When it comes to travel and food, I am all about the local dishes. But if you are in a country long enough, eventually, you will get a hankering for something different. In Russia, it doesn’t take particularly long to cross that threshold. Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing exactly abhorrent with Russian cuisine, but there is only so much of a diet based on beetroots, dill, and sour cream that one can take. So, if you happen to be in Moscow for the World Cup, as I will be, here are five alternatives that are as appealing to the stomach as they are to the wallet.
1. Burger Heroes
It might come as a surprise to learn that Russians have something of a burger fixation, and I’m not talking about the shoddy fast food fare that is usually available abroad. No, Russians like their burgers well-done (and by that I mean juicy). Gourmet burgers are everywhere in Moscow, but there is one place that surpasses them all, Burger Heroes. With thick patties, an excellent bun to meat ratio, and fresh produce, it’s not only the best burger joint in Russia but could easily compete against anything the U.S. has to offer. For purists, order the Agent 007, or try the Black Mamba for a more unique taste.
Location: Various locations throughout Moscow. Avoid their flagship restaurant (Metro Tretyakovskaya) as quality has suffered some due to overcrowding.
Cost: RUB 650 for a burger and a pint.
Tip: One thing you won’t get in Burger Heroes is a burnt burger, so if you don’t like your meat red, make sure you order it well-done (as in overcooked).
The only thing more ubiquitous than burger shops in Moscow is Georgian restaurants. And with good reason, Georgian food is delicious! Really, it’s hard to go wrong with any of the multitude of Georgian Restaurants throughout the city, but if you have a little extra time or want to save a few rubles, then it’s worth taking the purple metro line to Ryazansky Prospekt for a bite at Khinkal’nya. This hole-in-the-wall establishment is run by a kind Georgian family with probably the best Ajarian khachapuri in the city. It’s no thrills dining, and if you go early Saturday morning don’t be surprised to see a few local drunks working off a hangover with a plate of khinkali and a glass of Georgian wine.
Location: Ulitsa Akademika Skryabina, 12 а, Moskva, 101000 (Metro Ryazansky Prospekt).
Cost: Khinkali at RUB 50 apiece.
Tip: The purple line is notorious for overcrowding, so, it’s best to avoid the evening rush hour (5PM-8PM) out to the suburbs.
3. Pizzeria Da Giuseppe
Whatever happened to the sauce on pizza? Half the time I order a pizza, it feels as dry as the Aral Sea. If Russians can make a good burger, one thing they can’t make is a good pie. Luckily they don’t half to. The newly opened Pizzeria Da Giuseppe is owned and operated by a real Italian who makes real Italian pizzas in a wood-fired oven! That should be enough to get you in, but in case you need a little encouragement, Pizzeria Da Giuseppe will be holding World Cup fan events throughout the tournament. Just don’t ask what group Italy is playing in this year.
Location: Ulitsa Aleksandra Solzhenitsyna, 3, Moskva, 109004 (Metro Taganskaya)
Cost: About RUB 400 for a personal pie.
Tip: Complete the experience with a pint of Peroni beer on tap.
If you follow this blog at all, you probably know I loathe hipsters, but I have to admit they know a thing or two about food. Yes, almost everything they come in contact with is gentrified like some kind of perverse Midas touch, but it’s because of them that Moscow has Danilovsky Market, and with it, a myriad of foodie vendor kiosks selling some of the best eats this side of the Iron Curtain. And as any Muscovite in the know will tell you, it’s Danilovsky Market where you can find the very best Pho Bo at the aptly named café, Bo. Trust me it’s worth the 30-minute queue.
Location: Mytnaya Ulitsa, 74, Moskva, 115191 (Metro Tulskaya)
Cost: RUB 350 for a very large bowl of Pho Bo.
Tip: Don’t’ forget to try a mango smoothie. It’s worth the extra rubles!
Darbars is hands down the best Indian restaurant in Moscow and the closest you will come to authentic Indian food in Russia (Ok, that’s not a very high bar, but it’s still good!). With several locations throughout the city, Darbars is where to go when bland food is leaving you delirious for a little spice. The only downside, it’s a bit pricey.
Location: Multiple locations in Moscow and one in Saint Petersburg.
Cost: Expect to spend about RUB 1,500 per person without drinks.
Tip: Like most Indian restaurant’s there is a wide range of regional cuisines on the menu. I usually go for the Rogan Josh.