At one point or another, every foreign student studying in St. Petersburg asks the same question: Where can I eat without punching a hole in my wallet and letting my money bleed out the bottom? Or to be more culturally appropriate – where can I eat without selling my bayan? Thankfully there is an answer for these starving studenti in St. Petersburg and many other Russian cities: the Russian fast food chain Teremok. It’s fast, it’s cheap, it’s filling, and best of all there is a location to St. Petersburg State University. Located on the 7th Line street right next to the Vasileostrovskaya Metro Station, it’s less than a 10-minute walk from where most RSL classes are held. I’ve already been twice this week and will be going for the hat trick this weekend.
What gives Teremok so much appeal?
Let’s start with their staple dish, the Russian blin, which is simple, filling, and delicious. The selection, too, is extensive: you can order a smaller blin with ham and cheese, you can get heartier helpings including chicken and sliva (sweetened cream), mushrooms and cheese, or ground beef and veggies, or if you’re feeling the need to go all out, caviar. These various blini range from 41 to 120 rubles ($1.50 to $4.28 or so).
If you’re like me and afraid one blin won’t be enough to hold you over, there’s also an extensive selection of soups, ranging from 49 to 99 rubles, as well as an assortment of other typical Russian favorites like pelmeni and grechka (for between 85 and 160 rubles depending on the selection and size of the portion). To drink, they offer the standard selection of soft drinks, chai (tea), and of course beer, but what separates them from other establishments is their home-brewed Kvas, from 40-100 rubles depending on the size of the glass. (One thing all visitors to Russia should do before they leave is try the kvas. If you haven’t had it, it’s like a dryer version of root beer.) And, just like you’d expect from a blin-based cafe, they offer a number of delicious-looking dessert blini as well.
So Far This Sounds Like Blin Heaven!
You’re not wrong. But I should point out some potential negatives. While it is a completely local (Russian founded, owned, and operated) establishment, it’s totally fast food. Feel-wise, you may as well be in a Russian McDonald’s (which incidentally is right across the street). Some people understandably don’t want to experience this when they’re living abroad. What’s more, the Taco Bell-like atmosphere lends itself to a similar environment: small, uncomfortable seats, space issues, and frankly speaking a complete absence of character. If these things are important to you, you may not come away with the same high opinion.
On our first trip, I came in famished following 3.5 hours of Russian lessons, and left completely full after a cup of mushroom soup with crackers (“chipsi” they call them) and a sizable meat and vegetable blin. My friend Barbara got the mushroom and cheese blin and loved it. We didn’t order any of the dessert blins but badly wanted to. And we could have done it and still stayed under budget, but we were stuffed!
The next day I went back solo – I just couldn’t keep away. This time I tried the chicken and sliva, which frankly was a little disappointing (the sliva had a taste that was hard to place but certainly unfamiliar) – and the ham and cheese, which was delish.
Cost and Final Assessment
All told we never spent more than 160 rubles each (note: expect your bill more in the 200-250 range if you order a drink, like the kvas). This makes Teremok easily the best bang-for-your-buck deal we’ve found so far.
For groups and faculty-led tours, some locations are likely to be a good option, as a number of people can be processed pretty quickly. The main issue would be to find a place with outside seating, as most locations are kiosks or very small cafes that can’t hold groups.