Bliny / Блины
Воронцовская ул., 8
м. Таганская (See Map)
Meals for ~$10 and up, business lunch for $7
There are a few streets that go in different directions once you get out of the Taganskaya station and one may, like me, have a bit of a hard time finding it. But if you look across the busy street and cross towards the round glass building, Borontsovskaya is the one on the right. Walk down the street for maybe five minutes and Bliny will be on you right hand side.
Edifice and Interior
Traveling down Borontsovkaya ulitsa, one sees expensive looking, elaborately themed restaurants with colorful decor starting from the street and extending right into their visible interiors. But Блины has an unassuming facade with only a small red sign designating its hidden location. One enters through the door and goes through a small hallway before seeing the cordial ordering counter with a humble wall menu on the left and, to the right, the dining area with both standing and sitting tables upon which stand piles of napkins and little containers, not shakers mind you, of salt and pepper: a nice and homey touch.
It was opened in the later soviet era and essentially hasn’t changed much since. It’s obvious that the tables are likely original – as is the golden samovar at the counter. Today, it has the sort of small home-town diner – the type that manages to just stay open due its devoted clientele – and that’s about what it is. Seated around you will be working-class locals, grabbing a cheap, quick bite to eat before heading on their way. The walls are a kind of light golden rock mosaic and the lights are low. The place is silent save for the sound of the patrons’ laughter and friendly conversation.
The restaurant offers a variety of drinks, soups, salads, sides, and small meat plates. They also have, as the not-so-creative name might scream, blini, the traditional Russian thin pancake. I decided on the chicken cutlet (just one piece, more on that in a moment), a bowl of salad, black bread, and a juice box. The whole meal cost only 72 Rubles (Chicken: 35 R, Salad: 25R, Bread 2 R, Juice 10R).
Upon first glance at my food and bill, I thought perhaps I should have ordered more. Yet afterward I was surprisingly and delightfully satiated (this coming from one who can put it away like no other). The salad was crisp and the fresh bread was great when dipped in the left over dressing (and bread just seems more real in Russia). The piece of chicken, more of a little pocket of juicy, tender goodness, hit my stomach like thanksgiving turkey. To illustrate, consider this: upon arriving at the Taganskaya station I was starving and I sprinted up the escalator two steps at a time to get into the street and find this place. However, after I ate and sauntered back to the metro, I rode the escalator all the way down, nearly falling asleep in the process due to the post-Thanksgiving euphoria.
All in all, this is a great place with prices that can compete with fast food kiosks. Perhaps the main reason to schlep out here, though, is for the peak-in-the-keyhole experience back into Soviet daily life. The place is nearly a museum, showing you how late Soviet-era diners dined. For more on the nostalgia-value that this place has for Russians (and few more great pics of the place) see this article (in Russian). I would definitely recommend this place and plan to return when I go for a more thorough exploration of the area.
For groups and faculty-led tours, this is a possibility if you have a smaller group. The café could handle perhaps 10-12 but groups of more than 15 will likely overwhelm the tiny establishment.