Cafe Osh / Кафе Ош
Ул. Чехова 22
The central market is probably one of the most interesting areas in Irkutsk. A huge area with many different trading squares, malls, and open air plazas, the market has traders from all over Asia selling items ranging from apples to cashmere socks to industrial machinery. While in many cities large markets are relegated to the outskirts of town, in Irkutsk the market has remained in the center and indeed continues to expand, sprawling out into new courtyards and streets. Exploring the market is a must for anyone visiting Irkutsk, yet market wanderings and bargaining can quickly grow tiring and most explorers will soon need a place to stop and rest, as well as eat. Located in the main building of the central market, Cafe Osh is one of the best places to eat at the market. Centrally located, it is cheap, fast, and offers a variety of interesting Central Asian dishes as well as standard Russian fare.
One difficulty with going to Cafe Osh is that it is inside the main pavilion of the food market. This is an immense building with many different aisles and corridors which are not marked in any way, making it difficult to navigate at first. Cafe Osh is roughly in the center of the building somewhat towards Ul. Timiryazeva. There is a large sign outside it which says “Cafe Osh” so if you just wander around long enough you’ll probably see it eventually. Once inside, you’ll see a pretty standard little cafeteria with a small buffet counter at the front and approximately 10 tables. The place is usually fairly full, though I’ve never had a problem finding a table. It is quite a good spot for people-watching as customers are usually carrying also sorts of weird things they are either selling or have just bought in the market.
To order, you’ll have to go up the counter and speak with the somewhat surly waitress on duty. There is quite an extensive menu, though many items may not be available. You’ll also see a number of different dishes displayed in the case by the counter which may or may not be on the menu. I opted for a bowl of borsht and two manty (Uzbek dumplings), as well as a cup of tea, which cost me about 150 rubles. The borsht was fairly standard and the manty were tasty, though I suspect they had been made some time ago. The service was quite quick though and the portions were reasonably filling. Overall, Cafe Osh may not be a gourmand’s dream but it is cheap and convenient.
For groups and faculty-led tours, Cafe Osh would probably be a poor choice due to the limited amount of space, though a group of up to 6 people could probably expect to be seated with relative ease.