Moscow CafésPosted: April 4, 2012
Technically, I don’t live in Moscow, I live in Mytischi, a small suburb to the north-east, past the orange metro line and onwards, onwards, onwards. Mytischi is where I work, sleep, and bake cakes and pastries. One of my teenage students tells me that it used to be a fortified city that protected Moscow from invaders. I’m not so sure what it does now. When I get stir crazy I head south to Moscow on the commuter trains (the elektrichka), all the while listening to people selling everything from slippers to pens to vegetable peelers. Since I’ve arrived, I’ve spent many happy hours in cafes alone or with friends, eating and drinking at some very sweet places. I must warn that espresso-based coffees of all sorts are very expensive here, but to my mind it’s all worth it in exchange for a little break:
Chocoladnitsa (Шоколадница): You can’t throw a stone without hitting a Chocoladnitsa, so I won’t go into detail about locations. I’d like to research where this place came from, though, as their little logo has a strange Poirot-esque character with a monocle?? I quite like the cacao here, but I also sampled some of my friend Stasya’s sea buckthorn tea, and it was very nice indeed.
Coffee House (Кофе Хаус) : Again, so many locations (almost all of which are open 24 hours a day). Fabulous sirniki and a reliable cappuccino make this place one of my favourites. I’d bet my money that this (tied with Chocoladnitsa) is the most popular café in the city.
Eko Bazaar (Эко Базар) г. Мытищи, бульвар Ветеранов, стр. 2: One of the few nice things you’ll hear me say about my area (sorry, Mytischi!). This brand-new place is awesome and my quality of life has easily doubled since I found out about it. At Eko Bazaar there’s the most wonderful Uzbek/Georgian/Caucasian bakery, where you can get fresh lepyoshka, khachapuri and pastries. It just squeaks into this category, because at a café I’ll almost always stop for a pastry. The honey vendors are also awesome, and very sweet to foreigners. I’m not sold on their second floor, which looks a little sad, but the 1st floor is great. All it needs is a real café (not a hallway) and it’ll be set.
Kafe Litsa (Кафе Лица) Остоженка, д. 8: Café faces (Café “Your Face” in my imagination) served up a very nice salad and a good cup of tea. It’s near Kropotkinskaya metro and next to the Multimedia Museum, a super-pleasant area of the city. (As an aside, there are very nice-looking apartments for sale close-by too, and I weep for that they are probably a bazillion dollars.)
Karavaevi Brothers’ Culinary Shop (Кулинарная лавка Братьев Караваевых) ул. Покровка 14/2, plus others: My friend Helena recommended it, and she was so right; crowded with students, young people, and the general hipper-than-thou, this place was awesome. It served up a cheap cappuccino, tasty pirogi and a lovely zapekanka (a semi-sweet cheesecake). I’m so glad that places like this exist in Moscow–semi-independent, creative and cheap. It has a really different feel to it from most Moscow shops–perhaps it has a hint of the Nordic to it?
Marzipan Café (Кафе Марципан) Новая Площадь, д. 14: We thought we were heading to this place, when we found ourselves in this classy joint instead. A coat-check area, a fancy washroom and a very reasonable business lunch await. Ah, the business lunch or “Бизнес Ланч,” if you will: on weekdays nearly every restaurant in the Moscow area offers full meals and a coffee/cold drink for 300 roubles or less. It’s quick, filling, and very reasonable compared to the other offerings in the city.
Orloffsky (Орлоффский Хлеб) Новый Арбат 13: Contrary to many “luxe” places in Moscow, this one has clean lines and big, bright windows. No flowing damask here. Instead, simple pastries and coffees, and nice rounded tables. The food is a touch on the dry side, but aren’t the pastries pretty?
Starbucks (Старбакс) Арбат ул. 19/2, plus others: OK, this may seem like a very ordinary idea, but it’s rather special. The thing about Starbucks in Moscow is that it’s really a “thing.” It’s not an average place you’d just hit up for your morning coffee. Even if you’re alone with your laptop, in Moscow you go to Starbucks to be seen. With the average coffee here costing around $6, it’s rather on the fancy side. I used to frequent the location on Arbat (the more easterly location) when I worked in the area, and its almond croissants were to die for. In fact, they still are. And you know what a fan of those I am:
Volokonsky (Волоконски Кайзер) ул. Б.Садовая, 2/46, plus others: You know it’s the real deal when you hear French expats deciding on this week’s bread. There’s always a huge queue, and that’s because the pastries and bread are the best in the city. There are many branches of this popular café, but I like this one by Mayakovskaya, as you get to enter and exit from that incredible metro station. I suppose that being one of Stalin’s favourite poets ensured that Mayakovsky would always get the best stations.
If you’re still feeling low on caffeine, there are also places like Coffee Mania, which I’ve mentioned before (crazy expensive, but worth it every once in a while) and Double Coffee, which has really rich and delicious hot chocolate. There are also a bunch of Le Pain Quotidien (Хлеб Насущный) branches, too, for that Belgian touch. See below Stasya’s yummy-looking sirniki:
Next Stops: I plan to report back soon after nighttime visits to restaurants. My classy students have given me many recommendations, including Café Pushkin, the most expatey, pricey place in the city (may save that for a visit from Mama!); Casa Agave for a real margarita; Tapa de Comida to relive the Madrid experience; and Elardzhi for some top Georgian food. Have a great week!
Brothers Karavaevi Image from here, sirniki photo by Stanislava Kostenko. All other images my own.