Moscow can seem like one hell of a foreign place; Russia, after all, is distant, and the stuff you see in the news sometimes is… well, terrifying.
In reality, though, I do have to say that Moscow is honestly a wonderful place. It’s properly gigantic (two times bigger than London!), cheap compared to European cities (I remember reading that London prices are, like, 70% higher?) thus making it a good touristic destination, and rich in fantastic historical locations and simply gorgeous places.
That’s not all, though. Russia also offers some very distinct flavors when it comes to food, which is an important part of any touristic journey. People in Russia love food and, honestly, even something as simple as white bread tastes incredibly different over there.
People love all food, and the foods that are popular in Russia but maybe not as popular elsewhere include anything from very traditional Russian and Ukrainian dishes to the seemingly more ‘exotic’ (I hate that word) but all-time favorite meals from the neighboring countries of Georgia, Armenia, Tatarstan—you name it.
As a person who grew up in Moscow and still tends to visit it often, I can’t not give you recommendations on some of the best foodie locations for you to discover some of my most beloved foods from back home.
Grand Café Dr. Zhivago
A quite posh-yet-still-mid-range café-restaurant situated in the very heart of Moscow, not far from the famous Bolshoi Theatre, Grand Café Dr. Zhivago will allow you to try some of the best traditionally Russian dishes for decent, non-murderous prices.
It has almost everything — from a large variety of the beloved-by-all-Russians blini (savory crepes) to the popular pelmeni (traditional regional dumplings), to the infamous and terrifying aspic (pork jelly) — while being located in a truly gorgeous, touristic area, right next to the popular location of Okhotniy Ryad.
It even has caviar, but that will end up being pricey, sadly.
Mokhovaya Street, 15/1, Moscow, Russia, 125009
Just sliiiightly more pricey than the abovementioned restaurant, this place — with the authentically popular Russian name — is situated right on the riverbank of the Moscow River, and offers more of the beloved Russian classics.
Russian traditional cold soup (okroshka), Ukrainian most popular hot soup (borscht) and many other historically regional foods can be tried here, all the while enjoying the absolutely fantastically gorgeous wooden interior and somewhat nostalgic, deeply Russian plating.
Now, this is where you go to try some… alcohol. Well, it is a bar, after all.
It offers one of the widest selections of different alcohols around, all in a very spacious, stony venue, and this is where you go to try some proper Russian vodka. What is a trip to Moscow without some authentic vodka?
Don’t let that fool you, though — this location also offers an impressive food menu, filled with both Russian classics and some international foods like dim sums, woks, and pasta — but that isn’t really why you’re here, is it?
Bol’shaya Pirogovskaya Street, 27, Moscow, Russia, 119435
Stolovaya No 57
Located in the most central location possible — in the most famous and luxurious shopping center of Moscow, GUM, located right on the Red Square (!!!), Stolovaya No 57 is the most traditionally soviet location you could possibly think of.
All the classics, like the ones I’d mentioned above, and more — like the universally hated dressed herring (I love it though, like the fiend that I am) — are served in the 100% realistic and authentic atmosphere of the traditional Soviet canteens.
It’s honestly like stepping thirty years into the past for a couple of hours. Absolutely incredible.
GUM, Red Square, 3, Moscow, Russia, 109012
Now, this is where we distance ourselves from the traditionally Russian foods and step a bit further into the unexplored.
Genatsvale, situated in the incredibly popular Moscow district of New Arbat where the choice of dining locations is properly endless, offers a large selection of incredibly delicious and filling Georgian foods. Khachapuri (Georgian cheese pastry), beef tongue, traditional aubergines with nuts — I promise, the menu will keep you properly entertained.
Don’t forget to grab some traditional Georgian red wide — it’s to die for.
New Arbat Ave, 11, с. 2, Moscow, Russia, 119019
This is a properly posh location; however…
…if you’re feeling down to have some delicious Georgian food in Moscow without going into overdraft, this is the location for you.
All the traditional Georgian dishes, from the abovementioned khachapuri to the garlic chicken, beloved by all Russians, to traditional Georgian dumplings (khinkali — yes, they are different to pelmeni) is properly cheap here while being of amazing quality.
Bolshoy Gnezdnikovskiy Alley, 10, Moscow, Russia, 103009
Another step into a different direction, this mid-range Moscow restaurant offers Armenian food, which is one of my favorite cuisines in the world.
Armenians have it all — both meat-eaters and vegetarians will definitely be pleased with the immense selection of salads, veggie, and meat dishes and delectable desserts that will be properly delicious, but kind of guilt-inducing.
2-Y Smolenskiy Alley, 1/4, Moscow, Russia, 121099
Lepim I Varim
The most extensive selection of pelmeni — the Russian dumplings I’ve mentioned before — can be found here.
They put a twist on the authenticity of the dish, and in addition to offering the traditional choices with pork and beef, they also offer crab dumplings, turkey dumplings, lamb dumplings, even sweet dumplings with apricots. Basically, if it’s something you can think of, this cozy and inexpensive Moscow eatery will probably have it. In a dumpling.
The name, fittingly, translates to “shaping (the dumplings) and boiling”, in reference to the process of dumpling preparation. This place has been unanimously voted by tourists and Moscow-residents alike as one of the best locations to have the beloved pelmeni.
And let me tell you: four large portions of the most expensive pelmeni on the menu will cost you around $30. I’m serious, I’m not even rounding it up — I just checked in the currency converter.
Stoleshnikov Alley, 9/1, Moscow, Russia, 125009
Another traditional Russian cuisine place in Moscow — duh, Moscow is the touristic capital of Russia, of course its native cuisine will be all over the place, at different price points, too — LavkaLavka (whose name translates to, very roughly, ‘ShopShop’ (seriously)) is a beloved by all tourists place because it’s extremely local and because it adds a lot of fun twists, making the habitual something completely new.
This farm-to-table Moscow restaurant offers a selection of dishes and wines all made locally, from local ingredients — and that warrants some brownie points, right? To top it off it’s relatively inexpensive and very cozy — everything to make for a nice, enjoyable dinner.
Petrovka Street, 21/1, Moscow, Russia, 127051