I’ve been told that Stardogs is the butt of many-a-joke here in Moscow, and to be honest, I think I can understand why. The experience of going to one of their kiosks is so distinctly Western, that it’s almost a parody of itself. Standing a way’s away from the white, yellow, and red kiosk (this is merely hearsay, but I’ve been told that these are the colors that make you hungry, hence the McDonald’s arch), trying to decide what to order, I felt the strange sensation of deja vu…like I was at a baseball game in the states.
I looked up at the pictures depicting various tubes of mysterious meat that can lend themselves so well to the age-old question of “what exactly is in there?!,” that can be paired with this or that soda and wondered what red-blooded, junk-food-loving American wouldn’t be happy with finding such a food stand in Russia?
A rather happy lady dressed from head to toe in her Stardogs uniform asked me what I would like her to make for me. I had decided on the горячий сэндвич (the hot sandwich): two pieces of toasted whole wheat bread with pickles, fried onions, an interesting spiraled spicy sausage, ketchup, both horseradish and yellow mustard, and mayo.
The tasty-looking sandwich came out to be only 107 Rubles, and I’m pretty sure this was the most expensive thing on the menu. Most of the items were between 80 and 90 Rubles, and you could easily get a hot dog and a soda for the price I paid. She heated the meat while adroitly establishing the bottom layer of pickles and onions on the bread. Thereafter she added the meat, and swirled healthy loads of various condiments on top of it. At the smell of the horseradish, my appetite swelled and I wondered if I’d be able to take the photographs I needed for this review before inhaling the sandwich.
I crossed the street and sat down on one of the curved benches in the park overlooking the main entrance of the university building. I ate it very quickly and, I won’t lie, I was a bit disappointed. It seemed that all of the individual parts of the sandwich were of good quality, yet didn’t come together as a whole. The bread was good but too thick so I couldn’t really taste the meat or get a big, wholesome bite with everything in it that’s so important to a sandwich’s quality. The horseradish and mustard were also really tasty but overpowered all the other toppings and condiments. Not to mention the fact that when I finished, I wasn’t quite satiated. My appetite was gone but the food didn’t stick in me like such a meal should.
There’s no doubt that Stardogs is a really cheap option, but I think it’s more than possible to get just a tad more quality (and satisfaction) for 100 Rubles. You may very well try it and like it, but I don’t think I’ll be going back to Stardogs any time soon. It seems, and I hate to sound too parsimonious, that I didn’t quite get the quality that I paid for. I may go and try a hot dog at a later date. There might be a better balance of bread and meat.
For groups and faculty-led tours, Stardogs is probably not your best option. There really is no cultural value in taking students here (unless you see value to introducing them to an oft-used local culinary joke – akin to New York hotdogs or local Chinese restaurants). Plus, really, it just isn’t that good.