Bishkek has seen the number of hip clubs, pubs, and restaurants climb in recent years. Here are a few pubs that SRAS students have tried and loved in Bishkek.
Ул. Ибраимова, 24
I’ve learned the Russian word for sweet tooth (сладкоежка), and it seems appropriate here in Kyrgyzstan. Streets are lined with food stalls selling ice cream out in front, local honey varietals abound, and there are numerous supermarket aisles dedicated to cookies, cakes, and candies. Having a bit of a sweet tooth myself, I can certainly appreciate the many local ways to satisfy it. When it comes to sweet spirits, however, I find the flavors more perplexing than appealing. Wines ranges from sweet (сладкое) to half-sweet (полусладкое) to half-dry (полусухое) to dry (сухое); all but the driest fall decidedly on the syrupy-sweet end of the spectrum. And while imported beers taste as you would expect, the locally brewed beers at Blonder Pub in Bishkek fall prey to this same sugar craze.
I went to Blonder with a large group to celebrate a fellow student’s upcoming departure, and it was a great venue for such an occasion. Styled like a German pub with a beautiful “biergarten,” we were seated in a spacious and plush outdoor booth. Blonder is the only local brewery that I’ve heard of (so far), and they offer nine different types of beer on tap. Luckily for our group of seven, their menu also features the “Meter of Beer:” seven beers of your choosing, discounted 15% and with complimentary bread sticks. Over the course of the evening, we tried the Irish Red, Blonder Beer, English Stout, Krušovice Light, and the pomegranate beer. Surprisingly, all had a strong, sweet aftertaste. We even confused the English Stout for the pomegranate flavor at first, because it was so sweet! General consensus was that the beers were good…but different. Personally, I’d go back and order the Krušovice Light, but I’m just as happy with the ubiquitous Baltika 7.
The food at Blonder was actually much better than the beer. Their menu is extensive, with lots of appetizers and plates made for sharing. They offer pages of different kinds of meats, though I was disappointed to learn the rabbit dishes were not available. Highlights of our meal included the shared fried cheese balls and the Russian snacks, and everyone around the table was very satisfied with their entrée. Prices were on the higher side for Bishkek, however, it is quite easy and delicious to choose from the more economical and traditional preparations including lamb, chicken, sausages, and shashlik. When all was said and done and we had divided up the check, we each paid 800 som (about $16), more than I usually spend on a Thursday night dinner, but perfectly appropriate for a festive group celebration.
– Lauren Bisio
ул. Ахунбаева 97А
In Bishkek, there are many bars and restaurants close to Ala-Too Square and along Chui Prospect. Their signs, menus and patios all beckon, promising a variety of different scenes and cuisines: national food, burger joints, Italian, Mexican, Chinese, even barbeque. If you venture in the opposite direction from the London School, however, the pickings are slim and continue to whittle down as you walk south towards the mountain range in the distance. While there are a fair number of restaurants, some of them quite good, gone are the sidewalk cafes and pedestrian ambiance of the northern stretch of the city. Until, that is, you find yourself in the oasis of Buddha Bar.
Located on Sovietskaya and Ahunbaeva, Buddha Bar is a newer restaurant and bar. While the interior of the log cabin styled building might be sleek and new, the real attraction is the outdoor seating. The patio is vast, with different sections. There are tables and chairs, as well as cushioned couches and easy chairs to lounge on and pass a few hours under the trees. Even though the restaurant is located on a busy intersection the frenzy and noise don’t invade the serenity of the patio, which borders a forested park. The patio also includes a couple different playgrounds for kids, and during the day there are often children laughing, playing, and running around from table to table. At night, however, the vibe becomes decidedly more adult. The music gets turned up, and music videos and fashion shows are projected onto a large screen. Waiters parade by carrying hookah after hookah to fashionably dressed young people, many in large groups piled onto the cozy patio furniture. As the hours pass, Buddha Bar becomes more bar than restaurant.
If you are hungry, though, you won’t be disappointed. The menu is vast, and offers a range of cuisines and price points: Russian salads, pasta and pizza, burgers and sandwiches, and even sushi. While I wasn’t brave enough to try sushi in Bishkek – I question its freshness, in a land-locked country in the heart of Asia – it certainly seems to be a popular menu item at Buddha Bar. The many other tables sharing large platters of sushi almost tempted me, but instead I opted for a sandwich. The double-decker vegetable sandwich was quite substantial, with large pieces of tomato, cucumber, and red pepper along with a couple fried eggs and a mayonnaise sauce, and French fries on the side. It was delicious and a great deal. Our entire table ordered sandwiches, in fact, including the club sandwich and the duck sandwich. Unfortunately, no one was brave enough to try the tongue this time. Though the sandwiches are a good deal, some of the other menu items are pricier. Drinks are relatively pricy, too. You’re paying for the ambiance, however, and in my opinion that’s worth a few extra som. Especially so close to the London School with so few other options around.