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Help Find Russian Restaurant NYC

  • j

I am taking an old friend to dinner. He lived in Russia for a few years and I think he would like to have something authentic and reminiscent. I am looking for a restaurant that is comfortable and not extremely expensive or touristy. I would appreciate a suggestion in NYC, I do not want to travel to Brooklyn.

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  1. Pushkin on 57th near Steinway Hall-absolutely gorgeous space-check out menu online to see if within your budget.

    1. For some reason, Russian restaurants in Manhattan tend to be pretty spendy, even when they're comfortable, rather than glitzy (Russian Samovar). The only two moderately priced places I know of are Uncle Vanya and Russian Vodka Room. RVR does a few things reasonably well -- various smoked fish, eggplant caviar -- but it's not destination dining. Uncle Vanya is, from what I remember, very much a homestyle-type of restaurant and the quality of the food is probably about what you'd find in a private home with a decent, but uninspired, home cook. RVR is more an establishment for drinking and it can be somewhat touristy. I don't remember Uncle Vanya being touristy at all.

      1. I have a Russian friend who likes Mari Vanna, but unfortunately I can't speak/recommend based on personal experience. Another option to consider!

        2 Replies
        1. re: sheio

          I like Mari Vanna for food, as well, but it is expensive by most standards. I don't know if I'd call it touristy, but jayd should probably be warned that it's a bit of a known party factory, so people come in big groups to celebrate. Literally every 10 minutes, the staff comes out to a table to sing happy birthday. Maybe this is an authentic sort of experience that jayd's friend would find charming, or maybe not.

          1. re: michelleats

            No one on this board likes Firebird, but I do. Also I like Petrossian if your pal is missing caviar.

        2. Pushkin is probably the most expensive Russian restaurant in the city (the country?), so I don't think it's what your looking for.
          In my memory the food at Russian Vodka Room or Mari Vanna is just OK. Uncle Vanya is no better, in fact I remember last time I went there, I asked if they could cook my meat rare, and the waiter gave me a puzzled look and asked what it meant. Russian Samovar doesn't strike me as any more expensive than Mari Vanna, but the food is vastly superior.
          I just tried a new place near NYU called Dacha, and I found it pretty good and reasonably priced.
          Finally, if you want something totally unpretentious, cheap, with food that's not the greatest but with the most affordable vodka in town, try Ukrainian National Home.

          4 Replies
          1. re: foodperestroika

            The food at Mari Vanna is much better than "just OK".

            1. re: Sneakeater

              I'd say it depends how much vodka you drink, and whether you take into consideration the decor. What dishes did you like?

            2. re: foodperestroika

              What did you try at Dacha? I just noticed it, walking by early this morning. It's in the space where Rhong Tiam used to be and from what I could see of the interior through the front window, it looked inviting.

              They have fried pickles and fried green tomatoes on the menu! Are those really Russian?

              Lots of shilly reviews on Yelp. It'd be great to hear your opinion.

              1. re: michelleats

                The pelmeni were among the best I've ever had, and the beef shashlyk was very good too. I plan to go back in the near future to try more things. I haven't tried the fried pickles, but if pickles are Russian and frying food is widespread in Russia, then fried pickles are indubitably Russian.

            3. Take a look at Onegin, in the west village. It's less glitzy than the midtown places, the food passed muster with my Russian relatives, and the home-flavored vodkas are delicious.

              3 Replies
              1. re: strangemd

                Thanks, strangemd. I've been trying to find info on Onegin. What did your Russian relatives enjoy at the restaurant, food-wise?

                1. re: michelleats

                  They do very good blini, with either red caviar, sour cream and chives, or with home-smoked salmon. They also do 'em with black caviar, but that's beyond my budget. My relatives really liked a smoked meat soup they have (Smoked meat stew "Solyanka"), and both the pelmeni and vareniki were considered very legit by my Russian cousins. For main courses, we've had an excellent beef stew, a delicious rack of veal, and some very fine double-thick lamb chops. The portions are copious, the folks are friendly, and the home-made vodka lubricates everything well, without too much pretension.

                1. re: CindyJ

                  Not Russian but Ukrainian, and definitely not very good, in my not humble opinion.

                  1. re: Pan

                    I have to say I enjoy the selection of beers at Veselka's and I so enjoy the fried dumplings with cheese. I have had other dishes, and they have been satisfying, but can't say that the place is a destination for me other than late night place to get coffee, a small bite to eat, and read the newspaper.

                    It is Ukrainian of course, but the wait staff consists of people who have travelled from Poland, and other places in or around East Europe. Not exactly Russian food, but some dishes shared within the region.

                    1. re: Pan

                      Also not a fan of Veselka. If I'm going for homestyle Ukrainian I much prefer Ukrainian East Village Restaurant (not at all touristy). For good, reasonably priced Russian, more upscale atmosphere, I do think you have to hit Brighton Beach.

                    2. I have not read the threat entirely, but have heard that Uncle Vanya is expensive, and though I have been meaning to go, have yet to visit this place.

                      I have met many Russians here, and many prepare food at home from goods found at the Russian grocers. Thus stated, I do think it wise to head off of Manhattan to the area of Brighton Beach. I have found and tried venues there that are more promising than the ones noted in manhattan. Since this is a thread on Manhattan I must forgo recommendations, and say that Veselka on 2nd is a choice considering Polish as well as some Russians eat there.

                      I would try to avoid the more popular touristy ones here, as no Russian I have known likes them too much. Try locate a more simple local one that is frequented by local russians,and give a heads up here on the Chowhound when you locate that, if that is the route you take. Good luck.

                      One last note is the Russian Spa at 88 Fulton,on Fulton Street (no. 88 of course ) in Manhattan caters to a predominately Russian clientele, and I have always enjoyed the food there, though keep in mind the pelmeni is not made in house.

                      1. Nasha Rasha. I have no idea what this place is like, but I see it every weekend when I drive into the city and park my car.


                        1. I'd suggest Anyway Cafe. I haven't had any of the food but the vodka and cocktails are very good. It's very cozy and all the waiters are Russian. They even have live music some nights but it's definitely not touristy.

                          1 Reply
                          1. Reviving this thread to put in a word for Nasha Rasha on 19th off of 5th. I went there for the first time last night. It's a small-ish place, done up in red high-Soviet kitsch, sort of lounge-y. The prices are quite reasonable; service is sweet and helpful if somewhat scattered. They have 200 different flavored vodkas -- the horseradish-dill really cleared up my head. The menu is extensive, with all the classics -- vareniki and pirozhki, borshch and ukha and solyanka, stroganoff and chicken Kiev and kotlyety, plus, for fun, a few "Soviet era" dishes involving frankfurters (I remember these vividly from my time in Leningrad in the late '70's.) Memorable were the pelmeni with lamb (wonderfully juicy,) the golubtsi (stuffed cabbage with the leaves almost melting away,) and the pan-fried potatoes with mushrooms (they looked like porcini but weren't.) I will definitely be back to eat my way through the rest of the menu!