I know there are great restaurants in St. Petersburg, Russia because we ate in a few. However, finding good fare was a bit difficult. And while Lonely Planet says that this city had become a place where good restaurants are now available, it also admits “…there’s still plenty of mediocre food out there” and “…good places are rarely the most obvious.” Amen to both.
St. Petersburg inyourpocket is less sanguine. “If you’re wondering what that green grass stuff is, it’s dill (ukrop-ykpon) and it usually find its way into everything.” In reviewing snacks, it mentions that they include “all manner of pickled things.” Just ask Ruth.
On our first evening, we intended to dine at Sharlot Cafe, Baku, or the like but couldn’t find them. There is no English on street signs or buildings and I wasn’t used to the strictly Russian map yet. Another that sounded OK was very loud and the food not good we were told, so we headed back down St. Petersburg’s Nevsky pr where Ruth spotted a basement cafe on one corner. We hadn’t had lunch, had walked many miles, and Ruth was famished. We entered. It appeared to be a Communist-era cafeteria. My appetite disappeared. Ruth got in line.
I wandered around dodging the smoke emanating from almost every table and observed a long line waiting to pay at the single register ruled by a very imperious, unpleasant woman. I watched Ruth have a serious argument with her that resulted in a bit of dish shoving.
I went to the tiny non-smoking area and found a table. Within five minutes, Ruth hadn’t shown, so I went in search and found her disconsolately forking up what looked like shredded orange pickles. “I’m eating fast because I’m expecting the police to come and arrest me any moment.”
“Why?” I asked, patting my wallet & passport.
“She refused to make change and I didn’t pay.”
“The bill was a bit over 100 rubles (about $3.20). The woman wouldn’t accept a second 100 so I tried to give back the second dish but she wouldn’t take it so I just walked away with it.”
“What is it?”
“I don’t know.”
“What’s the other stuff?”
“I though it was Pad Thai but it’s sauerkraut.”
“How is it?”
About an hour later, we were back at our hotel, the excellent Sokos Vasilievsky, where we had a fine dinner. The next day we found Teplo, one of Lonely Planet‘s Top Choices where creative dishes lived up to LP’s description, “Charming, welcoming, and eccentric.”