Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Touch of Ukraine serving traditional dishes on Madison’s East Side

Opening of Ukrainian restaurant in July begins new life for staff
Kateryna Temchenko/Touch of Ukraine

Touch of Ukraine, which opened two months ago on Madison’s East Side at 2438 Winnebago Street, is known for its unique style of cooking and home cooking inspired flavors. Run by a group of Ukrainian citizens who moved to the U.S. to escape the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War, the story of the restaurant’s opening is a hopeful one.

A single word comes to mind for those who have savored Touch of Ukraine’s borsch, a Ukrainian pork soup with fresh sour cream, or tasted their varenyky, handmade Ukrainian dumplings dressed in fried onions and potatoes — “home.” But these staple soup dumpling dishes also have potential to become non-Ukrainian guests’ favorite dishes.

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Touch of Ukraine owner Kateryna Temchenko said that the restaurant credits all of their inspiration to Ukrainian cooking traditions. The cuisine reminds guests of their grandmother’s freshly prepared delicacies or their mother’s Saturday dinner.


“It was our main goal to serve everything we eat at Touch of Ukraine home style, everything is made from scratch,” Temchenko said. “There is restaurant type cooking everywhere, so we decided to do it like we do it back home.”

Touch of Ukraine doesn’t have a secret recipe or magic fairy dust — each dish brings to mind generations of cooking for customers and much more for the restaurant’s staff.

For the staff, each traditional dish resembles a previous life — a happier and more peaceful one. Nationality and emotion are a part of the cooking process, starting from the moment each staff member walks in the door.

“In some ways it is home here,” Temchenko said. “To create [food] is to create a piece of Ukraine here, a place where we can feel ourselves at home.”

Temchenko left her home in Ukraine a few months after the beginning of the war. Assisted by Gary Gorman, a developer here in Madison, she and 11 others first settled in Milwaukee.

Before coming to the U.S., Temchenko studied management and worked as a manager in Zaporizhzhia, an industrial city in Ukraine. She spent lots of time with friends and family and did rhythmic gymnastics for sport.

Temchenko reflects fondly upon her life in her home country.

“When something like [war] happens to you, you realize that every memory from a peaceful life is a happy memory,” Temchenko said. “I love my nature. I love my country. I love the memories of the holidays. My memories of college.”

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After moving to Milwaukee, Temchenko and the 11 others who she settled with there wanted to be independent and earn a living. By Gorman’s suggestion, the group moved to Madison to start a restaurant serving Ukrainian cuisine, which is now Touch of Ukraine.

The large presence of Ukrainian community and cuisine in Chicago motivated the group, and they quickly aspired to create similar solidarity here in Madison. None of them had any prior knowledge in the food industry, but Tetiana Yermolova, one of the group members who now works at the restaurant, was a cook.

Temchenko said that while the group did not have a background in the restaurant industry, they were dedicated to working hard.

“All of us needed a job,” Temchenko said. “We wanted to be able to earn our own money, be independent, pay taxes and we understood that none of us would be able to work those professions we worked at home and we wanted to stay together. One of us was a professional cook, so why not?”

Thus began a new life for Temchenko, Yermolova and her husband, who led the opening of the restaurant.

Touch of Ukraine opened in mid-July and has received much praise since then. The restaurant is best known for its Chicken Kyiv, a traditional Ukrainian rolled fried chicken with melting butter and breadcrumbs.

Touch of Ukraine also serves Ukrainian salads made with fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, olives and feta cheese. Additionally, it offers glazed salmon, stuffed peppers and Ukrainian buckwheat and mushrooms.

Pelmeni, which are Eastern-European style dumplings, are also on the menu, along with mlyntsi, which are Ukrainian pancakes filled with ground beef or cheese.

Along with traditional dishes, the restaurant serves its Eastern European twist on American classics like barbecue, burgers and fries.

To finish off a meal, the dessert menu includes napoleon cake and spicy Ukrainian vodka. Another palette-cleansing choice is the honey cake, a custard cake with cream frosting.

The restaurant hosts happy hours from 2-5 p.m. every day, along with Badger specials on Saturdays and Sundays.

Taste of Ukraine currently donates to seven charity organizations aiding those affected by the war, according to the restaurant’s website.

The opening of the restaurant shows there is hope for people like Temchenko and the other staff members whom the war in Ukraine has affected. Temchenko and her partners said they are grateful to the City of Madison and its people for being supportive and hope to give back to society that has shown them so much love.

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