A long list of St Pete restaurants to try out isn’t necessary when you’ve landed on the quaint restaurant known as Conchita Bonita.
Located on 39 Gorokhovaya St, Conchita Bonita is a dark, modest, and welcoming Mexican restaurant thriving in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Conchita, which is the diminutive word for “shell” in Spanish, and bonita, meaning beautiful, combine to form the name of a friendly place that is very reminiscent of a “beautiful little shell.” The welcoming staff at the restaurant include a bartender, a hostess, a small army of waitresses, and the kitchen staff who work behind a sugar-skull-adorned curtain. The array of food offered at Conchita Bonita will satisfy Mexican food cravings, and there are many options to choose from: meaty nachos, spicy enchiladas, carne asada tacos, and much more. The menus (decorated inside with clip-art cacti, moustaches, sombreros, and the like) are inviting to Spanish speakers and Russian speakers alike. The Spanish menus list all food and drink options in Spanish, with the occasional sprinkling of English words that can prove to be useful for those who don’t speak much Spanish. The separate Russian menus remind the patron that, though one may feel like they’ve entered the Latin world through the doors of the basement restaurant, we are still in Russia. During my visit, Russian guests made up half the small eatery’s population, but international, Spanish-speaking patrons were also present, fresh from watching World Cup games at the Fan Fest center a few blocks away, neary the Church of the Savior on Blood. On Friday and Saturday nights, the restaurant hosts a game night, in which guests can participate in activities to win 100 rubles worth of play money, redeemable at the bar in the back of the room. The hostess, along with aDJ and a musician playing the bongos in the center of the room, take song requests during interludes between games. One such game included guessing the ethnicities of a Spanish-speaking group that came in after a football match; the winner was treated to a 100 ruble beverage note. By playing Spanish music, encouraging guests to interact with each other via balloon games and trivia, and by serving classic Mexican dishes, Conchita Bonita succeeded in creating a friendly environment that ties each guest-turned-participant into the Spanish-speaking world.
The food at Conchita Bonita is incredible. The plethora of activities going on in the restaurant make one forget about the time it takes for food to be prepared, and as does the bartender’s prompt dispatch of Moscow mules, mojitos, piña coladas, and the like. The presentation of sizzling hot plates of beef fajitas adds to the magical atmosphere that Conchita Bonita so masterfully creates, and the tenderness of the meat they serve makes up the high-quality food being served. There are vegetarian options, including huge portions of nachos covered with not only nacho cheese, but also cilantro, tomatoes, peppers, jalapeños, and potentially more vegetables upon request. The food at Conchita Bonita will not disappoint, and though service can take a while given the packed nature of this tiny but popular place, the positive atmosphere in St. Petersburg’s best Mexican restaurant will be worth the wait.