Trying to find typical Russian food in Russia? Don’t look in restaurants or supermarkets. Corner stores, delis, and bakeries are the best place to go for delicious (and cheap) Russian food.
Wide selection at corner markets
The most typical and the most traditional home-made Russian food is cheapest and easiest to get at corner markets, which can be found anywhere in Russia. At the smallest corner stores, you can find things like rye bread, deli meats, milk, eggs, “творог (tvorog)” (farmer’s cheese), “пельмени (pel’meni)” (dumplings) and, of course, lots of vodka, beer, and cigarettes. Although selling alcohol to minors under 18 is technically illegal, no one worries about that in Russia.
The largest corner markets will have more varied selections, such as different types of deli meat, smoked or salted fish, cheeses, fruit, sweets, salads, and sometimes even baked goods. Check out this short video of a larger-sized corner market plus bakery in Novgorod.
Don’t be shy! If you’re ever in a corner store, and you don’t know what to call the deli items, you can just point to it and ask for “пол килограмма, пожалуйста (pol kilogramma, pozhalsta)” or “half a kilogram, please!”
Bigger isn’t always better
The average Russian supermarket is a little bit larger than an American one, but they can only be found in large cities. Supermarkets rarely carry items that are outside the realm of food/kitchen, and are always more expensive than corner stores, although the largest ones will also usually contain delis and bakeries.
- Travel tip: If you’re looking for sanitary items like toilet paper, the best place to go is the “apteka (аптека)” (pharmacy), rather than the supermarket.
Some of the bigger supermarket chains are “Ашан (Ashan)”, “Перекрёсток (Perekryostok)”, and “Копейка (Kopeika).” They all carry a huge amount of mass-produced local goods, as well as some imported goods. Unfortunately, bigger isn’t always better. The produce at these stores is often on the rotting side, and the imported goods are usually way too expensive to be worth buying, even for an American tourist.
BYOB (bags, that is)
Whether you’re shopping at corner stores or supermarkets, always bring bags. Corner stores don’t have bags and supermarkets charge high prices for them. Make sure to also carry smaller bills. Cashiers will often refuse to make change for anything larger than a 500 ruble note, or will insist on exact change.