Here’s a little test: could you survive dining in a Russian sanatorium for a week?
Give yourself one point for every dish you enjoy in the following list…
- тушеная капуста
- тушеное мясо
- морковь по-корейски
If you scored 0-3 points: it’s going to be a long week. Better start scouting out the nearest pizza restaurant.
If you scored 4-7 points: you’ll definitely survive (and you might even discover new foods that you like.)
If you scored 8 or more points: welcome to paradise!
Is it strange that getting to eat Russian food was part of why we wanted to go on this trip? Sometimes we’ll cook Russian food at home- D makes a mean borsch!- but plain old stolovaya food always has a special place in my heart. A stolovaya is a cafeteria that offers cheap and filling food. They’re usually in or near buildings that are used by lots of people: factories, schools, sanatoriums, etc. (Not sure what a sanatorium is? Read this.) Staying at the sanatorium meant we could eat for free in the stolovaya, and I’m pretty sure we gained a few pounds during the trip! 🙂
Every morning, the servers set out trays of fresh fruit, fresh salads, porridge, cherry вареники, and endless DIY блины. D would add творог со сметаной or a spoonful of sugary сгущёнка to his blini. I like heartier blini with cheese and sausage.
The Set Up
The stolovaya served food every day in three shifts. Each meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner) was available for about 2.5 hours before the meal service would end. I think dinner ended around 8 PM, so we’d sometimes get back late from a walk and have to pay for food elsewhere. This was never a problem since there was a fancy Italian restaurant elsewhere in the sanatorium and an amazing Georgian restaurant just around the corner. Still, we tried to make it to the mealtimes because the food was good, unlimited, and free!
A tip: if you like tea (Russia has THE BEST TEAS EVER!), stop at the store and buy some. The sanatorium only had cheap lipton green and black teas. Related post: Russian tea haul.
As you can see, there’s nothing fancy about the stolovaya… but there’s really nothing fancy about a sanatorium either.
Lunch and Dinner
Lunch and dinner were similar foods, though dinner was never a repeat of the lunch menu. My top picks: гречка, fresh cucumbers, плов, lots of тушеная капуста, and unhealthy amounts of draniki sauce (similar to tzatziki sauce).
We ate гречка every single time it was served. I know it’s not considered anything special in Russia, but it’s so expensive in Oregon that it was like a delicacy for us. We also discovered перловая каша, yum!
Sadly, they only served real борщ once or twice. This is probably because it was only October, not quite “borsch season”. There were other kinds of soup like зеленый борщ (usually 2-3 soup choices every day) but the red borsch was my favorite. Here’s one of those glorious борщ days:
D was more adventurous with his food choices than I was because… майонез. If you don’t like майонез, your salad bar options are limited to carrot salads, cabbage salads, and the occasional lettuce salad. Still, did I tell you about that draniki sauce? It. Was. So. Tasty. (And I’m a little suspicious it may have contained майонез but in this case, oh well.)
What was your score on the food quiz at the beginning of this post?
Would you survive eating in a sanatorium for a week?
Bonus round! Food outside the sanatorium
Here’s what the food was like at Matsoni, the Georgian restaurant around the corner from the sanatorium:
Pelmeni were never served at the sanatorium, so one day we went on a pelmeni mission:
And here’s the snack served on the 90-minute flight from Moscow to Anapa: