I have always been warned that I will be having a hard time finding vegetarian or vegan dishes, especially traditional / local food. As I have travelled to Russia before I knew that it might be tricky sometimes but having a sweet tooth anyways made it a lot easier for me to find dishes that I liked.
In the past four month I was able to try various local dishes in various restaurants not only in Moscow but also in the cities that I’ve travelled to. As a food enthusiast I am always open to try new dishes. However, being a vegetarian has it made a bit difficult sometimes but I never went hungry. Except that one time. But that was just an unfortunate event. So in my opinion there are several places that one should definitely check out if they are vegetarian or vegan, or just want something without meat or fish.
Favourite local food
Bliny – or блинчики (blinchiki) in Russian – are thin pancakes made from buckwheat flour. They can be served savory or sweet, with sour cream, butter, or even caviar.
Varenyky – which are also known as pierogi – are filled dumplings. Inside the wrapping dough pockets there is either a savory or a sweet filling. I usually had them with a potato filling and Smetana (sour cream) served on the side.
Pelmeny – пельме́ни – are dumplings that are usually filled with minced meat and made out of a thin, unleavened dough. These dumplings seemed to be the most popular ones among us foreign students as you could buy them everywhere. Some could eat them every day. Even twice per day. But I won’t say any names on here. It wasn’t me.
This traditional Georgian dish is a bread that is filled with cheese in the middle. It comes in various shapes and sometimes contains eggs and other ingredients.
Cы́рники are fried quark pancakes that are usually eaten with sour cream, jam, or honey. I’ve got to know them on my first stay in Russia a few years ago when our host grandmother made them for us. Since then I have even tried them a few times myself but I still haven’t perfected them. Syrniki are my go-to dish in a restaurant where I don’t want to ask too many questions about ingredients and such or when I am just in the mood for something small.
Another thing that no one should miss out on doing is getting ice cream at the GUM – the department store on the red square. It is the most legendary Soviet ice cream that comes in various flavours and is served in a waffle cone. It is sold inside the GUM at various ice cream counters year round.
Favourite Restaurants and Bars
Cafe Sok -Кафе СОК
Cafe Sok is not only a café but they also offer a wide variety of Russian, Georgian, Indian, and Italian dishes. All of them are vegetarian and some are even vegan. It is located opposite of the famous Tretyakov Gallery, more or less in the centre of Moscow.
This restaurant has become my favourite place as every dish that I have tried so far turned out to be delicious, the food arrangement was perfect as well, and the staff has always been very accommodating and helpful. When my boyfriend was visiting we even saw part of a wedding dinner there, so we could see some traditional stuff there as well.
In Cafe Sok I was also able to try Borscht, the famous beetroot soup that is popular in various Eastern European cuisines. As soups in Russia usually either contain meat or are made from a meat stock, I can never just order soup in ‘normal’ restaurants (or at least I don’t trust to). I’ve become a beetroot fan so I recommend everyone to try this soup at least once.
Кафе «Джаганнат» – Jagannath – is a vegetarian restaurant/buffet in the centre of Moscow. It exudes a somewhat hippy style due to the interior design and the music that is played there.
Right next to the Red Square is the location of one of Jamie Oliver’s restaurants – Jamie’s Italian.
City Space Bar
The bar is located inside the Swissotel on the 34th floor. The City Space Bar is one of the highest bars in Moscow and from up there you have a beautiful panoramic view over the city. Even though that the drinks are a bit pricy it is very stylish and fancy there, and the view is really amazing!
The Café Pushkin is actually not a café but a five-star restaurant, that is open 24 hours a day. The waiters speak very good English and the service is excellent. The restaurant is located on Tverskoy Boulevard and serves historic fare of Russian nobility. Everything inside looks really fancy, the waiters are educated in the perfect manner. Prices are slightly high, but it’s definitely worth the location and the food and drinks.
Coffee House culture in Moscow
Coffee Shop Company
There are quite a lot of coffee places in Moscow, and it is even possible to find some Viennese among them. The Coffee Shop Company chain is one perfect example for that. Regarding the prices, it has a level of around Starbucks, and the choices are relatively similar as well. But it is Austrian! They even offer Sacher Torte there. It is possible to find them all over Moscow (and in other cities of Russia as well), and there is one right next to my university.
The Шоколадница is one of the biggest and most famous coffee shop chains in Russia. The price is very good in there, and they have a variety of drinks and dishes to choose from. You can even order a cup of pure melted chocolate. Very delicious but very heavy!
Кофе Хауз is yet another Russian coffee shop chain. Prices are very low, they have a good variety of cake and the cafés are also located all over town. There is also one located near where I was living and it used to be the place that we sometimes went to for having a birthday cake. However, the staff is very slow to respond and sometimes forgets half of the order. The cakes are delicious nevertheless!
Foodwise there is a lot to explore in Russia, even if you don’t eat meat. It is true, sometimes it is a bit more work or effort – you always need to double or triple check and ask the waiter for specifics.