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Meet Ruta, the first Ukrainian restaurant in DC

Ukrainian restaurant Washington DC Ruta
Credit: Mark Temnycky
Meet Ruta, the first Ukrainian restaurant in DC
Located in the heart of the American capital, Ruta is visited by numerous members of Congress and Hill

In the bustling streets of Washington, DC lies a hidden gem. Ruta, the first-ever Ukrainian restaurant in the area, opened its doors in the heart of the city. Since its opening, Ruta has been warmly accepted by residents in Washington, DC. In fact, the Ukrainian restaurant has become quite popular in Eastern Market.

“This has been a long time coming,” said a spokesperson from the restaurant. “We have been working to establish this place for over a year.”

When Russia’s full-scale war in Ukraine began in February 2022, the Ruta team was already in search of a location for the first Ukrainian restaurant in the District of Columbia.

Credit: Mark Temnycky

“There is a large Ukrainian community in Maryland, DC, and Virginia,” another spokesperson from the restaurant stated. “Ruta is located in the center of the city, and it can serve as a meeting point for Ukrainians in the area.”

Since its doors opened in late April, the restaurant has been overwhelmed by customers. Reservations are quickly snatched up, and bookings have been registered weeks in advance. To accommodate for this demand, the restaurant is now offering online orders as well.

Simply put, Ruta’s instant success and popularity suggest that DC residents are interested in Ukrainian culture and cuisine.

The restaurant has been visited by DC residents from different cultures and backgrounds. Given its proximity to the Capitol Building, numerous members of Congress and Hill staffers have come to the restaurant. Some of them have even come on multiple occasions. Their attendance suggests that there is strong support for Ukraine amongst the DC community.

Aside from being a restaurant, Ruta also serves as a cultural institution. Ukrainian artwork and other works can be found throughout the restaurant. For example, a portrait of prominent historical figure Bohdan Khmelnytsky, a former leader of Ukraine during the 1600s, can be found hanging on the wall.

As for the cuisine, Ukrainian food is listed through Ukrainian transliteration rather than American equivalents. This is a way to inform and educate the community about Ukrainian cuisine and culture. It also serves as soft diplomacy as it exposes DC residents to Ukraine in an area where they might not otherwise get exposure.

For example, Ruta’s menu is filled with traditional Ukrainian foods. Varenyky (potato dumplings), holubtsi (cabbage rolls), and deruny (potato pancakes) take on their Ukrainian name rather than a Western translation. Borscht (beet soup) has become a very popular menu item. The restaurant also provides a variety of Ukrainian beers and liquors. Simply put, the institution has brought a small part of Ukraine to America’s capital.

Credit: Mark Temnycky

Outside of the restaurant itself, Ruta has also collaborated with the Ukrainian community. For example, the team has catered food at Ukraine House, a cultural center in northwest DC. The center has hosted speaking events, music concerts, and happy hours. This has helped increase awareness and exposure to the DC community about Ukraine. In addition, Ruta has hosted some Ukrainian organizations for dinner, where participants have gathered to discuss support and aid to Ukraine during the war. In other words, Ruta has become a meeting point for Ukrainians.

As Ruta continues establishing itself in DC, it has become an instant hit. The team is currently preparing for its grand opening, which will be announced at a later date. In the meantime, Ruta is overwhelmed with the love and support that it has received from the community.

“We are very thankful to the DC community for its support for Ukraine,” a Ruta spokesperson stated. “To date, around 80 percent of our customers are non-Ukrainians. We have also had many repeat customers!”

Overall, Ruta has promoted greater awareness about Ukraine and has given DC residents exposure to Ukrainian culture, traditions, and cuisine. Customers have often wondered about Ukraine, and now they have a better sense of this country and region. They have also wondered how they can help Ukraine during Russia’s ongoing invasion.

For many Americans, Ukraine is a country in Europe thousands of miles away. Now, DC has a part of Ukraine.

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