"Kafana je moja sudbina" (Kafana is my destiny) goes the popular song, filled with fiddles and and maybe an accordion. (Check it out on iTunes.) We would love it if someone took us on a date here, we said to each other, laughing, since we were already there. Even with a handful of other eaters, a Friday night dinner still felt like a find—and it was certainly a deal, the pricey fish notwithstanding. Kafana, with its old-world charm and cheap, filling feed, is best for: an offbeat, low-cost date.
The East Village's borscht belt takes all comers, old foreigners next to fresh new faces, forming one of the city's most democratic public spaces. And come icy winters, their bowls of chicken soup and plates of potato dumplings satisfy like nothing else. Here's a roster of the old timers that are still standing, with field notes on what to order.