Saint Petersburg, Russia. Part II: Food
Well in Part One, we scratched the surface of the many things to see in the City Center, but now we'll dig in into most folks favorite part of travel: the food. I hope you're not hungry reading this or if you are - there's some food coming soon...
Neither I or my wife are a foodie., but when we travel she usually pics where & when to go since I'm less picky one of the two. As long as there's enough protein it's all fine with me.
The food in St. Petersburg is awesome. It was mostly inexpensive and plentiful, but there's a huge variety. We don't go to fancy places - I just never feel like dressing up (anything above jeans is too fancy for me and don't even get me started on places with drizzle on their plates...).
Majority of restaurants and cafes had at least menu's in English, so that was very helpful. Quite a few staff were able to communicate in English as well, but not too many yet. The places without English menu we generally avoided - I want to support places that are forward moving and want to attract visitors from abroad. Especially funny was when the sign outside a place is in English, but inside there's no menu in it. Makes no sense.
Enough talk - show me the food!
Let's start off zooming in on the first picture and voila: it's a hedgehog cake. One of my favorites. Just so cute. Also a little over $11.. I've had those since I was a kid and always loved them. Most Russian desserts aren't as overly sweet as the American ones, which is a blessing. Who needs twenty seven billions tons of sugar in a cake?
Both times we had hotels with breakfasts which were both very good. "Hotel Atlantic" is a bit more basic, but in great location right behind Kazan cathedral. That's some of their breakfast:
"Golden Triangle" was quite a bit fancier (since we didn't need to pay for visa again, we just spent a bit more on the hotel). I don't have a pic of the entire set up, but the food was incredible. Sundays had free champagne & cheesecake for breakfast, which is enough said.
We usually look up the hotel's reviews and images on Tripadvisor or Travelocity ahead of time & scope out how nice everything looks.
Both places had great breakfasts & plenty of coffee!
On both visits, Monique bought a gingerbread bear and was gnawing on it after long days of sightseeing. She loves gingerbread and the bear is a cutie. I was proud of Russian product.
Frequently we ate at a joint called "Frikadelki" (aka meatballs), where you need to get a tray and pick your own food, like you do in Ikea (at least that's what I think they do - been there once). Beauty is you can get 1 garnish with 2 or 3 sides of meat. Getting way too much rice and not enough meat was my biggest complaint food wise in Istanbul. This place was mostly for Russians though, I don't think anyone spoke English, but we didn't care and ate there a lot. It's low key with a relaxed atmosphere for about $6-10 bucks per person for a meal with double meat, couple of dessert pastries, soup and drink. Mmmm...
When in Russia, must get borsch. Harcho soup is very good too. Plov (fried rice with stuff ) is magic. Buckwheat is great (above - I love it personally). Kabobs with spicy sauce were great. I might have to go to the Russian store myself this weekend here in Orlando area and get my fix (Lakomka is the one I go to).
The entire place is brick and wood. Very lovely. The only knock on the place is that their alcoholic drink mixing skills were okay, but it's not quite the right place anyhow. And they look great in pictures.
One of my favorite places was a little cafe on a river boat. Gorgeous views.
We didn't try too many restaurants since we mostly had our hotel breakfast and then a large late lunch/dinner, but as you'd expect - we had to try many desserts (my wife would pick the two she wanted most and I'd help her out). I'm pretty sugar addicted, but don't generally care what it is. Also, I loved tipping well for awesome service. It just felt very nice, since Russians don't seem to tip well there, so it was great to reward the efforts. The guy at this particular cafe was excellent and I still remember his smile. It's great to be appreciated even in small things. Food and coffee were delicious by the way as well.
More desserts & coffee.
And some more... Pretty much everything tasted as good as it looks. I don't really remember having a bad meal there. Some were not as good as others, but I was never completely disappointed, which was encouraging. Our second trip somehow became a "Eclair & Beef Stroganoff Tour", where if we saw said items on the menu - we'd try them and compare to all the previous ones we had.
That's enough desserts though, I can feel my insulin spiking already. Diabetus, here we go... There are places with lots of pies & pierogies though...
One of the most pretentious dishes we had, didn't realize the cafe was going to try this hard at food. Beef stroganoff in a boat I guess... can't really remember if it was good or great.
Check in a faux book was neat though
Cobblestone streets, flowers on the terraces, cute lights, architecture (see the statue?). Fantastic place to spend a week or two.
More dessert shops. A lot we just looked. There's just so many with so many snacks... And remember - the pics are from both trips, not just a couple of days of gluttony.
We ate a buffet a couple of times right off Nevsky (can't remember the name), that was all styled like an old Russian village. Since nothing like that exists in the middle of the city it was neat to show to my wife. Peacock greeted everyone.
There was a hot food side and cold food side. Both were incredible. I tend to overload my plates with food, but I left happy and sleepy. Don't judge me.
I really enjoyed the "Kvartirka" Soviet Cafe (apparently they don't have a website - how Cold War of them?). Just a neat nostalgic place with great food and menu in English. Fish soup "Ukha" comes with a shot of vodka. What else you need in life?
It's all very 70's-80's with "Ural" motorcycle upfront (I'm from the Ural mountains area in Russia originally) and some memorabilia inside. I'm a big fan of Vladimir Visotsky, which is the vinyls you see below. One of the greatest Russian/Soviet artists, who passed way too early as so many very creative and bright people do... He had a unique voice. Kind of like Russian Freddy Mercury. Check out his "Horses" song if you'd like
A bit blurry, but you can see the prices. Exchange rate was at the time 70 Rubles for 1 USD. Pelmeni are dumplings and are incredible.
Pelmeni come with different meat fillings.
I was surprised to see how cheap the beer was in the stores - about $.90-1.50 per bottle. I don't do beer, but seemed like important part of travel journalism.
And there was more food...
... and more desserts...
And somehow I ended up without a picture of Shaurma (also known as Shawarma or Doner Kabob), so here's a wikipedia pic instead. It's a hugely popular street food in Russia with meat cooked on a vertical spit wrapped in a lavash bread with sauce and fresh cut veggies. It's incredible. There's a joint right off the Palace Square on Nevsky that we frequented.
The main food critic in the family (my wife) was very pleased with Russian food; quality, variety, abundance and great value. Even if you can't visit Russia - check out if there's a place nearby that has some. It's well worth it (just check reviews first please).
Next up: Palaces.
We're going to step into the world of opulence until we can't stare at gold no more...