In honor of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games held in Sochi, Russia, we decided to compile a list of places where you can enjoy a day of Russian culture and food in New York City. The largest enclave of Russian immigrants in NYC is centered around Brighton Beach–recently described in our micro-neighborhoods column–which is home to many of the places listed. In addition, various enclaves of Russian culture are scattered throughout the city, from a museum on the Upper West Side to a restaurant sporting the grandeur of Russia in Midtown.
Food & Drink
Russian cuisine–as with Russian culture–varies vastly from one region to another. Below are several restaurants that serve Russian cuisine–whether it is traditional Russian food or American fare with a Russian twist.
On the Brighton Beach boardwalk, Tatiana is fancied as both a restaurant and night club with the latter espousing the glitz and glam one would expect from a Russian club. There is also a sister restaurant next door with the same owners, called Tatiana Grill. Though the menu strays from traditional Russian fare–namely the inclusion of sushi on the menu–the atmosphere is unmistakably Russian and so are the regular patrons. Luxurious dishes of caviar and smoked fish are the specialty of this restaurant.
An underground cavernous bar in Nolita, Pravda is is Keith McNally’s take on Russian nightlife in New York City. The well heeled clientale–of course dressed to the nines–are ushered past the bouncers into this bar in the depths of the city streets. The bar has a hefty selection of Vodkas (70 in total) and a vast selection of drinks matched by its collection of caviar.
The Russian Tea Room
The Russian Tea Room was opened in 1927 by members of the Imperial Russian Ballet and quickly became a symbol of Russia in NYC. Its the best location in NYC to experience the over-the-top opulence characteristic of many Americans’ image of Russia, while sipping Vodka and eating continental fare with a “Russian flare.”
Russian culture is present throughout the city, from a museum dedicated solely to a Russian artist to Turkish-Russian baths.
Though no museum in NYC is dedicated specifically to Russian art, the closest–and possibly an even more unique option–is a trip to the Nicholas Roerich Museum on the Upper West Side. Solely housing the art/works of prolific Russian artist Nicholas Roerich, who is most well known for his paintings depicting the Himalayas, he branched into the fields of science and archeology. In capturing Roerich’s accomplishments and pursuits, the museum also showcases a vast cross-section of Russian culture in the process.
Brighton Ballet Company
Featuring dancers from top programs of the former Soviet Union, the Brighton Ballet Company, founded in 1987, is the “sole representative of Russian dance” in the city. The company has performed in such venues as Carnegie Hall and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art during the opening of the Fabergé Collection. The Brighton Ballet Company also runs The School of Russian American Ballet for children and adults in Brooklyn and Staten Island.
With shows solely in Russian, this Brighton Beach theater is a key destination for the Russian acts that come to NYC. As the center of Russian language performances in NYC—from music to comedy—the theater plays host to a wide range of events.
Run by Russian emigrés since 1985, the 120 year old Russian & Turkish Baths offer a vast range of options from saunas to a Platza Oak Leaf treatment. As one of the owners David Shapiro told the New York Times blog The Local, “You’re not going to conventionally relax here, but you’re going to meet people and sweat next to them.” Utilizing social media–namely Groupon and Living Social–they recently greatly expanded their customer base. As you leave the baths in the East Village, you can pass by the Lenin statue atop the Red Square building.
Moscow on the Hudson photo via Daniel Gallegos
Located in Washington Heights, Moscow on the Hudson has the widest selection of Russian groceries and food items in the city away from Brighton Beach. The owners have recently started stocking other Russian goods, from newspapers to cosmetic goods.
At times listed as one of the best bakeries in NYC, this Brighton Beach gem overflows with Russian pastries and sells them by the pound, including Jewish-Russian pastries and deserts. One of the highlights is the smetannik cake, a sour cream cake. The shop is quite narrow and the customer serves oneself–though any struggle is indeed worth it.
For a guide to getting a taste of Paris in NYC, check out our article How to Have a Parisian Day in NYC.
Get in touch with the author @spencercnyc