Wherever I go, I have a scope to try as much traditional food as possible. But the case of Russia is different: as we were one country once, we share many common dishes, so there was nothing exotic for me in Moscow. Still, I love Russian food, and there are hundreds of places to eat in Moscow 🙂
You won’t find (at least, I didn’t) many restaurants in Moscow serving exclusively Russian dishes: it will rather be a mix of traditional and European cuisine, and almost every restaurant will serve borscht or something else.
NB: if you want to save some money on food, many restaurants offer business lunches that are cheaper than an usual order. Normally, the offer is valid from 12 AM till 4 PM, but the hours depend on the place.
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What to eat in Moscow
I know that Russian cuisine seems weird to many foreigners. Take for example kholodets (jellied chicken and pork broth) or herring salad (herring with mayonnaise and boiled vegetables like potatoes, carrots and beetroot). However strange the combination seems, these dishes are really delicious and I strongly advise you to try them. Or, maybe, I am just used to them 🙂 Frankly, after seeing a couple of recipes that call for roasting grapes (yes, grapes!), I don’t see anything weird in kholodets or herring salad 🙂
Don’t miss vareniki (dumplings with all fillings possible like cherries, potatoes, mushroom, etc) and pelmeni (dumplings with minced meat).
Russians love salads, but they are not light ones. Try vinegret (a vegetarian friendly salad made of boiled potatoes, beetroot, carrots, preserved peas and fresh onion) and olivier (a salad with boiled vegetables like potatoes and carrots, eggs, sausage, preserved peas, pickled cucumbers and mayonnaise. I saw something similar in Turkey and Spain where they call it Russian salad).
Of course, you can’t leave Moscow without trying the famous borscht and crepes with caviar: that would be a tragedy 🙂
When it comes to desserts, try syrniki (cottage cheese pastry) with sour cream and jam or crepes with sweet filling.
Buckwheat is an unusual food to try. It is very popular in Russia, some cook it with milk, others in water or broth.
Below is a selection of cafes and restaurants in Moscow I personally went to and can wholeheartedly recommend. I went to places relatively close to the touristic attractions, so you will not have to look for them far and beyond, and these are the places the locals go to. Honestly, even despite the central location, I don’t remember seeing many tourists there. As I travelled to Moscow solo, I went to the restaurants solo and never had any problems. Many places are rather cheap restaurants, and usually they are chains, so the prices are the same regardless the location. Just keep in mind, that I don’t drink spirits, so my average bill is always lower.
Where to eat in Moscow
I like everything about this place! There are many waiters, so the service is quick, and, I guess, many cooks as well, as the order comes really fast.
The food is very delicious, it is mostly meat with a selection of salads and fish. They have many types of tea, make sure to order one. And they have a huge selection of alcoholic drinks, if anyone is interested.
The interior is cozy, with lots of wooden details, and it is a bit dark inside in the evening. I loved their utensils with antique feel.
They have a menu in English, the waiters are not fluent, but their English is enough to take orders.
Average bill: 1.000-1.200 RUB per person
Address: Pokrovka, 17
What is nearby: Chistye Prudy (around the corner), the Kremlin (not really close, a bit more than a kilometer away, but it is close to Aroom Hotel where I stayed).
The closest subway station: Chistye Prudy/Turgenevskaya/Sretenskii Bulvar
Varenichnaya Nr 1
Cuisine: traditional Russian
This is the place to try traditional Russian cuisine and mostly it is vareniki, Russian dumplings. Here they serve all possible kinds of vareniki, with different kinds of meat (veal, pork, chicken), potatoes, cherries, mushrooms, cabbage, and fish as well. Prices vary, in average around 200-300 RUB per portion of vareniki. But it is not only vareniki they serve: they have traditional Russian soups like borscht and okroshka. If you are a group of many, order a pot of borscht which is good for 4-5 people 🙂 In addition to that you can taste crepes, pancakes, pies, minced meatballs, etc.
The design is very cosy, with old books and Soviet objects. And they play Soviet and retro music 🙂
They have delivery as well, and waiters speak English.
Average bill: 500-600 RUB per person
What to pay attention to: the portions might seem small to some. They usually have around 200 gr.
Address: they have many restaurants in Moscow. You may come across them in Arbat and Nikolskaya street not far from the Kremlin.
What is nearby depends on the restaurant you went to. Most likely it will be the Kremlin and the famous Arbat Street.
It is located inside the Hermitage, a very beautiful park. I love the design of the restaurant: it is in rustic style, with lots of wood and flowers. Waiters are very polite, their knowledge of English is enough to take the order. And they gave me a discount: I don’t know the reason, but I liked it. I did not expect the portions to be that big, and comparing to other places it was a good bargain.
Average bill: 1.000 RUB per person
What to pay attention to: they accept cash only!
Address: Hermitage Park
What is nearby: the Hermitage Garden, Strastnoy and Tsvetnoy Boulevards
The closest subway station: Trubnaya and Tsvetnoy Bulvar
This is a chain of cafes and they have dozens of locations around Moscow. I am pretty sure there is at least one Shokoladnitsa next to all tourist attractions. I would honestly be surprised if there was not one.
The food is good, I guess their menu depends on the day and place, as the selection of food on the website was really wide and varied, but the restaurant I went to had much less on offer. As it is a popular place, the service might be slow. In my case, it took some time before a waiter came to me, but after that it was very quick. The food is really delicious, try their Oreo cheesecake 🙂
Average bill: 600-700 RUB
What is nearby: there is a Shokoladnitsa not far from the Kremlin, another one is at Poklonnaya Hill, at the Christ the Savior Cathedral, just check their locations.
Pret-a-manger cheap places to eat in Moscow
This is one of my favorite places. It is a nice canteen-cafe with food pret-a-manger. There is a big advantage in pret-a-manger places in popular areas as one can be sure that the food is fresh. Another advantage is that there is no need to wait, just order and eat.
Make sure to try their herring salad: this is the dish I have always ordered when eating there. And their cheesecake is really good 🙂
In addition, they offer take away: if you want to have your meal in peace in your hotel, they will pack everything. I guess this is very important for solo travellers with many of them being embarrassed to eat alone in public.
Average bill: 500-600 RUB
What to pay attention to: they give discount after 7 PM, but only on weekdays
What is nearby: they have many cafes in Moscow, one is in Maroseyka street relatively not far from the Kremlin and Varvarka street, the other one is close to Tretyakovsky Gallery on Bolshaya Tatarskaya street. Check them on Google Maps for more locations.
It is a canteen about 100 meters away from the Red Square. They serve many traditional dishes, so you can try here almost everything I mentioned above like borscht, syrniki, vinegret, herring salad, olivier, traditional minced meat patty cakes as kievskaya or pojarskaya. I liked their borscht and syrniki: I have a weakness towards cottage cheese 🙂
Mu-mu is a bit cheaper than Brusnika and Bratya Karavaevy and is popular among the office folk who come here for lunch. Keep this in mind when planning to eat there.
Just like many other pret-a-manger canteens, Mu-mu has many locations around Moscow, the most famous one being next to the Kremlin.
Average bill: 300-400 RUB
What to pay attention to: you will have to pick up part of the dishes yourself from the stalls, others will be served by the canteen workers. The names of some dishes are translated into English, so you will not get lost 🙂
What is nearby: the Kremlin!
Another pret-a-manger and take away place. Just like Brusnika, they have many locations in Moscow. Strangely so, the menu is different 🙂
There is no such variety here as in Brusnika, but the food is yummy. My personal favorite is meat pies, make sure to try them. I guess I was confused by the fact that there was more meat than bread in those pies 🙂 Another thing I liked is chicken skewers. I did not like their vinegret, so: it had mustard, and I am not a fan of it. They have a wide variety of desserts.
Average bill: 500-600 RUB
What to pay attention to: they offer discounts in the evenings as well. Unlike Brusnika, here you have to take a ticket with a number at the entrance and you will be invited to order. That is a problem if you don’t speak Russian. Just tell them that and I am sure you will be served.
What is nearby: like I said, there are many cafes in the city. One is not far from the Novodevichiy Convent, the other one is relatively close to Tretyakov Gallery. Check them on Google Maps for more locations.
Other restaurants and places to eat in Moscow to consider
Below are the restaurants and cafes I did not go to, but they got positive reviews on Tripadvisor.
The famous Pushkin Restaurant: it was too expensive for my budget, so I did not go there. This restaurant is iconic already, and serves many traditional dishes you will not find in other places. The story of the restaurant is very interesting, and it does not have much to do with the famous Russian poet Alexandr Pushkin. It was first mentioned in the song Natalie by the French singer Gilbert Bécaud, but at that time it was an invented place and did not exist. The song became really popular, and tourists looked for the restaurant when in Moscow, so someone had to open it 🙂 Now the restaurant is very popular among the locals and tourists alike. And as many are interested in crepes or blinis with caviar, you can try them here, but they are not cheap 🙂
Stolovaya 57: this is a Soviet style canteen right in the famous GUM on the Red Square. Naturally, it is much cheaper that the above mentioned Pushkin 🙂 Go there for the Soviet food and charm, but expect lines during the lunch time. It’s not only Stolovaya 57 here, Moscow GUM, in general, is a place for eating.
A special place to eat in Moscow
There are many monasteries in Moscow, and many of them offer baked goods or cook food and serve it in small rooms called trapeznaya. There is a monastery not far from the hotel I stayed at, and I made a note of eating once there, but never did. Usually, it is a bit cheaper in places like this, but there is nothing I can say about the quality of food. If anyone went to a similar place, I would appreciate a word in comments 🙂