Food and Drink in Russia
Is food expensive in Russia?
- Prices: At a modest restaurant, you can expect to pay about 500 roubles ($8) for a meal; at a mid-range restaurant, a three-course meal will cost around 2000 roubles ($35). A Business lunch option which includes a multi-course meal and a drink is offered at many restaurants – usually between 300-500 roubles.
- Russian cuisine: Typical dishes include soups, salads and dumplings, and you can eat well on a budget at the stolovoya (cafeteria) or at one of Russia’s fast-food outlets.
- Vegetarian and vegan food: Vegetarian cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in St. Petersburg and Moscow and there are a number of restaurants and shops where food can be purchased at reasonable prices.
- Allergies: Allergy sufferers should be aware of the language barrier. Avoid cuisines which commonly contain allergens, eat at more upmarket establishments or tourist-friendly restaurants.
- Cooking for yourself: There are a number of supermarket chains, ranging from cheaper express stores where simple products can be purchased, to upmarket grocers which sell foreign and specialty food.
- Water: Drinking tap water in Russia is not advised, but hotels generally provide free bottled water, and Airbnbs usually have filter jugs or special taps.
- Alcohol: Alcohol is relatively cheap in Russia - a pint of beer can be purchased for around 250 roubles ($4) and a glass of decent wine for 300 roubles ($5). Avoid the cheapest alcohol at shops, as counterfeit alcohol is not unheard of.
Russia is a multinational, multicultural state with many different cuisines that visitors can sample. Since the end of the Soviet Union many other cuisines have become available throughout the country, and international food trends are increasingly incorporated into the Russian food scene. There is also a huge variety available in Russia’s supermarkets, and with a little effort you will be able to cook your favourite meal. Read on to discover more information about what’s available and what prices you can expect.
Eating Out: Average prices
An average meal at a modest restaurant should cost around 500 roubles (just over $8), with a three-course meal at a mid-range establishment costing 2,000 roubles ($30). But of course, this varies enormously depending on the city, cuisine, and even the time of day.
It’s worth noting that many restaurants serve a ‘business lunch’, generally between the hours of 12 - 4pm. These two or three course set menus are extremely good value; sometimes the entire business lunch is cheaper than just one of the items on the regular menu! The average price of a business lunch in St Petersburg or Moscow is 300-500 roubles (around $5 - $9).
Italian food is extremely popular in Russia, and is sold anywhere from street-food stalls to upmarket restaurants. Italian food can be of the traditional variety, but restaurants offering Italian cuisine as part of a more varied menu often serve Italian dishes with a Russian twist. A pepperoni pizza in a mid-range restaurant will cost you between 400-600 roubles (around $6 - $10).
Russians also love sushi - in 2018 it was the most popular takeaway dish in Russia. Those accustomed to traditional sushi may be slightly taken aback, as the Russian take on sushi frequently includes sour cream, mayonnaise or chicken. A set of 6/8 rolls at an average sushi restaurant will cost between 250-450 roubles (around $4 - $8).
Georgian food is also one of the most beloved cuisines to be found in Russia, built around food sharing and a warm atmosphere. Rich stews, cheese-filled bread and juicy dumplings are hearty and delicious. Establishments range from cafes where you can grab a filling business lunch, to high-class restaurants where many courses are enjoyed in opulence to a background of live music.
You will of course find a huge number of Russian restaurants in every town and city, commonly serving traditional dishes such as soups, salads, dumplings, and meat and fish dishes. For those on a budget looking for nutritious and filling meals, the ‘stolovaya’ (cafeteria) is highly recommended. At these self-service canteens, two courses and a drink can be purchased for 200 roubles (around $3). At Russian fast-food restaurants such as Teremok, expect to pay around 300-400 roubles for a pancake and a drink ($4 - $6), and at bakeries you can find slabs of sweet or savoury pies for around $1.
Vegetarian and vegan food
In Russia, vegetarianism hasn’t really caught on - a recent survey found that only 1% of Russian people are vegetarians. However, St Petersburg and Moscow have welcomed the vegetarian food trend with open arms and it is not difficult for vegetarians (or even vegans) to find suitable restaurants offering different cuisines - there are even vegetarian stolovayas. There are also many shops which stock vegetarian and vegan food and products for people with intolerances or allergies, at very reasonable prices. Vegan and veggie restaurants and shops can be found on www.happycow.net
People with allergies must be careful when eating out in Russia. Many allergies which are commonplace in other countries are not so in Russia, allergen menus are uncommon even in large cities, and there is always the risk of miscommunication due to the language barrier. If in doubt, avoid cuisines in which allergens are commonly found, and dine in more upmarket establishments or tourist-friendly restaurants where foreign languages are better understood.
Cooking for yourself
There are a large number of supermarket brands in Russia, ranging from express stores to hypermarkets. Simple products such as meat, cheese, fresh fruit and vegetables can be found at all stores. Larger and more upmarket shops sell a much wider range of products, including foreign foods.
Discount supermarkets found throughout Russia are Diksi, Magnit and Pyaterochka. Hypermarkets include Ashan, Lenta, and Karusel. Upmarket supermarkets where you can also find international products include Perekrestok and Prisma. Stores for expats or travellers who need a taste of home are Azbuka Vkusa and Globus Gourmet, although their products can be extremely expensive. Specialist grocers for making international dishes such as Chinese, Italian or Mexican food can be found in Moscow and St Petersburg, albeit at high prices. Alternatively, for a great range of very cheap fruit, vegetables, and local products head to a local market!
Can you drink tap water in Russia?
Avoid drinking tap water in Russia as you may experience unpleasant side effects. Luckily, it is extremely easy to acquire potable water. Hotels offer free drinking water and AirBnbs nearly always have a filter jug or special drinking-water tap. Alternatively, multi-litre bottles of water can be purchased at any shop for a very low price - it’s not worth risking your trip merely to save 50 roubles.
Alcohol in Russia is cheap depending on where you drink. A pint of local beer in a simple bar can be purchased for around 250 roubles ($4) and wine for 300 ($5). Of course, this can vary hugely. The craft beer scene has taken off in Russia, so expect to pay $6 - $7 for an unusual brew in a stylish city-centre bar. Wines from Russia or the Caucasus are cheaper than other international wines, and also delicious. But when purchasing alcohol in shops, avoid the very cheapest brands as counterfeit alcohol is not unheard of.
As you can see, there are a wealth of food and drink options available in Russia. Prices vary accordingly but there’s something to suit every taste, whether you want to dine at a restaurant, eat on the go, or cook at home. You won’t be disappointed!