How to eat Russian food in a Soviet-era canteen
It was about 4pm and I was starving. I did start looking for lunch around noon, but then I went wandering around the Kremlin and the next thing you know, three hours went by. I decided to go to check out GUM, previously a soviet department store now a swanky mall, that flanked the north side of Red Square.
Considering how pricey GUM is (its like a museum of expensive brand stores – a window shopper’s dream) I was a bit skeptical of this restaurant. However, in Sochi, I had eaten in its sister concern – Stolovaya No. 17.
“Stolovaya Number 57” simply means “Canteen No. 57”. In soviet times, these were government run restaurants where people could go for a hot meal, “ofcourse, after enduring long queues,” added a friend later.
While the restaurant I went to in Sochi was full of babushkas, the Moscow one was full of hot devushkas. But since nobody is paid to smile, and its not in their job description, and they don’t get tips, don’t expect a north American “how may I help you?” look.
Me: Привет, как дела? (Hello, How are you?)
She: Blank stare (I was glad that Russians are not the only ones that get confused by this question. Indians too!)
Me: Скажите, пожалуйста. Это говядина? (Tell me please, is this beef?)
She: Hе знаю. Cпросить ее (Don’t know. Ask her – pointing to a babuskha who was standing at the corner, supervising.)
Anyway, waiting in line and watching all the food made me salivate. The total bill, which you discover at the end, was quite large. This place is not a cheap eat but still its quite affordable by Moscow standards. There was a babushka at the cash register – probably those young blonds didn’t know how to add? She was using a calculator to my surprise (in Sochi, they used an Abacus!!)
How apt to say ‘my plate is full’. I met a Muscovite couch surfing friend in the middle of my feast. “I didn’t know this place existed!” he said.
Thus, I ate to my heart’s content in a Soviet style canteen, and let out a loud burp proclaiming a satisfying supper. Go here if you go to Moscow.
Restaurant: Stolovaya No. 57
Location: Third floor of GUM, Red Square, Moscow.