The rather charming Teremok location on Old Arbat is closest to the metro station on Smolenskaya on the dark blue line. However, if you come out of the Smolenskaya station on the light blue line, you can take in a very cool view of the Foreign Ministry building before heading back underground through the pedestrian underpass in front of that hulking “seven sister” to emerge on Arbat on your way to some fairly cheap and tasty blini.
Most Teremok locations are either kiosks or little pre-fabricated box-like kitchens with a handful of tables in front of the counters inside. The location on Arbat, however, has its own unique and, really, quite attractive character. A tent covers an outside eating area through which you go to enter the restaurant. On the inside, the floor is made of clean ruby-red tiles, and decorative white stucco arches cover both the right and left walls. In the middle of it all stands the counter at which a few cashiers take continuous orders from the patrons endlessly pouring into the place. After you order, they simply turn around and tell the cooks what to make. It’s a refreshing (and fun) experience to see your meal being made right in front of you. The cashier was also really nice and spoke slowly, yet not condescendingly, as she quickly realized I wasn’t Russian. This is probably because she’s so used to working with the tourists that flock to this historic area.
As I stood in line contemplating my order and gazing ravenously up at the various pictures of Russian blini I found it pretty difficult to decide. There are blini with cheese, mushrooms, chicken, and caviar, or one can opt for blini of the dessert variety with fruit filling or cream. They also offer salads, soups, and, most importantly, Balitica beer, the Bud of Russia – omnipresent and marketed as a national brand with patriotic-tinged commercials.
I ended up choosing the blin advertised on a big banner behind the cash register: the blin Caesar (149 rubles). While I realize it’s hardly a classic dish, it was absolutely delicious: basically a blin wrapped around a good portion of Caesar salad. It was bursting at the seems with chicken, onions, lettuce, and tomatoes simmering in Caesar dressing. It was the very essence of savory and, washed down with a 1/3 liter of Baltica 7 (for 70 rubles), I could not have asked for a better meal. The order came to a total of 219 rubles. Not exactly cheap, but certainly not hard on the wallet either.
I had eaten at Teremok before and had been a bit disappointed with blin with sautéed mushrooms that, while very cheap at 58 rubles or so, had left me kind of cold. However, I’m told that the “Blin E-mail,” a strangely-branded food that comes with mushrooms and cheese is, while a few rubles more, simple and savory and very Russian, especially when you ask them to add зелень – basically a bit of chopped dill and cilantro thrown inside.
If you get tired of blini, these larger, more permanent locations of Teremok also have a range of “kasha” which are sweet and filling at the same time.
If you do decide to visit a Teremok, you should definitely go to the one in the Arbat. Not only is the area really cool (though pretty touristy), but this particular restaurant has a nifty atmosphere and really, really good food. I’ll definitely be returning to try other blini and probably buy some souvenirs for the folks back home. It’s interesting, almost every second or third shop is a souvenir store selling matroshki, collectible chashki, or soviet paraphernalia…but I’m curious how much of the stuff is actually made here in Russia. But all in all, a must see area complete with a highly-recommended, relatively inexpensive restaurant.
For groups and faculty-led tours, Teremok could be a decent option. The service is fast – but the store is small so if you come with more than about 10-12, it’s likely some folks could be eating standing up or squeezed together on a chair. If you only need one lunch option on Arbat, you could be better off just sticking with one of the two local MuMu locations.