Uzbek Food

Chaikhana in Irkutsk

Published: December 4, 2012

Chaikhana / Чайхана
Байкальская 14/1
1000 – 1700

A chaikhana is a traditional Uzbek restaurant, and while Central Asian food is widely available throughout Russia, a lot of it is quite bad. Chaikhana, located near the central market, is cheap, convenient, and also quite an interesting dining experience. It is also, as many chaikhanas are, simply called “Chaikhana” even though it bears no relation to others cafes of the same name. The main problem with Chaikhana is its location – it is extremely difficult to find. It is located at the very back of the trading square on the Southwest corner of Baikalskaya and Sofii Perovskoi; if you walk around for a while (or just ask someone) you should find it eventually. When you do find it, you’ll be glad that you looked.

While many Chaikhana’s are just small holes-in-the-wall, this particular one is quite large, with several seating areas. One area has typical Russian cafeteria style seating, and the other has traditional Uzbek seating, which consists of small raised platforms with very short tables; you sit on the floor for these. You’ll have to take your shoes off if you want to sit at one of the Uzbek tables. If it is winter, you might not want to do this as the restaurant is quite cold due to market sellers constantly running in and out for cups of tea and pastries. The service is quite prompt and the restaurant has waitresses who will come up and take your order, so no need to go up to the counter. You’ll see a large menu on the wall as you come in but be sure to also look at the smaller menu at your table as there may be additional items. Over all, pricing is fairly reasonable, with most of their dishes costing about 150 rubles. You can also get extras like lavash bread or pastries for 20-50 rubles per piece. Beverages are pretty much limited to black tea.

The food at Chaikhana comes in large portions, so you’ll probably only need to get one dish. They serve a pretty extensive menu of traditional Central Asian food, covering staples like manty, lagman, plov, various kinds of shashlyk, and some other salads, soups, and cutlets. I went with some friends from the university and everything that we tried was quite delicious, the plov in particular was much better than average. Also, the restaurant makes its own lavash which is quite tasty so be sure to get a couple of pieces with whatever you order.

For groups and faculty led tours, Chaikhana could be an fun place to visit and it certainly has sufficient seating. However, as previously stated it is very difficult to find to be sure you know how to get there before you try to lead a group of hungry people to it.

About the author

D. Garrison Golubock

David Garrison Golubock graduated from the University of Chicago in 2011 with degrees in history and Slavic languages and literatures. With a full year of academic study abroad already under his belt, he will be participating in SRAS's Home and Abroad Program in Irkutsk over the 2012-2013 academic year. He plans to pursue graduate studies in his fields.

Program attended: Home and Abroad Scholar: $10,000 to Study Abroad

View all posts by: D. Garrison Golubock

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