Back when they lived in Philadelphia, Brama Restaurant owners Taras Klitchyk and Tatiana Bogdanovych easily found the traditional ingredients and dishes from their home countries of Russia and Ukraine, respectively.
When they moved to Austin, however, the owners found themselves struggling to find simple items such as the carbonated beverage kvass or pierogi—a type of dumpling.
That led the two to open Borderless European Market, a grocery store specializing in ethnic ingredients, on Rutland Drive in North Austin.
“There was nothing else in the city to provide the products and stuff that people were looking for,” Klitchyk said.
Three years after opening the market, which is still open seven days a week, the two decided to take the next step and in July 2018 opened a restaurant.
“We had always been thinking about what we could do so [customers]can try all of the awesome things we have at the store,” Bogdanovych said. “We achieved exactly what we wanted to achieve. People who come to our store who are curious about the cuisine and the culture, now they can go somewhere and try it.”
The word “brama” is consistent throughout Eastern European languages, Bogdanovych said, meaning “gate.” The mission of the restaurant, the owners say, is to serve as a gateway to their cultures and cuisines.
To serve that goal, the restaurant hired head chef Tim Muench. The Wisconsin native brought with him an intimate knowledge of Eastern European cuisine due to his own family’s Hungarian and Czech heritage.
“Nearly everything on the menu I make for my dad,” Muench said. “It is very near and dear to my heart. I have learned from my grandparents and my mom.”
Brama’s menu is rounded out with a roster of authentic ethnic dishes. Muench introduced his grandmother’s Hungarian goulash to the menu, a rich, brothy stew made of prime chuck beef and root vegetables, seasoned with paprika and caraway.
The restaurant serves other cultural dishes, such as traditional golubtsi—pork or vegetables cooked with rice, wrapped in cabbage and served under tomato sauce—and beef stroganoff. Everything that comes out of the kitchen, Muench said, is made from scratch.
Bogdanovych’s mother, Marya, hand-makes all of the restaurant’s pierogi and pemini—the Russian equivalent of the Polish dumpling. Brama serves six varieties of pierogi, and the majority of those are vegetarian options.
The restaurateurs say they aspire to continue their mission of introducing American diners to the cuisine of Eastern Europe, all while maintaining a quality that pays respect to the culture of their homelands.
“To me, that’s the No. 1 thing that goes into this menu—is honoring the cultures. I don’t want to say there’s a huge pressure on me, but it’s a pressure I put on myself to make sure that it is right,” Muench said.
3301 Steck Ave., Austin | 512-579-0880
Hours: Tue.-Thu. 5-9 p.m.; Fri.-Sat.11 a.m.-3 p.m., 5-10 p.m.; Sun. 11 a.m.- 2 p.m. (brunch menu); closed Mon.
Unlocking the Cuisines of eastern Europe
Brama Restaurant head chef Tim Muench serves signature dishes of countries from throughout Eastern Europe.
Pierogi with sour cream and beet horseradish ($12)
Ukraine and Russia
Meat borsch ($9 bowl/$7 cup)