The KGB Bar
It’s colder than a Cossack’s hip flask out there, so why not learn from those who know how to do “Baltic” better than anyone by sampling the best Russian spots in New York City? Gather your comrades together for steaming bowls of borscht, some fortifying vodkas, and feel the warmth return to your heart.
1. Russian Tea Room 150 W57 St
Photo via Wikimedia Commons by L33th4x0rguy
Founded by members of the Russian Imperial Ballet in 1927, The Russian Tea Room has always been an opulent backdrop to the high living of New York’s artistic and intellectual elite. Dustin Hoffman camped it up as Tootsie in its red leather banquettes, Woody Allen commented on the number of ‘beautiful women’ within its walls in Manhattan, and Madonna used to work as the coat-check girl. Mere mortals can enjoy its high tea, fine dining and excellent vodka selection.
2. Onegin Restaurant 391 6th Ave
The interior of Onegin Restaurant in Greenwich Village restaurant reflects Pushkin’s tale of Eugene Onegin, which is set in the opulence of St. Petersburg in the 19th century. It even has hooded chairs from which you can secretly make eyes at potential lovers…or your date. Serving classics such as blini with cured wild salmon and Russian veal stew, this place is a feast for the peepers and the palate.
3. KGB Bar 85 E4th St
A former club for Ukrainian socialists, KGB Bar is a literary venue whose walls are plastered with authentic propaganda posters, photos and paintings from the fallen Soviet empire. It hosts readings from authors and poets, admission is free, drink is cheap, and it even has its own magazine and radio hour.
Above KGB is a cool little speakeasy called the Red Room, which used to be a Lucky Luciano joint called Palm Casino, built during Prohibition. Now, probably as then, it features burlesque, jazz and cocktails.
4. Caviar Russe 538 Madison Ave
Caviar Russe is not for the faint of heart or wallet. You will be served by white-gloved waiters in a magnificent half-modernist half-historic space. And you will empty your bank account soon after. A tray of three different caviars costs $225 and their prix fixe dinners come in at $95. Yes, that’s per person.
But if you’re in the market for splashing the cash, quaffing champagne and sampling caviar like an oligarch, then this could be the Russian experience for you.
5. Anyway Café 32 E 2nd St
At the other end of the scale, Anyway Café is a cosy, friendly little restaurant and bar in the East Village.
Enjoy great live music as you feast on Russian stalwarts of pelmeni, stroganoff and entrees topped with caviar, as well as black bread and homemade pate.
But the star of the show is the range of infused vodkas. Every flavor you could think of, from apricot to lychee, can be ordered as shots or in large or small carafes.
6. Pravda New York 281 Lafayette St
Savvy New Yorkers have been using this subterranean space as a date spot for some time. The cocktails at Pravda New York are superb; pro tip: try their caviar-tasting-for-two washed down with champagne. It has a small menu of bar food, with excellent drink accompaniments such as mini burgers, truffle fries and flatbreads.
7. Mari Vanna 41 E 20 St
As well as being packed to the gills with the most beautiful people alive – especially the wait staff – Mari Vanna is also renowned for excellent food and a friendly atmosphere.
Delicious treats such as artichoke salad and eggplant caviar are served in surroundings of antique opulence with the lights dimmed just the right amount for optimum flattery.
Prices range from $12 for chicken boullon to $435 for three black caviars and a carafe of vodka.
8. Russian Vodka Room 265 W 52 St
Valiantly kicking against the Midtown trend for terrible overpriced bars, the Russian Vodka Room is doing everything right.
First, it has an excellent pianist playing Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin to calm you right down once you’ve battled through the tourist hoardes in the 50s.
Then it serves amazing vodkas – in carafes if you choose – in every conceivable flavor, from strawberry to a mix called Garlic Pepper Dill. Lastly, it’s friendly and full of locals, not tourists. Genius.
9. Russian Samovar 256 W 52nd St
Famous for featuring in Sex and the City as the place where Carrie goes on a late-night date with ‘the Russian,’ played by Mikhail Baryshnikov, Russian Samovar is also part-owned by the former ballet dancer. Its collection of highly polished antique samovars give it an air of grandeur, though staff always give visitors a warm welcome. As well as live music most nights, it provides a full menu of Russian comfort food, such as borsht and pelmeni, and at least a dozen herb and fruit-infused vodkas. A relaxing place to come to escape the theater crowds.
10. Korchma Taras Bulba 357 W Broadway
SoHo joint Korchma Taras Bulba is renowned for its delicious Ukrainian food and homely surroundings. It serves familiar fare of chicken kiev, blinis and stroganoff, as well as more challenging dishes such as cow tongue, which you can wash down with their abundant selection of flavored vodkas. However, its best known for its ultra-friendly staff and their traditional floral headbands, which they are happy to lend to customers for photos.
Next, check out 10 of Manhattan’s best subterranean bars, literally underground. This article was originally published on Booyorkcity.