Like any big city, Nizhny Novgorod boasts a wide variety of cuisine. You can find anything from the familiar, like American food, to more local specialties influenced by Eastern European and Asian culinary traditions. This post focuses on our experiences with restaurants in Nizhny Novgorod and what to expect should you desire to eat out while in the city.
First of all, when doing just about anything in Nizhny, you need to know some Russian. If not, then I guess you can just point at the things on the menu and say “я хочу этот (ya khaCHOO EHtat)” – “I want this.” This is also assuming the menu isn’t only in Russian. I might post a comprehensive guide of basic Russian dishes and food terms later on. Just know that a little bit of Russian goes a long way, as most people in Nizhny don’t speak any English.
Our initial experience with a Russian restaurant happened in a trendy place called “Moloko”-or Milk, which is not far from Bolshaya Pakrovskaya Street.
One of the first things we noticed there was the style of service. Don’t always expect a smiling face and a hearty hello while your order is being taken. Our waitress had all the congeniality of a washing machine, and after we ordered our drinks, she practically vanished. Don’t expect to receive the same attention from your waiter or waitress in Russia as you would back in the states as they’ll often leave your table unattended for several minutes at a time. Of course, they come back to take any other orders you may have, but won’t swing by to check if you need any refills, which, by the way, are not free in Russia.
We had a similar experience in a restaurant called “New York: American Restaurant”, which was located on the top floor of a mall not far from us called “Муравей (muravYEi)“- The Ant, which is on Lenin Avenue.
The atmosphere was similar to that of your T.G.I. Fridays with a stronger emphasis on American-inspired design and cultural icons.
New York’s menu offers its guests a selection very similar to one you would find in a diner or a sports bar. Hamburgers, cheeseburgers, mozzarella sticks, and even cinnamon buns are offered at New York along with some local accents such as Baltica: a famous, Russian-produced beer that’s popular in these parts. Though the menus were in English this time, nobody working at New York could actually speak it. So, again, try learning some Russian.
Beverages can be both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, like in the states, but tea plays a larger part in Russia’s dining scene than it does in the states as most restaurants offer a variety of flavors you can choose from. I particularly liked the mango tea I ordered at Pakrovskaya 22, which is located on Pakrovskaya. One thing that kind of bugged us is that restaurants don’t offer any ice here. I will focus more on beverages in another post.
One of the most staggering differences between eating out in the U.S. versus eating out in a place like Nizhny is the way in which gratuity is handled. Quite frankly, you don’t really even need to tip here, and if you choose to, you could leave as little as 5%. Eating out is a little on the expensive side at times, but the quality of food is usually higher than you’d find in an average restaurant in the US.
So if you ever decide to go out to eat while in Nizhny, just remember to be patient and accept any cultural differences that come your way.