Saturday, September 14, 2013

Where to eat in Kharkov

It seems like a lot of local restaurants very quietly closed up shop this year. We'd show up at a place hungry only to find empty windows and locked doors. It bummed me out for a while, and then I decided to treat the situation as a call to action instead. Here's what we've discovered-

Churrasco Bar

First up, a restaurant that opened on July 26th and has already attracted a lot of attention-
Churrasco Bar, ул. Петровского 30/32 (next to Paris restaurant)
This place is not for the faint of heart. The chalkboard sign above proclaims "There's a lot of meat here, get yourself in here!!!" and that's exactly what they'll serve you: a heart-attack-inducing quantity of meat.

We showed up last weekend at 1:30 PM to an empty restaurant full of "reserved table" placards. Turns out that the grill doesn't fire up until 3 PM so we got to have a nice long chat with the waitress as she tried to convince us to stay and snack on salads until the food was ready. It was a little too long for us to wait, but we did get a great explanation of how the system works: pay a flat sum (starting at about 130 uah) and then there's no limit to how much meat you can grab from the constantly-circulating waiters. If you're into the exotic, the selection of cuts even includes things like organs and bulls balls.

Although I can't find the exact business hours anywhere, the waitress said the grill stays open until about 1 AM daily and she strongly recommended making a reservation (067 579 76 00) if you want to come in the evenings/on the weekend. According to their vk page, you can grab a reasonably priced business lunch (40 uah) during the week. I'll write more about this place once we actually have a meal here, but it was unusual enough to merit mentioning beforehand.

1000-year-later update: we did make it to Churrasco eventually. Here are a few grainy photos from that meal (I think the staff kept things so dark in order to hide the fact that there was actually very little food served, haha.)

Probably good stuff... if you can actually get a waiter to bring you some!

Anyways, we left Churrasco and headed next door to Paris... but they also didn't open until 3 PM as well so we simply turned around and walked back down Pushkinska St. to one of my favorite restaurants...

Grill House Bistro

Grill House Bistro opened earlier this year and, despite the name, is a freakishly awesome Mediterranean "fast food" restaurant.
вул. Пушкiнська, 58
They serve falafal, hummus, pita bread, and shawarma at great prices (20 - 40 uah) and invite you to a free mini-salad bar with each meal. They've even got hamburgers, french fries, and beer on the menu. Definitely, definitely go here if you're in the mood for a quick meal!

(PS: You can see more photos of the food and the interior on foursquare.)


(Hole-in-the-wall) Chinese restaurant

We've been to several fancy Chinese restaurants (Flying Dragon, the Swan) but neither were as good as this place. I don't think it's even got a name and the atmosphere is pretty much non-existent but the food and prices can't be beat.
do you see a Chinese restaurant?
There are ventilation ducts over every table so it's a little awkward to see anyone sitting across from you. The menu has been crudely translated from Chinese and the font and spacing make the descriptions nearly unreadable. The waiter is a Chinese teenager who speaks Russian about as well as I do :p but the food. is. freaking. awesome!
this is it! go here!

Not having a name makes it a little hard to find, but it's a ten minute walk from the metro station "Botanical Garden", past the student dormitories. When you're exiting the metro, look for the sign in the picture to the right. The exact address is Otakara Yarosha 10.

A big thank you to Artem, who reads this blog, sent an email out of the blue one day, and showed me this place!

Shato (yes, again!)

Back in May when my brother came to visit, he took us out for a night on the town. Before we ended up downing vodkas and dancing like crazy fools at "Grotto" in Shevchenko Park:
we started here, at Shato. It wasn't the first visit we'd made here, but it was the beginning of a disappointing trend. Getting a beer giraffe on the first visit got us hooked on the novelty of the idea but every time we've been back this summer- no beer giraffe. The waiter always shrugs his shoulders, even when the restaurant seems almost empty. Who knows, maybe they're down to their last 2 beer giraffes or they're hoarding them for the zombie apocalypse or something.
although I did see one forlorn beer giraffe at the table of these girls
Instead, the waiter simply brings a ton of beer mugs to the table. It's almost worth it just to see so many glasses at one time.

The coolest part was getting to try this gigantic platter of goodness along with all that beer:
if you're vegetarian, I apologize
It would have been quite expensive for a usual night out ($50 just for this dish alone) but my brother sneaked off and secretly paid the bill. Thank you, Nick! : )



address: Стадионный проезд, 13 (бульвар Юрьева)
I've only tried this place once. We grabbed a calzone to enjoy in the park and it was a thousand times better than the last calzone we tried (at Adriano, *shudder*!) Parma is on my list to visit again.

Their food and beverage menus can be viewed online. They are located in the big park behind the "Kiev" movie theater, not far from the Sports Palace and the Marshala Zhukova metro stop.



Cipollino is a little onion that had his own cartoon show back in the USSR.
Now he's got his own pizza restaurant here in Kharkov!
This place just opened this summer and business appears to be booming. They offer the usual assortment of pizzas and sides (no pasta though) as well as one thing that is incredibly rare in this town:

Good service.

The restaurant was opened by two guys (business partners) and it's not uncommon to see them pulling waiter duty. We met one of the guys- Sergiy- who said he's been cycling through all the positions in the restaurant in order to really get a grasp on the business. He's really, really nice and I can't tell you what a pleasure/surprise it is to not have a grumpy waiter for once : p

Although I've sworn allegiance to Pizza Maranello since my first week here in Kharkiv, Cipollino is fast becoming a contender for best local pizza restaurant! But I'd be glad to do some more sampling at both places before making a final decision... : )

July 2014 update: Everything that made this place so wonderful has been stripped away, probably stemming from the change in management. Gone is smiling Sergiy in his waiter's apron; the new owners are big burly men who park themselves at a table, rifle through paperwork, watch TV, and scowl. Ever since I first noticed them parading around the place like it was their own private club, service is slower and ordering has become a risky guessing game of "nope, we're out of that today". It's quite disappointing that Cipollino is now just another mediocre Kharkiv pizza restaurant.

If you understand Russian, I'd recommending reading about The Rise and Fall of Cipollino on Харьков форум. Compare the first few posts to the last few and you'll know what I mean. And that delivery picture is not a fluke- it's their trademark, no joke : (

Cipollino is on Gagarin Avenue, just past the massive supermarket Tavria V and the oddly futuristic pedestrian crossing (also known as Kernes' most). It's on the same side of the street as Tavria V.

Bubble Tea shop on Sumskaya Street

I haven't been here yet but it's exciting to see one of these places opening in Kharkov!

And speaking of odd restaurants...

"Paris Dakar" Restaurant

Out for a walk one day near Studentcheska metro, I couldn't help but notice this unusual restaurant named after the crazy Paris to Dakar rally raid.

It offers European, Japanese, and Caucasian cuisine.

The unnamed cafeteria

yes, that's the front (and only) door
And finally, we've been visiting this modest столовая near the Turboatom factory on a regular basis. An extremely regular basis. D eats here 5 days a week and I usually join him on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Yes, I still love to eat at a столовая!
This one is a quintessential столовая: hidden deep in the bowels of an old office building, long lines, staffed only by ancient men and women who slowly move about as they dish out mashed potatoes and restock glasses of peach juice. The plates are mismatched and chipped, the cashier adds up your total on a gigantic abacus (I kid you not), and grumpy shouts of "More forks! More trays!" ring out every 5 minutes.

What's hiding behind all this, though, is delicious homestyle cooking.
The dining area is a design disaster of mismatched tiles and at least 3 different kinds of wallpaper. Part of one wall is covered with this-
- which has further been decorated with stickers of campers, children, and a sultry naked woman hiding in the cattails.

One time I got a peek at what was behind those heavy curtains to the left: a small table (perhaps a staff only area?) and this dramatic, totally-unexpected mural-
The menu is rarely changes: the same 4 kinds of juice, the same soups, the same sides, the same main dishes. Occasionally it's fish day. My order is almost always soup, cabbage, one chicken cutlet, one сырник (sweet cheese pancake) or two мясные блинчики  (crepes with meat filling).
my lunch
D opts for a chilled bowl of okroshka during the summer months plus grains (buckwheat, etc.) and some kind of meat dish; below is what he ate for lunch yesterday.
D's lunch

So, as sad as it is that some good restaurants have closed their doors, it's not the end of the world. There's still plenty of good food left here in Kharkov! : )

Where's your favorite place to eat in this town?

PS: If you want to see what else is (or was) out there, take a look at my Life in Kharkov page.


  1. A brilliant post, great narration with images, thank you.

    Dare I suggest you use Google maps and mark precise locations, that way no need for directions to be given?

    In exchange I share this evenings #Kyiv weather:

    1. Wow, that's some serious rain! We've had a bit here, on and off, but nothing that steady.

      Google maps is a good idea, thanks. Maybe I'll get my act together one of these days and work on that :p

  2. Does the "unnamed cafeteria" also double as a bomb shelter? lol You always make me so hungry with these posts! When I come visit, I just want to eat the whole time ;-)

  3. This was such an interesting post to read! It's always fun to learn what food is available in other countries and to see what's similar or different! (It seems Italian is prevalent everywhere..!) After reading this article, the unnamed cafeteria is tops on my list of places to try in Kharkov.

    1. Thanks for dropping by, my fellow foodie! Yes, that cafeteria is the best, plus it's never more than $4 (USD) for everything!

  4. Haha, great to see you've discovered Grill House Bistro too. Falafel is the king!

    1. Great minds must truly think alike : ) Let's put it on our list for the autumn, after Cipollino!

  5. "5 years in Kharkiv" by English Expat
    You failed to miss nearly all of the best restaurants in the city , unfortunately !
    Google map of city ; Useful map of city centre ;

    1. Very nice map, Simon, thanks for sharing! Most of those restaurants you listed are a little out of my price range at the moment, but maybe someday : )