Cheap eats in Moscow: Russian food on a budget

Cheap eats in Moscow: Russian food on a budget

Moscow is an expensive city. In fact, for years it was on the list of most expensive cities in the world. Sanctions and falling oil prices means it no longer is, but for the average traveller, Moscow remains pricey. In this post I will share with you some of the cheap eats in Moscow to help you stay within your budget.

While Accomodation costs and entrance fees add up quickly, going out for dinner doesn’t need to cost much. You don’t need to limit yourself on street food or supermarket noodles. There are lots of cheap eats in Moscow that allow you to eat traditional russian cuisine on a budget. 

What to eat in Moscow

With this list of cheap eats in Moscow you can try lots of Russian specialities that might change your mind about Russian food. Some of the stereotypes are that it is heavy, fattening and just about meat and potatoes. Obviously this is far from the truth.

Let me share with you the first secret about how to eat cheap in Moscow. Nearly every restaurant in the city serves a business lunch. A set menu for a bargain price. These always include a starter such as a salad or soup rich in vegetables, a tasty main meal and a drink.

And no, the drink is not vodka, but most of the time a sweet stewed fruit juice called Kompot. The main meal often does include meat. Cutlets are popular, but so is Chicken Kiev, beef stroganoff or fish. It is served with either mashed potatoes, buckwheat or rice. 

Personally I am a big fan of Russian soups. You can always make me happy with a filling bowl of borscht, a red beet soup of ukrainian origin. Another favourite is Ukha. A simple fish soup with potatoes, cream and salmon that is very satisfying and light on the stomach.

For a light lunch I happily opt for blini’s (pancakes), pelmeni’s (stuffed dumplings), cheburekhs (diep fried dough) or pirozhki (stuffed buns). The toppings and fillings know a huge variety. Sweet fillings include tvorog (sweetened cottage cheese), homemade jams of cherry, berries or even pinecone. Savoury fillings can be meat, but also mushrooms, potato or cabbage.  

As you can see there are a lot of options if it comes to taste Russian cuisine. Therefore this list of cheap eats in Moscow focuses on places where you can try traditional Russian recipes and that serve a good quality of food.        

Delicious russian meal with mushroom soup and zakuski
Traditional Russian meal with mushroom soup, sour cream, cold starters
and honey beer

Cheap eats in Moscow

Stolovaya 57

Most likely you will spend a whole day exploring Moscow’s red square and the Kremlin. Being in the heart of Moscow, there aren’t a lot of cheap eats around. Therefore you might be surprised to hear that one of them is actually in the GUM department store right next to the Red Square.

Stolovaya no.57 is inspired by the Soviet concept of a stolovaya. A public canteen where labourers can go to have a cheap and filling meal. And that is what Stolovaya 57 still does. The lines are long, but don’t worry. It is moving fast and only proof that it is a great place to eat. 

The only problem is that as a foreigner you don’t get a lot of time to choose at busy Stolovaya 57. It’s a buffet style idea and you can point at whatever you want, but it is good to have some idea already. Otherwise you might just be experimental and point at something that looks good to you. The good thing is that at Stolovaya 57 most of it is tasty.   

Recommendations at Stolovaya 57

If you like soup there is almost always borscht (red beet soup) and solyanka (pickled meat soup). Salads include the recommended dressed herring in a fur coat (pickled herring in a beetroot with mayonnaise dressing), Olivier salad or vinegret.

Then there is your choice of meat. I personally loved the chicken kiev I had there, but it is not the healthiest option. There are sausages, meat cutlets and meatballs as well. Then your choice of fries, mashed potatoes, buckwheat or rice. 

As a side dish I loved the fried mushrooms. And for those with a sweet tooth there are lots of nice dessert options too. The stewed fruit juice kompot or napoleon cake.    

This is a great place for vegetarians too as you have a lot of choice. You pay per item, but it is easy to stay well under $10 USD for a complete meal.

Cost indication for a meal with a drink: < 10 USD

Stolovaya 57 is one of the best cheap eats in Moscow
Stolovaya 57 is one of the best cheap eats in Moscow

Mu mu

Mu mu has a similar self service buffet canteen style as Stolovaya no.57. It is a chain with several restaurants throughout Moscow that you can recognize by its cow theme. Often there is a black and white cow waiting for you outside the door to welcome you in. The great thing about Mu Mu is that wherever you are in Moscow, there is always a Mu Mu nearby. Often you can find them nearby a Moscow metro station.

On offer is a big variety of Russian food. Soups on offer are borscht, solyanka and cabbage soups. Different kinds of salads and your choice of meat dish with either potatoes, rice or buckwheat. Again you pay per item, but having a meal will cost you less than $10 USD. 

I ended up a couple of times in Mu Mu and tried different things. It was always pretty good.

Cost indication for a meal with a drink: < 10 USD

Mu Mu Moscow
You can recognize Mu Mu by this cow outside

Grabli

My favourite cheap eat in Moscow was Grabli. Another chain of self service buffet canteen style restaurants that unfortunately aren’t as widespread as Mu Mu. It is also a slightly higher price class, but for Moscow it is still very budget friendly and the quality of the food is well worth it. 

All the Russian classics like borscht, blini, pelmeni and chicken kiev are there, but they also have a wide selection of grilled meats, shashlik, steaks and some food from its southern neighbours like Uzbek plov and Georgian kharcho soup. 

You will have lots of options at Grabli and the only problem is that it will be difficult to choose. Again you pay per item, but having a meal with a drink will cost you around $10 USD.

Cost indication for a meal with a drink: around 10 USD   

Grabli is one of the most scenic cheap eats in Moscow
Grabli is one of the most scenic cheap eats in Moscow
Grabli meal
Chicken kiev and kompot at Grabli

Teremok

Teremok is a popular fast food chain in Russia. They specialize in blini pancakes with every topping imaginable and this is why most people come to Teremok. However, you will find other traditional Russian dishes too such as pelmeni, vareniki and borscht. For a fast food chain they do a surprisingly good job as well.  

You will find Teremok throughout Russia and in Moscow there are plenty. I loved Teremok so much that I am happy to sign a petition for one to open in Amsterdam, my hometown. Apparently there was one in New York, but to my surprise it didn’t make it there.

Recommendations at Teremok

Throughout my trip in Russia I often found myself happy finding a Teremok nearby. This is where I first tried Sbited. A spiced fruit tea that became a favourite drink to warm up in the cold Russian winter days. I would definitely recommend you to try this.

Another recommendation is Ukha. A delicious creamy salmon soup that is not that easy to find in other restaurants. It soon became my favourite starter before I indulged in a blini or two. And regarding the blini’s. You can’t go wrong here. I loved the blini’s with walnuts and honey, but they have savoury options too. You can even try blinis with caviar here without breaking the bank. 

The blinis with caviar and salmon are their most expensive options and are around $10 USD, but the average blini is already available for less than 3 USD. Just let me warn you, that you will probably eat more than one. 

Cost indication for a meal with a drink: < 10 USD 

Teremok is one of the most widespread cheap eats in Moscow
Blini’s with walnut and honey
Ukha with salmon at Teremok
Ukha with salmon at Teremok

Varenichnaya no. 1

Varenichnaya no.1 was my favourite restaurant in Moscow and not just for its colourful and nostalgic Soviet interior, but also for its great Russian food. The pelmeni and vareniki are said to be the best in the city and I can say that they were indeed some of the most delicious I had on my one month trip in Russia. The borscht I had was also excellent as well as the salads. 

Their picture menu is very useful for foreigners, except that everything looks so good and you will want to try everything. They serve breakfast too and they have a huge choice of tasty starters, side dishes and desserts to come with your main meal. All inspired by traditional Russian and Ukrainian recipes. Recommended are the Syrniki (cottage cheese pancakes) and Draniki (potato pancakes). 

As we speak, they have 20 cafes throughout Moscow. All have the same Soviet themed interior that in itself makes it worth a visit. It truly feels like a journey back in time to the Soviet seventies and every branch has lots of funny details. From second hand typewriters to old children’s books.  

Cost indication for a meal with a drink: 10 USD +

Varenichnaya number one is one of my favourite cheap eats in Moscow
Varenichnaya number one
Varenichnaya number one is one of my favourite cheap eats in Moscow
Borscht at Varenichnaya number one

Lepim i Varim 

Lepim I Varim only makes pelmeni and therefore competes with Varenichnaya no.1 for making the best dumplings in Moscow. While Varenichnaya no.1 sticks to the traditional Russian varieties (think meat, mushrooms, potatoes), Lepim I Varim also has more exotic options like crab, salmon, shrimp and lamb. The dough comes in different colours too such as orange and green.

The names are quite funny. You can order a mum’s siberian (mix of pork and beef) or an uncle from kamchatka (with crab) as well as a famous shrimp or white bull black ear. Lepim I varim really shows what can be done with this traditional Siberian dish. 

Cost indication for a meal with a drink: < 10 USD

Traditional Siberian Pelmeni
Traditional Siberian Pelmeni

Shtolle

Shtolle specializes in old school traditional Russian pies that are hearty and filling. Savoury fillings include meat, salmon, cheese, mushrooms, potatoes, onions or any combination thereof. I had a salmon with broccoli and sour cream that was absolutely delicious as well as the more regular mushroom with cheese and potato filling. 

Sweet fillings include apple or cherry jam and a combination of other fruits. Tvorog, a traditional Russian cheese is another common filling in combination with other things like berries or butter.

Cost indication for a meal with a drink: < 10 USD 

Traditional Russian pies at Shtolle in Moscow
Traditional Russian pies
Traditional Russian pie with salmon and brocolli at Shtolle in Moscow
Traditional Russian pie with salmon and brocolli

Cheburechnaya SSSR

Cheburechnaya SSSR specializes in Cheburek. A popular Soviet snack made from deep fried dough filled with meat and onions introduced by the Crimean Tatars. 

Capitalising on Soviet Nostalgia, Cheburechnaya SSSR offers cheburek with a variety of fillings. Meat, cheese, potatoes or mushrooms. They will cost you around one dollar and the restaurant also serves soups, salads and pelmeni.  

Cost indication for a meal with a drink: < 10 USD

Cheburek
Cheburek

Marketplace

Market place is another self service buffet style restaurant that is a bit more upmarket from Mu Mu and Grabli. It also doesn’t only serve Russian food. In fact, Russian dishes are in the minority and market place has a wide selection of international cuisine from italian pasta to asian wok recipes. It’s a bit like a food hall, but then with a friendly cafe atmosphere.  

Cost indication for a meal with a drink: 10 USD +

Vai me

Vai me is a fast food chain in Moscow that specializes in Georgian cuisine. Now Georgian cuisine obviously isn’t Russian cuisine. This Caucasus country south of Russia has a proud distinct culinary tradition. However, it was extremely popular throughout the Soviet Union and Moscow is one of the best places to try Georgian food outside of Georgia itself.

The typical dishes they offer are khachapuri (bread with cheese), khinkali (georgian dumplings, Kharcho (russian soup) and a variety of georgian meat dishes

Cost indication for a meal with a drink: < 10 USD

Khinkali
Khinkali

Budget tips for Moscow

For those who want to stay within their budget I have also created a free Moscow Metro tour and a free walking tour of Moscow through the Red square and the Kremlin.

Other tips to keep things cheap in Moscow is by using Moscows efficient metro to travel around the city and to stay in Moscows excellent hostels.

Where to sleep in Moscow

Hostels Rus

Hostels Rus stand for clean and professional hostels with a mix of dormitories and a limited number of double rooms for good prices. They are often located close to one of the Moscow metro stations making travel in Moscow easy. There is one near Kurskaya and one near Paveletskaya (dorms only).

Vinegret hostel

Vinegret hostel is a clean and nice budget hostel with an excellent location in the heart of Moscow. It is right near Arbatskaya metro station on the famous arbat street. From there you can walk to the red square in only 30 minutes.

Axel hostel

Axel hostel has great budget dormitories with lots of privacy. It has a central location within walking distanc of Kitay Gorod.

Disclaimer: This post with cheap eats in Moscow contains affiliate links. If you buy any service through any of my links, I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you. These earnings help me to keep Backpack Adventures alive! Thanks for your support!



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