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Ukraine: Kyiv, Lviv, & Crimea Recs (long)

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Not a widely popular destination, but now that Yushenko has opened up the borders to EU citizens (no visa required), perhaps more will discover this lovely country. Food is generally great, particularly important staples like bread, borshch, and beer. We spent a month in the country mostly in a city in the east called Kharkiv (for work reasons; Kharkiv is not otherwise a tourist destination per se) but did have a chance to visit some other parts of the country. Here is a list of recommendations from towns that people might actually visit. I'll include my Kharkiv recs (or link to them as they are very long winded and contain commentary on Ukrainian food and food markets in general as well as specifics) in a separate post.

Kiev:
We were initially dismayed at the dearth of street food in Kiev, but the staggering amount of things to see and the history of this city made up for it. One place to get freshly fried pirozhki in Kiev is at the Central train station along the right side of the street by the market; women are frying chebureki (meat-filled) and pirozhki with savory, sweet, or hot-dog fillings. Yes, hot dogs. Deep fried battered-covered hot dogs. The English people we encountered seemed thrilled with this concept. I ate a couple of them actually from a street stall at 3 Khmelnitskovo (called Kyivska Perepichka) and I have to say the things sort of grow on you; before this I had eaten maybe two hot dogs in my life.

We also liked a place called Pid Osokom (20 Mikhailovska). This is a tiny place where you order at the counter (we discovered upon our second visit that there is in fact a translated English menu) and use the bathroom next door. They are friendly, the place is comfortable to hang out and the food is totally satisfying, cheap, Ukrainian fare. We ate the meat, potato, and cabbage pirogi, mushroom and ham blinis, marinated cabbage salad, and salo. I drank a sweet, strong, port-like red wine (most wine we encountered in Ukraine and Russia that was inexpensive was also dreadful; this was one of two exceptions on our trip) and they also have vodka, cognac, etc. that you order by the gram.

Baboon Kniga Cafe (book cafe), 39 Khmelnyetskovo. What it sounds like: books and coffee, and booze and food. Descent selection of new books in English even and a not-so-decent selection of used books in English (but extensive). Food was good, drinks were pricey, compared to what we were used to in Ukraine but still inexpensive I guess to American standards. They also have evening events almost every night: music, readings, etc. Sometimes they are open and serving food late and sometimes not.

Lviv:
Good food to be had in Lviv, after around 11am that is, and don't even think about getting fed anywhere on Sunday before noon! Argh. We came in on the train at something like 6:30am on Sunday and spent a good 5 hours wandering around in a daze looking for food. When we finally found it we were very happy with our fare. Coffee exists here in abundance as well.

Kupol, on Chaikovskovo 37, was a good recommendation from our book. Nice quiet patio, the interior is charming (decorated with antique photos and letters), and the food was great.

Kapriz Cafe (Listopadovovo Chinu 3) is a cozy place where the owners are super friendly and the walls are decorated with harlequin circus-theme paintings. Our appetizers were the standouts: Blinis with red caviar and warm stuffed eggplant with a nut mixture and sour cream on top. Prices are inexpensive (our meal was just under $20 I think and included a bottle of Crimean champagne).

Dzyga (Virmenska 35) is a small cafe/bar at the end of an alley (mercifully away from traffic noise and diesel exhaust) that serves tasty salads and great teas--I was all about the mountain strawberry tea. Outside are the tables and inside is a small art gallery that featured one of the more fascinating photo exhibits I have seen in some time.

Sevastopol:
Well, we ate primarily ice cream bars (one of which, a poppyseed ice cream with honey swirled in it and covered with a yogurt icing: oooohhhhhhhhohhh) and beer during our time in Sevastopol but we did encounter one lady selling filled pastries on the street that was noteworthy; the triangular shaped, meat-filled one was excellent. I don’t have the exact address but walk down Nakhimova until you get to number 12 (on the corner); turn towards the bay down the small side street; she is in the middle of this block in a small booth.

Bakhchisarai:
Sadly, the excited nature of the ladies selling chebureki and snacks by the khan's palace freaked us out (10 different ladies all yelling at us to buy THEIR snack!!!!! GAK!!!!) so we did not experience the "street food," if you can call it that, of Bakhchisarai. However, we did experience a great meal at K'yave Khane Gulfidan, which is located just to the left of the main entrance of the palace, on the small foot-bridge overlooking the moat. We just asked the guy to recommend stuff for us, ordered one of each thing he recommended and split everything. Definitely get a pot of tea at the end--the green tea I think it was; it is served with a bowl of spun sugar drops that melt in your mouth. The guy explained that you first put a drop of sugar in your mouth, then drink the unsweetened tea and let it dissolve. Needless to say, we ate an entire bowl of sugar without looking back. Yum.

The market by the train/bus station has some interesting baklava-like pastries and is worth wandering around if you need picnic stuff. Lots of cute baby chickies and duckies here too! We also saw a litter of baby pigs for sale all set up in the trunk of a car.

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  1. Was in Ukraine last year

    Food fairly desultory compared to other places in Eastern Europe. Had some great BBQ'ed pork in Kamyanets-Podilsky, overlooking the castle. Pierogi, pelmeny are as addictive as they are anywhere else. Seemed to have a great deal of baked tongue in cream sauce... but that may have just been my choices...

    Salo - sort of got used to it... but not... quite... ;-)

    J

    3 Replies
    1. re: Jon Tseng

      Yeah; that salo stuff is weird isn't it. The first time we tried it we were served the salo sliced thinly, a tureen of sour cream (smyetana!), a small pot of fresh dill, and some raw garlic cloves. Raw. Bacon. Fat. With. Sour. Cream. On. Top.

      The best food we had was in Kharkiv--probably because we were there long enough to find it--and, curiously enough, in Chornobyl.

      1. re: cheyenne

        I've got a great Soviet era Ukrainian/English phrasebook (for English speakers in Ukraine).

        It has translations for such helpful phrases as "I would like to meet the worker's union" and "I'll have a half kilo of source cream, please (bud laske (don't know how to transliterate that!)." The entire food section is hysterically funny, because it provides English speakers with the words for how to request foods most would never want to eat.

        Smokey

        1. re: smokey

          bud laske as you spelled must be written as "Bud Laska"
          Means "Be so kind, ..... ".
          Equivalent of English "Please".

          You had wrong communistic book. It was not about food, but about building a fare communism... another strange thing.

          I am thinking of publishing a contemporary phrase book.
          Would you buy one, if you had a chance? I mean e-book.

    2. The best dining place in Kiev (as of summer 2007) I would suggest is Vulyk (The Beehive) on Krasnoarmejskaja 44. The appetizers were hot and with very distinctive flavours, to be spooned with rye bread toast sticks, and we liked the mildest of them: salo and garlic mix. Their borshch with fresh ceps was wholesome and delicious! The fish baked in foil, vegetables on sides were all very tasty. The wines were worth the price. However the service was not as exciting as their food: the waitor's attitude was odd, I think she expected us to order much more, so she looked at us as if we had eaten her breakfast.
      The good places are Puzata Hata (Big Belly House) chain bistros. Lots of season specialities, national cuisine, home made-style cheap and healthy choices. There is a variety of luscious desserts and fresh fruits. Besides, the one on Sahaidachnoho (close to Kiev Mohyla Academy, Podil district) provides a very good Wi-Fi connection (on the third floor).