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An Arlington restaurant got death threats for Russian signage, their regulars and fans are rallying

Taste of Europe in Arlington displays a Ukrainian flag and partially blacked out sign.
Kailey Broussard
Taste of Europe at 1901 W. Pioneer Parkway blacked out its sign that says "Russian gifts" after receiving threatening calls and messages. Much of Taste of Europe's menu features fare from countries including Hungary, Poland and Ukraine.

Val Tsalko says he and his staff at Taste of Europe were in the middle of rebranding the east European restaurant and grocery store when the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. When they started receiving threatening calls and messages over their sign that said "Russian gifts," they acted fast.

In a day, restaurant employees partially blacked out their sign and posted Ukrainian flags around the restaurant.

Tsalko says much of the menu is not Russian. The restaurant's fare includes dishes that are eaten all over eastern Europe, like Ukrainian borscht and chicken Kiev, Bulgarian pickled vegetables and German sausage. The restaurant had used the term "Russian" to describe the region.

"No one really knew about Ukraine until two weeks ago," Tsalko said. "They still don't know where Belarus is, where I'm from, so we kind of use (Russia) as like a general term."

Tsalko says he figured Taste of Europe would receive backlash when Russia invaded Ukraine Feb. 24, but did not expect the threats to pour in so soon. He wanted to protect his employees, some of whom are Ukrainian.

"I'm not really worried about myself, I'm worried about my staff, that was my biggest concern," he said.

Tsalko's family opened Taste of Europe in 2002. He says the restaurant's regulars have taken to its defense online. Meanwhile, he has new customers who wish to show solidarity for the restaurant.

"We do have a really great following," Tsalko said. "We have new support as well because of this."

Tsalko and his staff flitted around the ornate dining room Sunday, March 13, chatting with new and old customers.

Jennifer Dembroski visited Taste of Europe for the first time with her husband, who is Polish. The couple had found the restaurant while looking for restaurants offering Polish food weeks ago, and decided to visit the restaurant after it became the target of aggressive, negative comments on social media.

"We can't do much sitting over here in America, but we at least want to show that we support them and support the business here, just because they've had so much fallout just because of everything going on," Dembroski said.

A few tables over, Rose Van Alstine and her husband sat down at their reserved table. The couple visits a couple times a month. Van Alstine says people should not persecute local business owners for a conflict they cannot control.

"They live here in the community and they're part of our community," she said.

Got a tip? Email Kailey Broussard at You can follow Kailey on Twitter @KaileyBroussard.

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Kailey Broussard covers Arlington for KERA News and The Arlington Report. Broussard has covered Arlington since 2020 and began at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram before joining the station in 2021.