When asked to participate in SRAS’s new project “Cheap Eats” I knew exactly what location I would hit first. Pirogof is string of cafes in St. Petersburg best known for its sweet and savory pies. There are currently five locations around the city, but the location I frequent lies just two minutes from the Vasileostrovskii Metro Station. This makes it very convenient for anyone studying at Saint Petersburg State University (as I am), the main campus of which is at the same metro stop. I come here so often that the waitresses recognize me and, when I ordered a beer (when I usually get tea) with my meal, her was reaction was like “Oh! Look at you!” I suppose I need to use Cheap Eats to diversify my lunch “hot spots.” But, it does speak quite highly of the wait staff who are all quite good and friendly.
Pirogof attempts to create a feeling of a Russian village inside. The tables, booths, and even lamps are wooden (maybe fake wood) and each table has rustic straw place mats. This intimate cafe is separated into two rooms, one for smoking patrons and the other for non-smoking customers. The main smoking room has two giant paintings of Russian village scenes.
Pirogof offers very traditional Russian food. On this occasion, I ordered mushroom soup, raspberry pie and “salat domashnyi,” a traditional Russian mayonnaise-based salad with ham, potatoes, cucumber, and carrots. Everything is additionally seasoned with dill – which Russians love. In fact, dill was additionally sprinkled all over my plate, just in case I didn’t quite get my fill in the soup or salad. Pirogof serves their salad in a nontraditional massive heap on your plate – traditionally salads are served in small portions in Russia. I didn’t complain, however.
My mushroom soup was extremely Russian: fresh mushrooms, herbs, and a broth base; it was extremely tasty, but then again I feel one can never go wrong ordering a Russian soup, though I’m not preferential to cold soups.
I came with two companions, fellow students from Finland and Norway. One ordered the Russian drink mors (a type of cranberry juice), tvorog (small-curd cottage cheese) pie, while the other ordered broccoli soup (not traditionally Russian!), tea, and potato-and-mushroom pie (traditional!). I also splurged on a fresh Vasileostrovskii Beer, which is made locally and costs about three dollars for a .33 liter glass. All this pushed our collective check to only 831 rubles, or about 275 rubles ($9) apiece.
The menu offers a large variety of pies, quite obviously their specialty as their name is a Russian family name derived from the word for pie (пирог). If one were so inclined, once could order a slice of meat-and-cabbage pie, a cup of tea, and even a desert pie and walk away stuffed for about $3. If you catch the café at lunch, they also offer a “biznes lanch,” as the term has been adopted into Russian, where you can choose from seven full meals, in quite large portions, and which usually come with tea and cookie included for under 150 rubles ($5).
I would absolutely recommend this cafe for good, cheap, and very Russian food. Here they offer not only popular traditions, but also very tasty and filling dishes. My meal, was much more than I could handle, and everything met my tasty expectations.
For groups and faculty-led tours: the cafe is quite small, and finding seating for groups of more than eight could be a challenge, especially if you arrive when the cafe is already busy. However, this lies very near the 6th Line, a pleasant pedestrian street with trees, benches, and often live music. So, getting a few pies and maybe salads to go and sitting outside and eating them is a possibility if the weather permits.