Eating Russian dumplings in Brighton Beach ranks high on the list of dining experiences all New Yorkers should try at least once—and there’s no dumpling spot closer to the actual sand than Varenichnaya. This small cash-only restaurant is filled with painted stacking dolls, hanging bunches of plastic grapes, and taxidermied fowl. Geese and dolls aside, Varenichnaya serves exceptional boiled dumplings like slippery beef-and-pork pelmeni and vareniki stuffed with mashed potatoes.

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Even though the restaurant proudly flaunts its Russian heritage (there’s a Russian menu on the back of the English one), a lot of the dumplings here might remind you of food associated with other Eastern European and Central Asian countries like Uzbekistan and Poland. You’ll also see soups and kebabs on the menu, but those dishes feel secondary to the dumplings. If you look around the restaurant, most people here will be eating nothing but $6 plates of delicious stuffed dough balls.

The next time you have a beach day, stop by for lunch. (When it’s warm enough outside, they let people sit right on the sidewalk.) And if you can’t possibly wait to eat these savory, meat-filled purses in between visits to the restaurant, know that Varenichnaya also sells packs of 50 frozen pelmeni and vareniki. How long those last is between you and your freezer.

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Food Rundown

Siberian Meat Pelmeni

Varenichnaya’s pelmeni aren’t much larger than the dice you’d use in a stupid boardgame you were forced into playing, and each one is encased in a wrinkled doughy outer layer. The Siberian variety’s filling combines ground pork and beef, and this meaty blend is seasoned with black pepper. Every order arrives with about 20 little guys. You’ll want to eat them all. (Part of the reason why Varenichnaya’s pelmeni will short circuit your brain’s pleasure center is because they’re tossed in butter.)

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These crescent-shaped envelopes come stuffed with soft potato mash. If that description reminds you of school cafeteria pierogi, replace those early-childhood memories with some much better ones. Every order arrives with a little mound of sautéed onions on top, and you should try to get a little bit of this onion (and some sour cream) in each bite.

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If we’re being picky, we slightly prefer the pelmeni and vareniki to Varenichnaya’s manti, but only because the thin buttery dough can’t hold its own against the beef-and-lamb centers. Each order comes with four pieces, with a handful of fresh dill on top for some clean, herbal relief.

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