Zakusochnayas, Ryumochnayas and Pivnayas

Decoding Soviet times

By Federal Agency for Tourism

Soviet posterFederal Agency for Tourism

What's "zakusochnaya"?

Not all places had cafeterias, and large cities were full of people who needed somewhere to grab a snack on their way. These people were the main clientele at zakusochnayas – snack bars or eateries. A zakusochnaya was named after the main dish it served: cheburechnaya  (chebureki – meat pies), pelmennaya (pelmeni – dumplings), ponchikovaya (ponchiki – donuts), pirozhkovaya (pirozhki – buns with fillings), shashlyshnaya (shashlyk barbecue).

Kebab men in Moscow by MosfilmFederal Agency for Tourism

These eateries could be small spaces with tables or a stand on the street. Street cars sold pirozhki and ice cream. 

Seafood (21st Century) by tm agencyFederal Agency for Tourism

There were also ryumochnayas, or vodka houses, where people could order vodka with simple appetizers (sandwiches with sprats or eggs with mayonnaise), and pivnayas, or beer houses, serving chains of salted sushki (crunchy bread rings) and dried fish.

The Diamond ArmMosfilm Cinema Concern

Unattainable Opulence or Luxury

How the Moscow Elite Dined? Not every Soviet citizen was able to dine at a restaurant, unless it was a special celebration.

Read our article to find out what the difference was between the menu at a restaurant and at a cafeteria, what it meant to ‘get into a restaurant through connections,’ and what kind of sparkling wine was served at Metropol.

Moscow Does Not Believe in TearsMosfilm Cinema Concern

During the October Revolution and the civil war,

people had other things on their minds than restaurants, but when NEP, the New Economic Policy, was launched in the 1920s, restaurants were revived. The Moscow Astoria opened, Slavyansky Bazaar returned to its past glory, and other historic restaurants once again opened their doors.

War and PeaceMosfilm Cinema Concern

Once the country had recovered from the war,

a classification of restaurants was introduced. The menu and mark-up on dishes depended on the category of restaurant – top tier, A, B. Since restaurants were first and foremost centers of social life, the majority of them featured live music, and many had dance floors. 

War and PeaceMosfilm Cinema Concern

Restaurants

also differed from cafés in that they had a doorman and a cloakroom with an attendant. The doorman stood in front of an unchanging sign that said ‘no seats’ and decided whom to let in and whom to keep out. His decision usually cost from one to three rubles, whereas the average salary for engineers was 140 rubles.

Kidnapping, Caucasian Style (1966/1966)Mosfilm Cinema Concern

Something else that happened post-war was that all Moscow restaurants – except for train station restaurants – were merged into Mosrestorantrest (Moscow Restaurant Trust), which supervised the quality of their work.

Mosrestorantrest monitored compliance with recipes from its own recipe collections. 

Kidnapping, Caucasian StyleMosfilm Cinema Concern

Cooks were not allowed to use their own recipes, and all newly invented dishes were to be presented to a special commission, which, if the dish was approved, added the recipe to the general collection.

Kidnapping, Caucasian StyleMosfilm Cinema Concern

Only a handful of national restaurants had the right to ‘exclusive dishes,’ for which restaurants that served well-executed cuisine from Soviet republics and other socialist countries were particularly appreciated: Aragvi, Uzbekistan, Budapest.

Carnival NightMosfilm Cinema Concern

The Most Famous Restaurants in Moscow

There were very few restaurants in Moscow and Leningrad, which is why even people who could not afford to eat there knew them off by heart. Incidentally, restaurant prices were not actually all that high, and the mark-up on alcohol was practically non-existent from a modern point of view: if cognac cost four rubles at a store, on a restaurant menu, it was no more than five rubles – the difference was usually 10–15%.

However, it was difficult to get into a restaurant – there were very few of them, and a long list of people interested – so the doorman became the principal actor. Unfortunately, the majority of historic Moscow restaurants are no longer open.

Metropol, National and other Hotel Restaurants

These were hotel restaurants surrounding the Bolshoi Theatre in the center of Moscow. All of them featured high up on unofficial top trendy location lists.

Try Soviet Cuisine Today at:

Grand-Café Dr.Zhivago
Voskhod (Sunrise)
Varenichnaya #1
Café Festivalnoe and Stolovaya (Cafeteria) #57 at GUM
Alkobufet Shashlyshnaya
Ottepel (Thaw) and Moskovskoe Nebo (Moscow Sky) at VDNKh
Cheburechnaya Druzhba (Friendship)

Credits: Story

Сhief Сonsultant — Ekaterina Drozdova, restaurateur, gastronomic entrepreneur, food and social activist, Contributors— Anna Kukulina, Proximity Russia, tm agency, Translation Services Win-Win, Andrey Shmakov

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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