neighborhood of the lower east side of Manhattan.

Ever since then, Veselka has grown from a small newsstand into a 24 hour gathering place, serving up Ukrainian soul food with traditional dishes like Pierogi/Varenyky, Stuffed Cabbage, Potato Pancakes, Blintzes and Goulash to the delight of locals and visitors alike.

The restaurant, now owned and operated by Volodymyr’s grandson, Jason Birchard, was owned and operated by Tom Birchard for many years, the son in law of the original founders. Throughout the restaurant’s 69 year history, it has been expanded several times, been featured in many prominent films (such as Ocean’s 8, Trainwreck and Juno) along with numerous features in local and national publications. Veselka is, put simply, an institution of New York City.

Beyond the acclaim and popularity amongst it's customers, Veselka continues to be a pillar in the local Ukrainian community. Ukrainians mostly comprise it's staff and the ownership remain very active in the local community, supporting the Ukrainian National Institute, Razom for Ukraine, and local St. George’s Church via food and monetary donations on a regular basis.


Jason Birchard

3rd Generation Owner

New York City-raised and a graduate of SUNY Albany, Jason has been working at Veselka since he was a teenager. Upon graduation in 1989, he was instrumental in opening Veselka up to 24 hours in 1991. In 2000 he stepped into the role of handling…. daily operations. Today he continues to oversee all aspects and is always searching for new ventures to expose Veselka. Jason got married in 2009 to Jessyka Cueva and has one child, Sofia. Jason’s heritage has made sure he continues to support Ukraine during these tragic times. He is on the advisory board of the Ukrainian Habitat Fund, a member of the Ukrainian Institute, and a contributor to the Ukrainian Museum. Veselka has collected and donated more than $250,000 to various Ukrainian Humanitarian causes in the past year.


2nd Generation Owner

Tom was born in Williamsburg, PA and grew up in Pennsauken, NJ. He attended Rutgers University, graduating in 1969 with a degree in business administration. He was introduced to Veselka in 1965 while dating the original owner’s daughter, Marta... Marta and Tom married the following year and Tom began working at Veselka part-time while completing his education at Rutgers. They have two children, Jason and Tom Jr. Tom took over the operation of the business in 1975 when his father in law died suddenly and has been running Veselka ever since with the help of his son, Jason. Tom and Marta eventually separated and Tom later married veterinarian Dr. Sally Haddock who owns St. Marks Veterinary Hospital. They have three children, Kristen, Todd and Sara.


Director of Development

A graduate of The Ohio State University’s Hospitality Management program, Justin has spent his career in hospitality, working for brands such as Hyatt, Pret A Manger and Tartine Bakery. Justin is Jason’s first cousin and son of Tom Birchard’s brother, Stephen… With the retirement of Tom in the past few years, Justin and his wife Rosie and daughter Violet recently relocated back from Los Angeles to join the Veselka team. Justin spent 8 years previously in NYC working in procurement and then construction project management and development roles for the aforementioned brands. Justin spent 3 years in California opening restaurants in Los Angeles and San Francisco. He brings a multitude of disciplines to his role at Veselka and is eager to assist in building his family’s brand.


Executive Chef

Olesia Lew is a chef, recipe writer and menu developer. She has her plate full and is loving it. For seven years she was the Chef at Veselka, New York’s iconic East Village Ukrainian restaurant, where she created their education program and continues in… that capacity, teaching master classes in Varenyky/Pierogi making. Olesia currently works with the Veselka family as a menu developer, media liaison and consultant. She recently appeared on the Rachel Ray Show, demonstrating Varenyky making. She is an active member in New York’s large and vibrant Ukrainian community. In addition to her Culinary degree, Olesia has a Bachelor’s in Cultural Anthropology. She is fascinated by food as cultural identity, which inspires her creativity in the kitchen. As an authority on cultural comfort foods, she has been enlisted for her expertise from such media outlets as the BBC, New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the industry magazine Plate. Olesia has cooked for heads of state and heads of households.