Moscow State University - the cafeteria is in the basement of this building.

Moscow State’s Student Cafeteria

Published: December 1, 2011

Столовая МГУ / Dining Hall MGU   
Meals for ~$4

The ominous facade of the MGU building provides, along with the other six Stalinist ‘sisters’, a fascinating example of Socialist Realist architecture and a physical manifestation of Soviet discourse. The building creates a real feeling of upward motion or, perhaps, an aggressive, climbing struggle towards the distant yet seemingly tangible heavens.

Surrounded by various artistic ensembles which all culminate with a great spire, the great building is itself an homage to great Russians and Soviets. Fountains and sculptures symmetrically frame the statue of the scientist and poet Lomonosov (whose name the university bears). The opposite entrance leads directly to two lines of busts depicting various influential Russian and Soviet thinkers surrounding a huge pool. The entrance itself is columned and prefaced by two huge statues of very, very serious readers (not looking at their books curiously enough) and topped with a crest of Soviet Flags and a picture of Lenin.

This exalted atmosphere extends right down into the dining hall in the basement. The chandeliers, ceiling ornamentation, and massive columns provoke the sensation of being in a church or perhaps a palace. Yet, as one’s eyes approach the floor, with its worn wooden planks, its cafeteria feel becomes more apparent.

The Food

I’ve eaten at the dining hall on more than a few occasions this semester. It’s very easy to get a salad and entree, small though it may be, for around 70 rubles. Yet this particular time I decided to explore more options: I chose a decadent breaded pork chop covered with melted cheese and chives (88 rubles, 10 kopecks – the cafeteria is one of the few places in Russia that still includes the lowly kopek in its pricing), a dish of chopped tomato, cucumber, and red and yellow peppers (15 rubles, 60 kopecks), a pastry filled with lemon cream (11 rubles, 80 kopecks), and a piece of white bread (1 ruble, 20 kopecks).

The pork chop was amazing. Though it was obviously cooked in tons of butter, it settled into my stomach very nicely (differing from the fried fish…beware the fried fish! Your insides will never forgive you for eating it). The veggies were splendidly replenishing, not at all like the hard, flavorless ones you find in American establishments catering to large amounts of people. The pastry was shaped like a doughnut, but that’s not what it was…Nevertheless it was very good. I usually consider putting lemon in baked goods to be anathema, but this was great. I know I’ll have to fight off the temptation to get another whenever I eat there.

The Service

As there are usually a considerable amount of students in the dining hall at any given time, the service system is a veritable assembly line: You get in line with a tray, take a vegetable dish, tell the woman serving the entrees which one you would like (there are usually four or five along with optional soup), then you can chose from a plethora of dessert items like gelatin, chocolate covered treats, or cream-filled pastries. Right before you get to the cash register, you can select as many pieces of white or black bread as you like from huge trays overflowing with individual slices.

The line forms in the middle, then splits into two identical lines (both line have the same food, so it doesn’t matter which you are funneled into) going either direction once you get to the food counter. A cashier at either side will quickly tally up your bill and get you on your way. Tables abound, but between one or two in the afternoon it can be tough to find a free seat.

Conclusion

Comparing my limited experience with dining halls in the states, this one is actually really great. It’s not just alternate days of rice or pasta with a stand for pizza and fries. The vegetable dishes show a real dedication on the part of the culinary staff as they are neat and garnished, and the entree serving sizes are generous. This is a good option for students as it’s at once efficient, conveniently located, and really quite cheap.

For groups and faculty-led tours, the MGU cafeteria is most likely not a possibility, as anyone entering the MGU building must have an MGU student card showing that they are attending regular classes there.

About the author

Kyle Mendes

Kyle Mendes has a degree in European and 20th Century Russian History from UC Santa Cruz. He is studying on SRAS's Russian as a Second Language Program in Moscow. He plans to attend graduate school in the fall of 2012 to further his study of Russian history.

Program attended: Challenge Grants: Funding for Study Abroad

View all posts by: Kyle Mendes

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