Juke Audio
I Remember Leshko's: Audio Version

I Remember Leshko's: Audio Version

It was a terrible Lower East Side dive, but it was there forever. Oh Leshko's, Leshko's, where is my youth? It's gone with you.

*Our paying subscribers can now listen to full audio versions of some of Juke’s most-loved essays. Last month, we heard The Dreams of Divorcing Women, which was published in January. This month, we’re listening to I Remember Leshko’s by Paul Vlachos, which was published last November. Free subscribers and everyone else can hit play for a short preview. Then check out the original piece, linked below, if you haven’t read it before… TM*

“Leshko's was a dive of a diner on the Northwest corner of Avenue A and 7th Street, once a crossroads of the junkie world in the 1980s, home to young crunchy seasonal panhandlers with pit bulls in the 1990s, and ultimately waves of gentrifiers – finance people, tech people, people who did things online that felt nebulous and nameless. Thank the economic boom and many years of prosperity, but the Lower East Side, known as the ‘East Village’ and now closer to something like ‘Village Estates East,’ has disappeared.

“When I saw the papered-over windows one day in 1999, I had a faint hope for one of those basic Polish restaurant "renovations," the kind that change the decor a bit and raise the prices a lot. Veselka had already gone from an eclectic joint with a homey little back room to a slick, modern restaurant. I loved the food, but the experience was different. Still, it survived and that counts for a lot. Most of its contemporaries would not survive. KK Polish restaurant lasted a few more years. Neptune hung on until the pandemic. The Neptune was a stalwart of mine for years. My friend Tommy and I would order so much food that one time a waitress – a cranky old woman – took our order and said to us, ‘This is a joke, right?’ Odessa is long gone, and so is the place whose name I cannot remember on 1st Avenue around 6th Street.

“Kiev was my favorite restaurant of all time, a Ukrainian diner with fantastic soups, pierogies, and legendary French toast. The kitchen was ruled over by an old woman we called “Mama,” and it was a place where you could see anyone at any time. I was in there once when Joey Ramone came in with his mom. They sat in the back and ate their food. Nobody bothered them. Quentin Crisp was there another night. Kiev was amazingly egalitarian. Or maybe New York was just different then.”

Read the full piece here…


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Paul Vlachos