Without a doubt, the fastest, cheapest, and most convenient place you can find a lot of Russian food is within a ‘stolovaya’. A столовая (stolovaya) is a Soviet-style cafeteria that serves almost exclusively Russian/Eastern European cuisine. Bread, soup, salad, an entrée with side, dessert, and a beverage can be served as a complete meal and cost you anywhere from 100 to 200 rubles: an absolute steal, considering. The stolovayas we frequented the most were the ones located on our campus, but we’ve also eaten at independent stolovayas as well. Quite a bit of this blog post will focus on what we’ve found at stolovayas. So when you come to Russia, you’re going to expect a lot of what we already have in the states in terms of meat: fish, beef and poultry. There was, however, one time where I’ve encountered liver at a stolovaya located on the way to one of our tour sites. Though the taste was unusual to say the least, I found myself thoroughly enjoying my meal. While eating at a stolovaya, your entrée (should you choose to order one) can come with one of four common sides: rice, buckwheat, potatoes (both mashed and whole), or macaroni. The meat is usually served with some sort of sauce and is garnished with vegetables, cheese, or mayo. One item that could occasionally be found at a stolovaya is пельмени (pel’meni). Pel’meni is an Eastern European take on dumplings and can be served with onions, mushrooms and once again, mayo. For reasons that completely elude me, Russians seem to love mayonnaise on almost everything. We often found an assortment of baked goods in Nizhny and not just in stolovayas either. One of the most delicious of the baked goods we tried was пирожки. Acting as a jack-of-all –trades pie, пирожки (piroshky) are individual-sized fried buns stuff with anything from fruit to mushrooms and hare. It was a unanimous group favorite. Piroshky aside, the undisputed king of baked goods in Nizhny, Russia, and most ofEastern Europe is the famous блины (blini). Blini can be served as breakfast, lunch and dinner and can come stuffed with mushrooms and onions, served with a portion of caviar and a dollop of sour cream, and even packed with chocolate or jam. This dish dates back to pre-Christian times and is often featured in Maslenitsa: a Slavic holiday celebrated during the last week of Great Lent. Russian cuisine wouldn’t be complete without blini. Шашлык (shashlyk), or shish kabob, though not actually Russian, is also quite popular in Nizhny and is often served on a skewer along with vegetables and side dishes to complement. The list of entrees is of course endless and I could spend hours writing about them. You’ll just have to check them out for yourselves! As I had mentioned in a previous post, tea is extremely popular in Nizhny, but other popular, non-alcoholic beverages include juices, both flat and carbonated water, and компот (kompot): a fruit juice often served with whole fruits in the glass. Квас (kvass), essentially fermented bread soda, is also quite popular in Nizhny and is often sold by street vendors. Beer, cocktails, wine, mulled wine, mead, and straight liquor can all be found in Nizhny. Vodka will always remain the national drink of Russia, but has surprisingly fallen into unpopularity as more and more people have either switched to other types of alcoholic beverages or just flat out quit drinking alcohol altogether. Медовуха (medovukha) is similar to mead but is more readily available for casual consumption. What is by far the most popular dessert in Russia is ice cream as it can be found in restaurants, grocery stores, malls, and street vendors that operate almost everywhere. Chocolates, cookies, Turkish delights, and fruits are all regular desserts, but one in particular I enjoyed was the Russian version of gingerbread. Пряник (pryanik) acts as a frosted honey-cake filled with fig-meal and other ingredients and in absolutely delicious. I couldn’t help but take some home with me for friends and family. My next post will focus on street foods and open-air markets.