Thursday, June 14, 2018

Eating St. Petersburg



Despite our team's (sigh) absence at World Cup 2018, there are still tons of Americans heading over to Russia for the big dance. And those people gotta eat. Now, food here is often very bland, so finding good restaurants involves a lot of trial and error. Luckily for you travelers, I have done a lot of that St. Petersburg homework for you already and can offer a heads up on some of the tastiest spots in town.

In no particular order (the places with asterisks have free wi-fi)...

MOO MOO BURGERS*

A red-blooded American really can't go wrong here. They have well-seasoned burgers (which is not always the case in Russia), are generous with the toppings and do fine sauce work. And the buns... oh my, these buttery buns. They might just be the best single piece of bread in St. Petersburg. Hell, take a couple to go to use for sandwiches later.

Where is it?

On the western edge of Sennaya Square (or Ploschad in Russian... get to know this word), which is where the blue, orange and purple metro lines all conveniently meet up.  

THE dish to get

It has to be the chili burger, which unlike most of the food in Russia, actually brings a little heat. Grabbing one of those bad boys and fries with cheese sauce and bacon should fill you up for a long while. In fact, you may need a walk afterwards.

KETCH UP BURGERS*

If Moo Moo is my #1 burger joint (and you will be surprised to see how many of these there are here now), then Ketch Up rates as the 1a. If you want more adventurous flavor profiles and proteins in a burger, then this is probably your place. They also have several tasty house-made condiments and side choices from the fryer (they are the only spot here to find waffle fries and sweet potato fries). All burgers are 30% off from 3-7 pm on weekdays.

Where is it?

There are six locations, including one at the northeast corner of the aforementioned Sennaya Square and one across from Komendantskiy Prospekt metro station (purple line), which is a 8-10 minute Uber from the stadium.

THE dish to get

Hmmm, I'll go with the lamb burger, but there are several nice options. The lady usually gets the cod and shrimp burger, and it's goooood.

SCHENGEN*

This is my favorite restaurant in town. It's fine dining dishes for TGI Friday prices in a nice atmosphere. They also have an ace bartender; this is one of the two places here that know how to make a margarita. It's probably best to make a reservation for dinner, but maybe go at lunch time instead. It should be quieter and everything on the menu is 20% off from noon to 4 pm.

Where is it?

Take the red metro line to Chernyshevskaya, and it's a short walk from there. Scroll to the bottom for a map.

THE dish to get

Ohhhh, it's so hard to chooooose. The king crab, avocado and yuzu jelly appetizer is my favorite starter, with the octopus carpaccio a close-ish second. For the main, the beef filet with carrot puree and charred green onion is money. And I'm not a big steak eater at all. And usually, I prefer a prime rib. So you know this one is good if I pick it over the duck dish with cauliflower puree and grilled nectarines.

DON GARCIA

This is the only authentic taqueria in St. Petersburg, if not all of Russia. Nothing in town comes even remotely close. The owner is a chef from Mexico who married a local girl, so.... thanks a million, Anastasia! He does everything from scratch and with love, from tortillas to sauces to several sloooow-cooked meats to homemade chorizo and even to maybe the best horchata I've ever tasted. Everything is killer, and you can get three tacos for 250 rubles (about four bucks).

Where is it?

It's a tiny, miss-it-if-you-blink joint around the corner from Komendantskiy Prospekt metro station (purple line), and yes, a quick Uber trip over from the stadium. The address is  You can click the link in the info box on their VK (basically Russian Facebook) page for a handy map.

THE dish to get

If he has it on the day you visit, the lamb barbecoa taco simply melts in your mouth. I want to go back in time to when I was a teenager just so I can eat a stack of them in one sitting. Sadly, he doesn't always have it (or it already sold out), but all the other choices are top shelf. The carnitas, chorizo and pastor forces are strong in this one.

TARTAR BAR*

If you are into the freshness and craftsmanship of quality tartares, carpaccios and the like, this is your spot. If you can slice it thin and cook it by marinade, they have it: beef, scallops, venison, mackarel, even a tomato ceviche. Throw in the entrees and a few desserts, and it's one inventive, varied menu on offer.

Where is it?

They're also a quick stroll from Chernyshevskaya (red line), but in a different direction. Here's the map.

THE dish to get

It'd be difficult for anyone to choose from their long list of tempters, but the dorado crudo with broccoli pesto is yum-yum-yummers. I do need to give a main course shout out to the veal cheek and Parmesan raviolis, though.

PELMENYA*

Of course, I gotta point you somewhere with actual food that reps the home nation. The restaurant's name is the word for Russia's own version of a dumpling. They serve those, plus the variants you'd find in Georgia, Azerbaijan and other points around the globe. You and your friends can grab a few different types, share 'em around and easily fill up  on the spread for less than 10 bucks apiece. There are even some sweet dumplings on the dessert menu.

Where is it?

They have five locations, including just off Nevskiy Prospekt near the famous Anichkov Bridge (which is a hop and a skip from the Gostiny Dvor green line station) and one on Marata Ulitsa (street) behind the Mayakovskaya station (also green line, which is the one that ends out at the stadium).

THE dish to get

I dig the (Armenian) manti with lamb and pumpkin, but there's no shortage of tasty choices.

AMARCORD*

If you find yourself craving some legit Italian eats, this is the place. It's run by Italians and everything out of the kitchen is made by Italians (including some nice desserts). They have the most authentic pasta dishes in town, hands down. And they are football-mad (duh), so you can be sure the games will always be on their flat screen.

Where is it?

It's a short walk and left turn from Vosstanya Square, which is really the central hub spot of the city. The red line stop at Vosstanya Ploschad station, which is connected underground to Mayakovskaya station (green line).

THE dish to get

The menu changes a bit, so I can't be sure any particular entree or dessert will be there at a given time. The pesto spaghetti with prawns and the spinach ricotta ravioli with burnt butter sage sauce are primo, though.

22 CM PIZZA

Just a few doors down from Amarcord sits the city's best pizzeria. They go Napoli style, use quality ingredients and have one of the few wood-fired ovens in SPB. It's a standard no-nonsense approach here, so don't expect crazy topping combinations - just damn good pizza, which never hurts.

Where is it?

They actually have three locations. There's also one less than 10 minutes on foot away from the World Cup fan festival, and another in the Pulkovo Outlet Village right near the airport.

THE dish to get

We tend to go for the pepperoni.

SCHAST'YE*

Surely, you didn't think I'd forget the desserts, did you? There are tons of pastry shops around town, but frankly I find that the Russians rely too heavily on all manners of sweet cream for "flavor" and often have cakes\pies that are much too bread-y. You won't have that problem here, folks. It's the perfect place to stop for a sweet and a coffee/nightcap drink after an English language movie at the Angleterre.

Where is it?

There are four locations (and several quick stop macaron stands in the malls around town), but you really must hit the Malaya Morskaya one to get the full effect. It has a view on St. Isaac's Cathedral and has the coolest atmosphere of all the locations. It's a short mosey from Admiralteyskaya metro station (purple line).

THE dish to get

The triple chocolate cake is evil, y'all.

CLEAN PLATES SOCIETY*

It's a cozy gastropub with some pretty creative cooking. There's a little something for everyone on the menu, including a few very tempting desserts. It's also the other place with margaritas actually worth drinking. From my experience, they always have English-speaking staff on hand.

Where is it?

Why, it's just around a corner and down the street from St. Isaac's Cathedral. So, yeah, also near the Admiralteyskaya station.

THE dish to get

Hmmm. The cod with shrimp sauce and bulgur is quite nice, but I'll go ahead and push the duck with apples, mustard sauerkraut and roasted potatoes instead.

MARKETPLACE*

Quick, quality food on a budget is not as easy to find as you'd like, what with the swarm of shawarma places (of varying cleanliness) that are allergic to seasoning and spice. They're everywhere, in buildings, malls and stands. Fortunately, Marketplace is also pretty easy to find. You can go several different ways with your meal, from fresh tossed Caesar salads to various grilled meats to fresh pasta to wok stir fries. And they have a nice fresh juice and smoothie station, to boot.

Where is it?

Well, there's 10 of them, a couple so new they don't turn up on Google Maps yet. The most convenient ones probably will be: at the Galeria, diagonally across from Mayaskovskaya station, near the Nevskiy Prospekt station and close to Vasileostrovskaya green line station (one stop from the stadium).

THE dish to get

Gosh, make your own pick in a place like this. Go nuts. But I can assure you that the chocolate caramel cake at the bar is a decent closer.


--

By the way, I mentioned one cinema with original English audio on the movies, but my faves to go in the center are the Formula Kino at the big Galeria mall next to Vosstanya Ploschad and the Rodina (you want the ones marked "суб." - click the title to see the poster), which is not far from Gostiny Dvor station. If you have free time between matches, you can check all the day's English-language or subtitle offerings around town here.





- Greg Seltzer

2 comments:

dikranovich said...

There was a time when this was a relavent soccer site, but that time has come and gone.

Jeremy Smith said...

Being a dick just to be a dick, is pathetic. Thank you Greg. I have been a loyal reader for many years.