Stolovaya No. 17

This post is part of my Russia travel series: Travel stories | Photo gallery

Relic of the soviet era, this canteen serves a delicious meal in a minimalist setting.

After spending hours visiting the Arboretum and walking back to Sochi town, I was pretty exhausted and I went to this restaurant – Stolovaya No. 17 – for a late lunch. Stolovaya (meaning ‘canteen’) is a chain (run by government?) and there is another one (No. 57) is in Moscow. During the days of Soviet era, people formed long queues, waiting for their turn to get a cheap meal. The restaurant houses a kitchen (which you can see from the outside) that is full of babushkas talking to each other loudly, busy doing something while you hear constant cling-clang sounds of steel pots and pans in the background.

People stand in a queue while babushkas serve you what you ask for.

Nobody will greet you at the door, you are supposed to grab a plate and stand in that queue next to a big table filled with trays of food. You pick what you want from the options you have. Grab some meat, vegetables, salads, bread and even some desserts before you finish picking up your glass of tea. “Лимон?” (लीमोन?) you will be asked if you want a fresh slice of lemon in your tea. Finally, and here’s the most fascinating part, the babushka at the cash counter will look at your tray and announce loudly the food you have. Another babushka sitting next to her, with her head bent over a wooden Russian abacus, will rapidly move the beads with both hands. As soon as the sound, which I like, of banging wooden beads on wooden frame is over, your total will be announced, “сто сорок шесть рублей пожалуйста.” (one hundred and forty six Roubles please). I kept asking her “Сколько? Сколько?” (how much? how much?) since I am not so quick with numbers, until she waved the receipt on my face.

Russian Abacus, used to calculate the bill. The last time I used an abacus must have been over 20 years ago!

You will then be handed Aluminum cutlery, ONE napkin, and then you must immediately proceed to the dining area without lingering at the counter to take pictures of the abacus, or else you will be yelled at (guess how I found that out). The dining area, that smells like floor cleaner, has plastic chairs, rickety iron frame wooden tables with covered with plastic cloth on top (that almost smells like old plastic, you know, with an oily smell – very common in government restaurants in India) and plastic flowers to make the dining experience lively.

So I really don’t know what class of people eats at this (or such) restaurants, but everyone, visitors and employees, were very curious to watch every move I made, every breath I took. Oh god, and we are trying to be subtle.. 😀

The grand dining room.

I was delighted to experience this post-communist restaurant, and henceforth I am going to claim that I had an authentic experience of dining in a Soviet-era restaurant. 😉

Finally, that’s what I got. I was starving and I enjoyed every bit of my food.

Delicious food. Bread, chicken breast, vegetables, salad and soup. Don’t go by the colour of the borscht – you WILL NOT get even remotely spicy food anywhere. But all the food I had was extremely tasty, including the hard bread. I queued up once again to get some dessert and burped to my stomach’s content. 🙂

This post is part of my Russia travel series: Travel stories | Photo gallery