Vladivostok offers a variety of pubs and clubs for nighttime entertainment and meals. Below are three recomended by SRAS students who have previously lived and studied in Vladivostok for a semester.
Karaoke on the VSUES campus
When one of my friends first asked me about singing karaoke, I was a bit hesitant. It’s not something in my normal realm of preferred activities, but I didn’t have any other plans for the evening. So in the interest of trying new things, I acquiesced.
The space we used is nestled in a corner room of the area known collectively as The Underground (Андерграунд) at VSUES. Underground is VSUES’ event venue, which has a main auditorium, two smaller event rooms, a coffee bar, and a coat room. The whole area is very nice, and I have had the opportunity to attend several other events here. Certainly, the facility is very modern and can accommodate a wide range of shows or activities.
The atmosphere of this karaoke group is very relaxed. We only had about 15 people total, so it’s not like singing in front of a whole bar or restaurant. Everyone is there for fun and they are quick to applaud at the end of a song or laugh along with you if your vocal chords don’t act as planned.
As we got started with the evening, the karaoke coordinator, Alex, said that they usually get to use the full auditorium just for the small karaoke group. The smaller room was fine by me, but I will be interested to see how the dynamic changes in a room with 500+ seats.
The list of karaoke songs to choose from was truly impressive. I can only assume that the computer was connected to an online database, because it had seemingly everything. We sang quite a diverse repertoire of Russian and English songs, and I don’t think that there were any instances of people not being able to find the song they wanted. The technology backing the karaoke is very high-tech. At other times this venue is used for smaller concerts, so it has a sound board and a wireless microphone setup. The room is equipped with four large screen televisions and one projector. Lyrics are always within view.
I chose some personal favorites from Creedence Clearwater Revival, Billy Joel, and Bon Jovi; then I finished off my evening with Semisonic’s “Closing Time.” Somewhere in the middle, I also sang a duet with a German student who also studies at VSUES. We managed a rendition of John Denver’s “Country Roads.” But the version we picked happened to be the electronica dance remix. I didn’t know that existed.
Currently, the karaoke time runs from 5:00-7:00 each Friday evening. It is free of charge and very low key. It is a student-run activity, so there is no guarantee of permanence associated with it. The more I get to know this university and the people who attend it, the more I realize that there is a vibrant student life. Simply realize that many of the activities are not well advertised, so it’s always worth asking your fellow students about what kind of clubs and activities they take part in around the university.
– Jonathon Rainey
ул. Светланская 1
Of all of the local establishments in Vladivostok striving in one way or another to capture some aspect of American culture, no one seems to be doing so quite as successfully as Moonshine Bar. Located just down the street from many popular bars and restaurants, including Friendship Bar and The Two Georgians, this newly opened blues bar (блюз бар) is in the epicenter of the city’s nightlife scene. Though it is reported that the owner of the bar, a local businessman with several other successful establishments already under his belt, took the idea from a similarly designed outfit he visited in Singapore, I felt as if I had stepped right back into the thriving new area of my hometown of Louisville, KY where a new bar, brewery or tavern seems to spring up everyday in the renovated confines of some rundown building.
Polished cement floors, exposed overhead ducting and rustic brick walls comprise the basis of an interior outfitted with sleek black glass and unfinished wooden furniture, low hanging light fixtures which allow the overhead shadows to linger and, of course, a bar that seems to reach into the heavens. A continuous rotation of smooth to bitter blues poured over our table as I tipped back a neat (неразбавленный) Jim Beam and struggled to remember that I was thousands of miles from home.
The occasion for our gathering on this particular evening was a multi-facetted one. As the semester was coming to an end, my two American compatriots were soon to be heading homeward making an extra-scholastic rendezvous all but obligatory. Also, through our attendance of the monthly expats meetings, we had befriended an Australian student whose nearly yearlong stay in the city was also coming to an end. So, while a group-sendoff of sorts, we were also all anxious to check out one of the city’s newer drinking holes.
With a beverage menu about twice the height and thickness of that of the directory of food selections, it is likely safe to say that most people are not coming here in search of savory satiation. That is not to say, however, that non-liquid items are not available for the ordering, as, with our first round of drinks on the table, the proposition of selecting something to snack on was roundly approved. With the arrival of the eggplant fritos (баклажаны фритос), the mystery of the implications of the obviously non-slavic word in the menu’s description of the dish were made apparent. While we had assumed as far as the likelihood of it being a fried dish, we were pleasantly surprised to find the eggplant presented as a mimic of potato wedges, or as the Spanish would call them, papas fritas. As the men went on to further explore the offerings of the drink menu, the female delegation delved into the sweets (сладости), resulting in the delivery of a small bowl of the pudding-like Spanish classic, Catalonian Cream, and the French millefeuille with apple and pear (мильфей с яблоком у грушей). Not a complaint was heard through the course of consumption and a waiter was always at hand to fulfill our requests, even despite the dense Friday evening crowd.
Apart from its newness and fairly unique niche in the area, this bar is also known for the creativity of its barmen who are open to suggestions and are happy to tinker with the ingredients of even the perfected classics. Trusting their judgment, a pair of requests for “something sweet” (что-нибудь сладкое) was placed to the readily accepting staff member. The resulting purple concoctions were met with much approval both in the way of taste and price tag, as they were just over the standard cocktail charge for Vladivostok.
If you are looking for a place to unwind over a drink or meet up with a handful of friends for a mellow evening, this is certainly the place to do it. The crowd here is certainly a bit older and less rowdy than what might be found at some of the other bars on this stretch of road, but it is far from a formal scene and falls fairly well into the realm of comfortable on a hipster scale that tends to tip dangerously towards the extremes of either obnoxious superiority or chaotic all-inclusiveness. A certain personal favorite and a good getaway for anyone missing their hometown pub.
– Alex Misbach
ул. Светланская, 3
I had been making my rounds of the international fare as of late, from Georgian lavash (грузинский лаваш) and Japanese udon (японский удон) to Korean sea mustard (корейский миёк гук) and Peruvian tacos (перуанские тако). Such a track record would likely leave any analyst all but clueless as to surmising in exactly what country this rogue diner had landed himself. While my stomach is as of yet to waive the white flag of exhaustion as a result of this particular brand of cultural ingestion, I was not entirely against the possibility of finding myself behind a simple plate of western chow. As I was accompanied by a friend not so long removed from a tour of Eastern Europe, the proposition of stopping into a Bavarian pub (баварский паб) for a bite to eat sounded pretty appealing.
After checking our coats at the door, we were directed to the corner table in an utterly empty dining hall whose seating capacity easily outstripped any other establishment I had been to in Vladivostok. Realizing that we had arrived with but a minute to spare in the daily business lunch (бизнес ланч) 30% menu price-reduction (скидка), I was not entirely put off by the total vacancy. After all, the interior was fairly well executed in relation to their claim to pub-dom. Heavy wooden furniture left hardly any room to move under the light of faux-candle laden, wagon-wheel chandeliers. While the brick and mortar walls and exposed beams of the ceiling further contributed to an authentic, old-time atmosphere, modernity had obviously crept in as well. A giant projector streamed a hockey match with the assistance of a handful of flat screens and modern music by the Gorillaz, to my taste if not entirely fitting to the theme, played throughout our stay.
While being a bonafide pub in Vladivostok is generally distinguishment enough, Munich Pub also boasts the feature of being a brewery (пивоварня). While the craft-beer movement in Vlad (and in Russia in general) is all but non-existent in comparison to that of the American East-Coast, there are a handful of restaurants that offer in-house prepped brew. Though, interestingly, I have met many a native who has expressed skepticism as to the authenticity of such a claim, suspecting that the establishment purchases the beer in large quantities from a distributor and then just rebrands it. Regardless of the actual veracity of such claims, in my experience with the offerings provided by the handful of such establishments in the area, my taste buds have not exactly been surprised, pleasantly or otherwise, by the undistinguished flavors. Past experiences well in mind, I decided that a cup of black tea would suffice on this cold, windy Friday afternoon and allowed my tablemate to try one of the four homebrews offered. He seemed far from wowed by the pilsner (пильзнер).
Browsing the food menu, the items were largely as to be expected: simple meat and potatoes style dishes and, of course, the obligatory schnitzel (шницель) and sauerkraut (кислая капуста). I requested the spaghetti carbonara (спагетти карбонаяа) à la vegetarian sans bacon. My companion initially wanted the schnitzel, but was denied on account of unavailability, forcing him into a less enthusiastic request for the European kielbasa (колбаски европейские).
Being the only diners present in Munich Pub, I expected the orders to be prepared with no lack of haste. However, when within what seemed like hardly enough time to make it to the kitchen and back, the waitress returned with our food, I was not fully assured that we had not received the leftovers from the lunchtime rush. Further disappointment came in the rather insignificant portion of pasta, which when shaped into what resembled a modernist’s take on an obelisk and placed in the center of a giant hybrid plate-bowl, did nothing to ameliorate my lack of enthusiasm. My friend also complained that the potatoes were rather cold and dry and that the mustard lacked the traditional kick he had become accustomed to when in the Eastern Bloc.
This place that markets itself as a small haven of Eastern European culture plopped down into Eastern Asia is doing a lot of things right. The furnishings and décor are spot on, the beer is, if not the most outstanding, at least not a bank breaker and weekends feature live music with a free movie showing on the projector every Sunday night. However, the total lack of natural light is a little depressing and the food is nothing worth writing to Aunt Gertrude and Uncle Gottfried about. All in all, while I see the potential and, granted, we came at a lull in the action, Munich Pub had too many marks in the negative column to compel me back down those stairs again any time soon.
– Alex Misbach