Just got to SPB.. here for a month. I lived for several years in Moscow and am fluent in Russian, so that's not an issue -- I just don't know this city well... any good places? I'm pretty flexible cuisine-wise, although I really love Georgian and would like to find a place that is good value for everyday eating.
INSIDER TIP - I have been living in Saint Petersburg for several years now. Almost every restaurant is terrible (unless you don't mind paying $300-400 a person for Noble Nest) - but there is one exception that you should try. Go to a bar called "The Other Side" downtown, and sign up for the Tuesday special (only happens one day a week) - you will get AMAZING Russian food for a reasonable price - fixed price 5 course dinner that is THE best in the city. Also one of the only places where you can find someone who speaks English. The owner's name is Doug, and he is almost always there.
re: Titanium Chef
Isn't the "other side" a pretty standard ex-pat hang out? the food i've had there is okay, and you have the typical Russian problem that half the things on the menu aren't in stock. It is a good place to go if you've been craving American food, though.
I highly recommend the restaurant "Teplo" on Большая морская, near St. Isaac's. The food is excellent, nuanced, and reasonably priced. The rooms in the restaurant are small, and are very intimate and relaxing (it's decorated a bit like an English cottage or library). They give you little cloth bags of scones or cookies to enjoy the next day when you're on way out (slash if you've been nice to the waitress). They speak English/have an English menu, if you're worried about the language barrier.
We're off to St Petersburg for the White Nights ballet festival in June and SO excited about it. We're there for a week. Balance of ballet, sightseeing and, obviously, eating!
I LOVE food. Think about it every minute of the day. And will eat anything. I prefer either cheap, authentic places or high end, fabulous places. So my local Venezuelan cafe or Noma. What I don't like are mid level places charging mid level prices for mid level food - waste of money. The only common denominator is it has to be GOOD.
So can some kind soul put together our ideal itinerary of street food and blow out meals?
Bit worried that everything I read on Chowhound is dismissive - there has to be an interesting Russian dining scene, no?
re: helen b
At the two ends of the scale, I found:
Teremok - a pancakes chain all over SP and Moscow, both sweet and savory choices, not much atmosphere but very typical for Russia. Have a birch soft drink or lingonberry lemonade (Mors). For a bit of change, you can have tvarozhniki, which is curd cheese with little flour and eggs baked in oven.
Tsar - a Europenised version of the Russian classics, very high standard of food, nice ambiance, very good Mors vodka.
Most interesting place - First Russian Vodka Room, with great choice of vodkas and very good appetisers to go with it. If I got to go there again, I'd just ask the waiter for his recommendations for pairings and order 3-4 vodkas with 3-4 appetisers. Also excellent soups. Mains were just OK. Leave room for dessert.
I am originally from Russia, lived in Moscow and travelled often to SP. Here are my recommendations for those traveling to St. Petersburg.
For authentic Russian food and fun experience, head to the food markets. Both Moscow and St. Petersburg have a few. In St. Petersburg there are a few that should be opened daily: Vladimirovsky Rynok (rynok is market), Vladimirovskaya metro station; Kuznechny Market, 3 Kuznechny Pereulok; Sennoi Market 4/6 Moskovsky Prospekt and Vasilyeostrovsky Market, 18 Bolshoi Prospekt. If you are staying in a hotel, ask your concierge to check days/hours when the markets are opened. If you are staying at a less expensive hotel and feel your receptionist is not the friendliest girl out there, walk to any of the higher rated hotels and ask concierge to check the info for you. In those markets you can find plenty of stalls with pickled veggies, herring and simple street food. Also fresh veggies, berries, dairy products (try Ryzhenka, baked yogurt) and much more. Usually stalls are very clean and the food is very good. There are free samples available before you decide on what to buy.
Look for the sign "Булочная", Russian pastry shop. You can find freshly baked breads, pirozhki and other baked goods there.
For more refine experience, black caviar perhaps, head to a 5 star hotel. Grand Hotel Europe has Caviar Bar and Restaurant. Make reservations especially on the weekend and if you travel during white nights. If you are on a budget, don't go there. Be prepared to spend 300+USD. Cheaper option would be to eat at their Mezzanine Cafe (desserts and sandwiches) or Grand Terrace. These are the places where you can find lighter fair and some good wines.
Remember, international wines are expensive in Russia. Local (former soviet republics)
wines are cheaper but sweet and can give you a headache at the end. Drink cocktails that are mixed with better quality vodka: stoli, moskovskaya, pshenichnaya. For beer lovers, Baltika is good. Enjoy it with salty dishes, pelmeni or anything that contains cabbage. You can also find 'vobla', dry fish, at the market. That is the ultimate experience a regular Russian beer lover is looking forward to.
Want to find some fine food in Russia? Stop at Yeliseyevsky: 56 Nevsky prospect. It is an architectural marvel and well worth a trip. There is one in Moscow as well. Buy Russian candies.
Get into the habit of checking menu prices and final bills before paying.
Most of the cheaper establishments accept only cash.
Elki Palki is a cheap chain of restaurants, good for borsh, pelmeni and Russian buffet style, which is called "telega". You can pile as much food as you want on your plate but allowed to do so only once. No seconds.
Georgian and Abkhazian cuisine: Kolhida, 176 Nevsky prospect; Kavkaz, Karavannaya ulitza 18 (around 400 RUB). For a cheaper Georgian authentic food, head to Cheburechnaya: 6ya linia i 7linia 19, metro Vasileostrovskaya. They have Georgian meat pies, chebureki. Walk straight to the cafeteria, passed restaurant, pay and pick up your pies at the kitchen window.
For Cafe scene, check
Zoom Cafe, www.cafezoom.ru. Reservations maybe required in the evenings/weekends. They also serve breakfast. Try their Syrniki or Oladyi (pancakes). Salads are good and freshly prepared. One of the traditional russian salads is a sweet carrot salad, which is made with apples, honey, raisins, nuts and sour cream. The best non-alcoholic drink that is healthy and refreshing is Mors, made from fresh berries. Don't miss! In the summer, there will be kvas and okroshka (cold soup made with kvas) on the menu.
Demidov Cafe, 14 Naberezhnaya Reki Fontanki has good food and fun atmosphere. Try their borsch and pelmeni.
Stolle-City Center, Konushenny Lane 1/6 is a must for Russian pirogi. Fresh from the oven.
If you are in a supermarket or food store, find Russian ice-cream. Not as sweet as most brands sold in the US and very tasty.
Most of the locations are accessible by public transport or taxi. Negotiate your taxi fare before getting into the car. Ask a hotel staff member what approximate cost to your destination would be. Seek help from the hotel staff to arrange taxi service for you wherever possible.
If you are in St Petersburg in the spring/summer, go to Petrodvoretz (Peterhof) to see the amazing fountains. Watch the bridges being raised at 1am every night for the tall ships to go through. Go window shopping to Bolshoi Gostiny Dvor. Enjoy the experience!