Let’s face it—the selection of restaurants in Moscow that serve what could even be remotely considered as good food is pretty depressing. Not to mention the fact that Russian cuisine generally leaves much to be desired by default (please, hold the dill!). So I never imagined that a cool little spot on New Arbat Avenue would be a host to eateries that offer dishes from nearly every unique corner of the world.
Inspired by food markets scattered throughout Europe, Moscow’s own The 21 Food Market is both a foodie’s haven and heaven. Upon entering the rather easy-to-find establishment one immediately feels privy to something exceptional, especially since many of the restaurants are exclusive to this location.
For those that arrange a date at the market, a guy selling colorful flowers is positioned near the entrance ready to make the mood a bit more romantic. Then immediately to the left sits an iPhone repair station, which might prove quite convenient since this task can be a pain in the ass to accomplish in Moscow. You can even enjoy lunch/dinner as your precious device goes “under the knife,” so to speak.
The major, most exciting part of the building is at front and center, which is packed with tables and chairs and adorned with delicious restaurants ready to accommodate hungry diners. As a little side note, The 21 Food Market also has a veranda for sunny summer times–but let’s focus now on the wide selection of eateries.
Give me Food!
Do you remember our review of WingStop? The guys separated from the popular American chain and rebranded the restaurant as Buffalo`s. The menu and quality stayed nearly the same but with the addition of some unique new flavors. To name a couple, the Honey Garlic nuggets and Texas Rub wings are juicy, crispy, and flavorful. For those looking to reduce dining costs, discounts are available—good luck with that though! Receive 10% or 20% off the check for eating 24 or 36 of the Chuck Norris flavored wings (the hottest ones), respectively. In addition to the discount, you’ll have your beautiful face featured on the wall of fame.
I know just about every American expat misses good Mexican food. Unfortunately, Muscovites don’t generally seem to be big fans of this cuisine for unknown (unwarranted) reasons, so it can be difficult to find a good, affordable place. However, El Tacodor definitely solves this problem. Delicious nachos are appropriately portioned and topped with meat, queso, cilantro and all the other ingredients that make real nachos tasty. After the nachos or for your following visit, I also highly recommend the delicious, authentic burritos and crunchy tacos. All orders come with a small side of chips and salsa, and as they should since the prices are slightly on the high end—but the taste is worth it.
One of the most popular restaurants is El Rancho, rather unique in that they have their own farm which you can visit if you wish. On the farm, you’re able to schedule horse-riding lessons or choose the rabbit that you’d like to see in your sandwiches, which are pretty good by the way.
A newer place, Vostok serves Eastern cuisine mainly from Uzbekistan—and the manti is quite delicious.
Many eaters can be seen scarfing down black burgers served by Ferma during lunch hours. Besides serving these yummy beef patties on black buns, the eatery is also famous for its homemade cider, St. Anton.
Hummus and falafel fans rejoice! Opened by Mark Gelman, Gelman offers traditional Israeli cuisine—served with a smile and eaten with delight.
Bollywood Kitchen is a good place for those who like authentic Indian cuisine, cooked by Indian chefs.
After eating at countless mediocre self-proclaimed Italian restaurants in Moscow that also mysteriously serve sushi, Eateria.Pasta Lovers can be a real special treat. Unlike other places, the portions can fill an adult and the pasta is all handmade. They also cook with fresh ingredients and ask very reasonable prices for their efforts.
Speaking of Italian, PizzaMama serves delicious large pizzas with all your favorite fresh toppings.
One of the more unusual restaurants, but no less appetizing would have to be Crab’n’Caviar. They have shawarma, sandwiches, burgers and more filled with crabs from Kamchatka. They‘re very good, even to those that don’t completely appreciate the taste of crab meat.
Ryba International offers a nice variety of very fresh seafood, served to perfection. Every Thursday they import a tuna fish from Maldives and perform a special show of cutting it up on Fridays. The tuna is huge so the show must certainly be entertaining.
Places like Cake / WakeCup Coffee Point and Waffle offer a wide variety of delectable desserts and sweet drinks for all the sugar/caffeine fiends out there.
You can also find Greek cuisine at Gyros, halal sandwiches at #eatme, Pan-Asian cuisine at Asia Today, all kinds of meat dishes at Meet Meat, Georgian food at Mimino, Armenian dishes at Djigyar’ and real American hot dogs with sausages imported from overseas at Crazy Hot Dog.
What about alcohol & entertainment?
Although it isn’t nearly as cozy as other pubs in Moscow, Lucky Bastards Irish Pub offers beer drinkers and sports fans the ability to eat tasty food and sip European beer at the bar, while watching their favorite sports on a flat screen TV. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many beer options—but don’t let that stop you.
If beer doesn’t tickle your fancy, then simply walk on over to The 21 Food Market’s wine bar—BAR 21—and order a glass of summer wine. The wine bar also has a happy hour special to save you some dough.
On Friday and Saturday nights, customers can enjoy DJ performances and eat until the doors are closed at 2AM—or if the mood progresses, the party can continue on until the early morning.
So what’s the downside?
Business lunch options seemed few and far between. With that in mind, plan to spend about 700-800+ rubles on lunch per person for food and a drink.
Delivery service is only currently available through Delivery Club, which can get to be pretty expensive. However, the administration plans to implement more delivery options in the near future.
The selection of alcoholic drinks could be expanded across more restaurants or expanded in general, but since it is a food market it is easy to mix-and-match what you want to eat and drink from different places.
Expats constantly complain about the fact that Moscow restaurants take reservations at 9 or 10 at night then refuse to seat other customers at those tables even if they arrive at 5PM, leaving the place empty and said customers angry. While most individuals will probably be happy with the fact that this is a non-issue at The 21 Food Market since they don’t take reservations, finding an empty table on the weekend may be difficult. With that in mind, the ideal time to dine is for lunch during the week.
Overall, there aren’t many cons to dining at The 21 Food Market. No matter what type of food you desire, it has the selection to satisfy your taste buds—with delicious food, efficient service, decent prices, and a good atmosphere.
What will you have for lunch today?
Address: New Arbat Avenue, 21
Info: The 21 Food Market