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Donald R. Houston

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   Recent articles by
Donald R. Houston

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           >> View all

Rus: Eateries, Cafes, Snackbars & Groceries
By Donald R. Houston   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Saturday, November 12, 2011
Posted: Monday, March 27, 2006

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How & where to shop for food stuffs, where to eat or not & more advice on having meals in the Rus. Definitely a "must" if you have any plans to travel to the Rus at anytime

Rus: Eateries, Cafes, Snackbars and Groceries

By: Dr. Donald Houston

How & where to shop for food stuffs, where to eat or not & more advice on having meals in the Rus. Definitely a "must" if you have any plans to travel to the Rus at anytime


We are going to discuss eating away from the home as well as how & where to shop for groceries. In the Rus depending upon the size of the city, town or village there are anywhere from several to many places to eat away from home. From resterans, bistros, kafes, bars, kafiteree or pubs one may get snacks, full meals or elegant dining.

Some resterans are small and others are larger. In most hotels there are dining rooms which are also resterans. Some carry a wide variety of items on the menu & others have a small specialty oriented menu such as a seafood resteran or a chicken resteran. Most bars & pubs serve a fairy good menu. The food is usually some of the best to be found out. Bistros serve some foods, mostly what we would call snacks & hor' d'vors.

Rus folk will be quick to tell you not to go to a hotel dining room no matter how many stars it rates! Seems that the food there is less than thrilling. It usually is bland, over cooked, warmed over & less than palatable. There are exceptions to be found throughout the former Soviet Union. Some notable exceptions are, in Kyiv, Ukraine at the Hotel Dnipro. The food there is excellent although a little pricey. Another exception is in Odessa at the Hotel Kyiv. Recently in Kyiv another hotel has been making strides in the right direction. It is the Hotel Slavutych. They serve very good Italian food as well as fairly good Ukrainian traditional fare. In St. Petersburg the Hotel Pulkovskaya has some excellent resterans within the hotel.

Most towns & small cities will have resterans that resemble large dance halls. Huge halls with table-service. Usually bands play & people dance as well so the dance hall resemblance is accurate. If you watch to see what the locals order & request the same thing you cannot go wrong. Some of the best food is to be found in these sort of eateries. Many times I have eaten excellent meals in the middle of what seemed like a dance marathon. If you take along a good tourist-type Russian language book or the best of the books of the sort in my opinion, Langensheidt's Pocket menu Reader-Russia, and just show the various items that you want to the waiter or waitress you will be able to order. If you are offered a "full" meal it is better to decline. It would consist of multiple courses, lots of beverages and would be exorbitant in price. Better to order several things individually. If there is a zakuska table present you can actually make a fine meal from that all by it self.

[]If you stumble upon either a stalovaya or a ryoomaknaya you will have the last of a vanishing breed. These dives usually have the tables suspended from the ceiling by chains, serve coffee, beer, tea & keffir from buckets, have baskets of boiled eggs, wilted vegetables in buckets & basins & rarely is anything as fresh as you would like. Salmonella runs rampant in these places along with other wonderful digestive tract microbes that you truly do not want to become familiar with under any circumstances.

Shopping at the gastronom (grocery) can be fun. Usually much smaller than their American counterparts. You will find foods and other comestibles & commodities arranged by areas. A small produce area is usually first, dairy following, with all kinds of pre-packaged food, canned foods, beverages & other items both food & non-food. Some have small deli-areas in them where meats, cheeses, roasted chicken, & other del items can be found.

My favorite shopping is to be done at the renok, bazaar, where so many good things can be found. Some are in large covered buildings, some are open air with tent-like covers & others are more like American flea-markets. Fresh produce abounds, tea & coffee vendors sell pre-packaged & loosed teas/coffees, trucks with large tanks hold fresh, still-swimming fish, smoked meats & fish are found as are baked goods, some have buildings or areas where meats are sold & dairy products abound as well. I love to shop for cheese & butter. Simply put your hand out, palm down & they will place a small amount of the product you want to try on your hand. You lick it off & buy or not as you feel. Hard cheese are cut in small slices for sampling as well.

Dried fruits usually from Uzbekhistan, Armenia, & Crimea can be found. There are dried apricots, dried apple slices, dried cherries, dried prunes & raisins of all types all sweet & all delicious. Herbs, spices & condiments are readily available and in great plentitude.

Eating out or shopping to eat at home either can be an adventure as well as fun. Take the chance to have some truly delicious, different & wonderful new foods as well as the chance to make friends. Many times the folk who are selling the foods, especially at the renoks, once they realize that I am an American or that the people with me are, they start insisting on us trying everything in sight. In Kyiv I truly enjoy shopping at the Besserabski Renok located in the center of the city. I look forward to shopping for produce, flowers, dried fruits & especially for caviar!

The various caviar vendors delight in having you taste their varieties of caviar. They have wonderful selections of the fish eggs coming from the Primorye Region of the far East of Siberia, the Kamchatka region & from the shores of the Caspian Sea. Sturgeon, salmon, trout & whitefish caviars abound.

Breads, especially the justly famous, Black bread of the Rus, called Chorniy Xleb, along with other types of breads, tortes (cakes), pastries, cookies, pirozhi & other baked goods are in plentiful supply. You can buy a whole loaf of the black bread or a partial loaf.

Coffees of all types, blends, grades & origins such as Colombia, Brazil, Kenya, Arabia, Yemen, Kona, India & Costa Rica are available as are teas of all types direct from Sri-Lanka, India, Indonesia, China, Viet Nam & Thailand. The availability may depend upon the season but no matter what time of the year you will find more than enough wonderful smelling & great tasting food stuffs.


Langenscheidt's Pocket Menu Reader - Russia

by Mario Caramitti

Langenschiedt Publishers, Inc.

Maspeth, NY - 2003

ISBN: 1-58573-042-4

Foods of Russia

by Steven Heller and Mikhail Valnikov

Small Booklet in English & Russian

Published By: Neva Book Publishing, Moscow - 1991

ISBN: none


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