Normally we’d be freaked out by a giant bear watching over our shoulder while we eat, but for Bushwick’s cozy and ambitious new Russian cafe, we’ll make an exception. “Nobody really recreates Russian food for a modern palette,” says Ksenya Roz, an artist turned cuisinier who opened Dillinger’s less than two weeks ago.
“We’re trying to mix traditional products with modern American,” adds Mary Kaushansky, Roz’s business partner and best friend since childhood. The brightly lit cafe (named after Kaushanksy’s three-year-old son) boasts bits of nostalgia from the owners’ Brighton-Beach-by-way-of-the-Soviet-Union childhood, including porcelain teapots from their mothers’ houses and books they loved as children. To balance out the kitsch, there are more modern features like gorgeous honeycomb-shaped shelves, a tiled wall with a gangster theme and a sizable backyard. That’s where you’ll find the mural of the bright red, three-eyed bear, by Andrew Steiner of Secret Handshake.
“This is the type of neighborhood that’s open to something new and different,” says Kaushansky. But that doesn’t mean they’re breaking out the 10-to-15 course tasting menu of deconstructed Russian cuisine just yet.
“It’s street food mixed with home food,” says Roz of the cafe’s initial offerings. “We want to extend our family cooking to our neighborhood.”
For the morning crowd, there’s coffee, pastries (including croissants topped with pumpkin butter and smoked gouda) and an impressive variety of teas, some of which come directly from Russia. For more hearty fare, Dillinger’s offers Russian-style hot dogs on a pretzel bun, mini pancakes, and meat and vegetarian dumplings. In the coming weeks, the menu will expand to include modern spins on buckwheat and semolina porridges and borscht, all staples of the Russian diet.
Everything will be served daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. until the outdoor space is up and running. Once the café’s liquor license comes through and the weather permits, Kaushansky and Roz plan to extend their hours and fire up a custom made grill to serve Russian-style shish kabobs alongside cocktails and local brews. We can bear-ly wait. Till then, here’s the menu.
The Hunter: Russian “hot dog” with sauerkraut, spicy mustard, and jalapeno spread – $6.50
Cowberry: Croissant with sweet farmer cheese and cranberry jam – $4.75
Smokin’ Pumpkin: Croissant with smoked gouda pumpkin butter – $4.75
Mini Pancakes: mini pancakes with three sauces (condensed milk, nutella and seaberry jam) – $4.75
Pelmeni: dumplings with chicken, veal, potato ‘n’ shrooms or beef ‘n’ pork – $7.00
Dillinger’s, 146 Evergreen Ave., nr. Jefferson St., Bushwick, Brooklyn