While abroad, it’s natural to get a bit homesick and start craving the comfort foods we are used to. While we recomended that you dive into the local culture as much as possible, sometimes seeing foreign takes on American classics can be interesting and educational… right? Here’s a list of six fast food places that SRAS students have found comfort in in Vladivostok, Russia.
1. Oki Doki
The foundation of the menu is obviously the pizza. Starting from 52 rubles for a pretty large slice to 208 rubles for a whole pizza, the types of pizza include cheese, meat, vegetable, Hawaiian (seemingly a favorite of the locals), and seafood (with what looked like crab). Oki Doki’s pizza would best be compared to Sabarro’s in America: greasy, quickly cooked, and served in big slices. Also, pizzas only come in one size, somewhere between a medium and a large. You can also order burgers (70 rubles), soups (50 rubles), pelmeni and fries (30-40 rubles), and drinks, such as sodas, tea, coffee, or water.
If you are looking for a quick slice of pizza and you don’t really care about quality, then give Oki Doki a try. If you are missing America (especially American fast food), the café will remind you of a McDonald’s or Domino’s pizza. It seems to be a common hangout for college-age people, so you might be able to make a few friends there!
44 Fontanaya Street
Burritos Mexican Grill is a brisk 15 minute walk from VSUES campus. It’s festively decorated, with desert tone colors and small cactuses situated around the windows. A sombrero greets you as you walk into the door and pictures of old Mexican newspapers from the 1930s add character as they hang on the wall. Burritos is small; with only five tables that should sit two each (but have four chairs around each anyway). This is not a place to bring a large group.
They offer a variety of food choices, ranging from quesadillas, burritos, tacos, enchiladas, salads, and chimichangas. They have neat Mexican sushi as well, what looked like tortillas filled with Mexican flavors (cheese, chili, etc.), rolled, and cut like a sushi roll. Typical prices range from 105 rubles to 220 rubles for dishes and a 100+ ruble range for drinks.
Burritos must have an excellent food photographer because their meals are smaller than advertised. Not too bad, but definitely not as big as what seems to be pictured in the menu. At first, I ordered энчеладос со свининой в пиве (enchiladas with pork in beer, 230 rubles). I definitely didn’t taste any beer. But it wasn’t enough, so I ordered a мексиканский бургер с курицей (Mexican burger with chicken, 105 rubles) Overall, it was a tasty meal with some tangy flavors, but as should be expected, didn’t taste very Mexican.
Takeaway – Burritos is your only option for a Mexican style
(+) free wifi, Mexican flavors, good prices for food, low key
(-) small space, small portions, inauthentic
⅘ – Not the best, but not that bad either. Try it out if you’re jonesing for Mexican food, but are willing to concede to the Russian attempt.
3. Café Lima
Okeanskii Prospekt, 11
I was surprised, and not a little skeptical, upon one day being invited to “Taco Tuesdays” at a “Mexican” restaurant called “Lima” in Vladivostok, Russia.
As the story runs, in the not so distant past, a local chef, having learned of the taco-partial proclivities of some of his US consulate worker patrons, began to specially prepare for his westerly delegation his own take on the Latin American classic. It followed that so thoroughly did his diners approve of these specially-catered dishes, that they encouraged him to prepare them professionally for the public. Thus it was out of these unlikely beginnings that Café Lima came into existence in August of 2014 in Vladivostok, Russia.
Tacos at Café Lima can be piled high with three types of beans, pork, chicken, seafood, cheese, lettuce, pico de gallo, in-house guacamole, a variety of salsas and sour cream often far exceeding the confines of the shell. When you consider that avocadoes alone usually go for 400-500 rubles ($10-12) per kilogram in the supermarkets, determining the economical viability of such a grab has as of yet remained elusive to my sensibilities. Just in case the list of exceptional eccentricities has not run on long enough, the young owner of the establishment speaks English and even provided free cups of water, a benefit I thought I had left behind when I boarded my plane in Kentucky some several weeks ago.
Café Lima also offers a full range of items from soups, salads and quesadillas, to loaded nachos, tostados and their own homemade deserts. Most recently, this included an 80 ruble ($2) personal pumpkin pie for which high praise was sung by a fellow diner. Even Taco Tuesday excepting, a hearty meal of south of the border cuisine can be rustled up for an affordable price, as the entrees (tacos excepted) range from the base level 120 ruble ($3) Nacho Soup (бульон начо) to the decadent 350 ruble ($8.50) Enchiladas (Енчиладас). Throw in the complimentary customary warm welcome and fun and relaxed environment, and Café Lima is making a hard run for the top spot in my personal rankings of the local offerings. It has even turned some of the but-recently taco-ignorant palettes of my Russian friends into devout believers and weekly diners. Brave the unexpected cultural conflagration here embodied and you too will doubtlessly find the little hotbed of unconventionality that is Café Lima, to be a bonafide dining treasure.
4. Pizza M Café
Posetskaya Ul. 20
Thanks to a couple of locals being part of our group, we sated our fast food cravings with one of the supposedly premier pizza joints in town. Neighboring elitist stores boasting Versace labels, Pizza M had all the appearances of fine dining. Part of a larger complex, the restaurant exudes a fair balance of style and comfort. Exposed metal architecture and large picture windows looking out onto the street provide a feeling of openness in a dining area not notable for its size. A dark color scheme and comfortable seating relax the interior atmosphere. After checking our coats on the first level, we made our way up to the second where we were met and seated by a host around a pillow-laden booth.
We also ordered a variety of pizza. From those topped with chicken and mushrooms, the international stylings of the margarita (маргарита), meat-heavy Roman (Римская) and pineapple-topped Hawaiian (Гавайская) and the classic cheese, all pizzas are further tailored according to size – small (маленькая), medium (средняя), large (большая) – and crust thickness – thin (тонкая), thick (толстая). Due to this variety in size and style, pizzas range from $3.50 (210r) to almost $11 (670r). Spaghetti with a pesto sauce at $10 (640r), chicken caesar salads for $5 (320r) a piece and my basil tomato soup at $3.50 (210r) made up the non-pizza delegation.
By the looks of the wreckage of empty plates, Pizza M’s reputation is a well-deserved one. As to my own meal, I found the tomato soup to be largely to my taste: not overly salted or sweet with a substantially thick consistency. Though the small pool of oil on the surface I could have done without. I would also note that the group of young servers was very attentive and obliging in patiently wading through a long list of not always flawlessly enunciated orders. All in all, the pleasant atmosphere and service, comfortable interior and a final tab that fairly well undershot my estimates based simply on the upscale ambiance made the experience a decidedly positive one. So when that undeniable pizza hankering rears its head, you certainly will not regret finding its fix at Pizza M.
Okeanskii Prospekt, 17
Republic (its official name is written only in Latin letters) is possibly the best “Cheap Eat” ever. I am SO glad to have found this place; it will definitely be a go-to for any time I’m in the center and need a bite to eat!
Having been recommended to me by a Russian friend, I was eager to see what the deal was with this establishment, so that very day several of us made the easy bus trip downtown. Upon walking into Republic, it became clear that this was not what I had originally thought. It is not a conventional restaurant, but rather a very nice, upscale cafeteria. The ambiance is quite pleasant, with booths and tables interspersed amongst each other and a warm, cheery lighting scheme. Everything is chrome and countertops, which suits the place and emphasizes its clean, honest character.
After grabbing a tray, I immediately went for the pasta line (pasta is what Republic is known for). I ordered their aromatic turmeric-seasoned wheat pasta with a Bolognese sauce. This took all of five minutes to prepare, so efficiently do the line cooks have the process down pat. While my pasta was simmering, I grabbed a sweet-looking berries-and-cream pie off the dessert line and some black tea from the drink servery. After collecting my pasta, I joined the check-out queue, and was hard-pressed not to jump for joy when I discovered that my total for this meal was only 225 rubles (pasta – 165, pie – 45, tea – 15)! I was even more elated upon tasting what I had procured for such a cheap price; Republic’s pasta dishes rival many Italian restaurants in the States! The berries-and-cream pie was also just the perfect degree of moist, and made from truly fresh and ripe ingredients. My verdict: DELICIOUS. Another thing to keep in mind is that there is a whole separate beer/dessert counter which serves, what I am told, some of the best draft beer in the city for one of the fairest prices (0.5L = 100 rubles). The fancy desserts on that side of the restaurant also look extra tasty; I can’t wait to try one when I return!