By Emma Rudy
Have you ever tasted Slovenian cuisine? The beauty of New York City is in its diverse culture. The food scene is one of the greatest in the country, and that is because you do not have to travel the world to experience the food of these countries. You can walk right out of your apartment and choose the many different cuisines offered in this dynamic city.
Offering an old school-industrial-like space
I recently dined at Pekarna NYC, a historical building on the Upper West Side. Owner Dean O’Neill was keen on keeping the essence of every business that had previously occupied this space and created an old-school, industrial-like space reusing all available materials that were left behind. Offering Slovenian American cuisine, this restaurant is much more than what you see from the outside.
The history behind it all
Before Pekarna, there were two buildings joined together. One building was a bakery containing five ovens that extended under the sidewalk to the roadway. Eventually, this had to be bricked up, but learning about this as you walk through the space spikes your imagination.
To adhere to the heritage of the building, Pekarna translates to “bakery” in Slovenian. “This is what inspired me to make it into a Slovenian American restaurant,” Dean continues, “A friendly American handshake that celebrates the discovery and enjoyment of the Slovenian culture and food.” Offering new American Cuisine is also beneficial as it provides familiarity for diners.
Reuse, Reduce, Recycle
During the renovation, all of the materials from the bakery as well as the apartment building that was above this space were used in the process of building Pekarna NYC. As you walk through the restaurant, pay close attention to all the thoughtful, historical touches.
A 100- year old dumbbell hangs from the ceiling; the original box, rail, counterweight, and bell. Adjacent to the dumbbell is one of the nine bathrooms. This particular bathroom used to be the main chute from the apartment. Each bathroom is uniquely designed, but the jazz-themed bathroom was my favorite.
As I walked downstairs, I was shocked to see how many spaces they offer. With 6,500 square feet to this massive building, it certainly makes sense to take advantage of this space. With over three rooms offering different themes and appearances, you can host events, parties, or even enjoy dinner with a few friends in a room of your choice.
The first room as you walk downstairs is the banquet room. White booths surrounding this medium-sized room, flashing colorful lights, and a large projector screen. This can make for an exciting private party or even an office party. The Dragon Room; white table cloth, bar cart as you enter, “I wanted to make it feel like Mykonos,” Dean says.
I asked if anyone can dine here or if these rooms are only rented out for events. “Anyone can dine in here, I have a couple who only choose to eat at the far end table because they love this room.” We then enter another room, with beautiful french tapestry behind the back booth also designed as a privacy shield from the next room. The happy hour room, a narrow yet beautifully lit room offers a relaxed and funky feel.
The Parillo Room
What used to be Miss Kim’s laundry is now a room that hosts the very special once-a-year Alice in Wonderland cocktail adventure. Dean points to the front of the room and tells me, “This is where she used to sit.” As I mentioned before, it is not just the first floor that offers a historical background.
Alice in Wonderland
Hosted once a year, this event brings “a theatrical, alternate reality experience that will take you down the rabbit hole and through the looking glass!” The entire experience is 90 minutes in which you create two Wonderland cocktails, solve riddles, gobble on the “eat me” cake, paint, and much more. Tickets are limited, so don’t miss out on the fun!
Pekarnas cocktail menu blew me away. With every option imaginable, there are no excuses not to indulge. Boozy and frozen drinks, spiked seltzers, and even non-alcohol drinks slurp your way to heaven. As Dean happily says, “all roads lead to a bar.” That, my friend, is correct.
What I was most surprised by is how they manicured their drinks by removing all sugar substitutes and syrups to one, and only one bottle, for every cocktail. This magical bottle is made in France and is 100% raw cane syrup. The syrup is strained and filtered to only give you the best of the sweet taste, without the extra nonsense mostly every other bar uses.
Rags to Riches Cocktail
Trying their most popular drink, Rag to Riches comes in a coupe glass and will remind you very much of an espresso martini appearance-wise, but the soft, foamy egg white on top brings a softness to your lips, while the raspberry liqueur and black rose liquor adds a buzzy and flavorful addition to the cocktail without the extra syrups.
Slovenian American Cuisine Dishes
Crispy Wild Boar; Crispy spiced battered, mustard, and sweet chili sauce that this fried ball absorbs into its core to give you a gamey yet savory bite. Lamb meatballs served in a cast-iron skillet, another gamey choice, offering tender bites and chunks of floating cheese above.
If you want to try a smaller portion of the Wild Boar, try the Slovanian hot pocket with wild boar and cheese. Dip this pocket into their sauce and the flavor of the meat permeates in your mouth. Island-style fried chicken; Chef Kamals spicy cajun breading, buttermilk, served with crispy fries and hot sauce. Crunchy yet soothing to the palate.
The dessert options are all extremely tempting. There are two Slovenian cuisine options; Slovenian Apple Pie; baked apple roll, 10X sugar (confectioners sugar), cinnamon, and nutmeg. The warmth of the apples soak into the dough, allowing for a soft texture inside, and a crispy bite on the outside. Vanilla gelato and wild berries surround your plate.
The Slovenian bled cake; puff pastry, vanilla custard, seasonal berries, and passionfruit icing. A mix of fruitful flavors with the texture of cool and thick custard after a meal might just be the best option to end the night.
Dine with Pekarna and experience a foreign taste
Pekarna is a special place to dine as you feel you are part of the history that remains within the restaurant. From industrial designs to multiple rooms catered for a casual dinner or a soirée. Spoil your belly with foreign tastes and boozy beverages, and do not forget to attend Alice in Wonderland for a special event you will not forget!
Want to read more of our latest reviews? Check out our review of Saigon Shack.
Emma Wrayne Rudy is a food connoisseur ready to indulge in every chance she gets to explore the beauty of New York City’s endless food scene. Emma’s writing style focuses on local hidden gems, food carts, food trucks, ma and pa joints, and eats that are affordable for everyone to try. With the diverse culture New York offers, she wants to emphasize on the foods that are less talked about and create a story behind each one. Growing up in Los Angeles at the age of seventeen Emma’s curiosity for food started as she went to every restaurant she could and wrote reviews on her experience, the ambiance, and her meals. Moving to New York a year ago she is ready to take on the immense food culture New York City has to offer, and continues to dedicate her days to writing as much as she can to pursue her dream as a food writer and storyteller.