Our neighborhood, Akademicheskaya, is named after the red-line metro station–which in turn is named after the “academy,” or university campus dominating the area. It is fairly typical for a neighborhood on the outskirts of the city, where many universities are located. The late 19th century Tsars feared the liberal atmosphere of the new universities cropping up left and right, widely considered hotbeds of radical, anti-royalist thought. This fear was justified after Tsar Alexander II feel victim to an assassination plot by young members of the left-wing terrorist group, the “People’s Will.” As a result, university campuses and their hooligan students could only be headquartered a safe distance from downtown. This is kind of inconvenient for today’s students, as a trip to the Hermitage involves a 45-minute commute.
To save time, here are some local stores and restaurants:
The produkti is probably the closest eating establishment to IMOP, so it’s a good option if the cafeteria food gets old but it’s too cold to venture very far outside the school building. It looks like a little train wagon practically sitting on the sidewalk slightly to the right of the front door, and sells snacks and some lunches (sandwiches, individual pizzas).
The closest grocery store to the IMOP dormitory and classrooms–literally right across the street. It is between the sizes of идея and the produkti, so very basic. But if you need something simple (laundry soap, snacks, toilet paper, booze), it’s the best place to go.
Idea is a middle ground between running errands at 7я and going full-out grocery shopping, located on the main road next to the McDonald’s. It has more variety than 7я, but I wouldn’t call it a supermarket. I usually just go there if I need one thing specifically, like pasta sauce or orange juice. Make sure you have exact change, as the cashiers here are generally cranky about breaking large bills, running credit cards, or counting out any more than a few coins. Especially that girl with the mole. Stay away from her.
This is the closest thing you will get to an American-style supermarket in terms of variety. In addition to food, the first row of aisles and the ones on the right are kind of a Wal-Mart-style mix of made-in-china junk and useful household items. It’s a little bit of a walk (5 minutes past the metro station) and always crowded, but well worth it if you need to do serious grocery shopping. If you want variety in your diet, this is the place to go, as it’s really the only grocery store that carries significant quantities of ingredients for foreign cuisines (Indian, Italian, Mexican, Japanese, etc). Another plus is that you can get a rewards card that is really worth it if you plan on buying groceries regularly. Unfortunately I have yet to discern a pattern as to when they put out the fresh-baked bread, which is so delicious I have been scolded for gnawing on a baguette in the checkout line.
Everyone’s favorite! Prices here are basically the same as in America (fast food gets slightly more expensive downtown), although a few things on the menu are different. If you want a milkshake, make sure to order a “milk cocktail,” otherwise you will get a fruit smoothie instead.
This mall is fairly new, adjacent to McDonald’s and Idea. It has typical mall stores (various clothing chains, mobile providers, sports stores, etc), a movie theater, and a food court. I don’t remember all of the food court restaurants, but as of now it includes a Burger King, Sbarro, KFC, Teremok (Russian fast food, mostly bliny), Kartoshka (Russian fast food, mostly baked potatoes), a sushi “lounge,” and one or two places that seemed confused about what Asian-ish ethnic cuisine they were supposed to be serving. There is also a somewhat overpriced grocery store at the basement level, and a Bushe (Russia’s Panera) right near the entrance.
In the plaza right outside the metro station, there are several fast food “huts” and trucks. One is a little mini Teremok, another has various baked goods, and another serves shawarma. This is probably just stray dog meat in a grilled pita, but it is oh so delicious and at about $2.75, who can say no?
This is the go-to student restaurant, located halfway between IMOP and the metro. It’s not American-style pizza (or service) by any means, but it still has a decent atmosphere for just hanging out with friends and is not overpriced. The last time I checked there were no English menus, so it’s helpful to bring a dictionary (or a Russian) with you to help decipher what all the toppings are. The carbonara is an overall favorite.
Pretty much right next to Pizza-Bar, Beer House is very convenient for IMOP students. Even so, I have never been there because AIFS students from last semester didn’t recommend it (apparently it’s overpriced, the waitstaff are rude, and fights have been known to break out).
The oxymoronic sushi-wok is a bit more of a walk than the other restaurants, but worth it if you just really want sushi without going downtown. You can get an order of sushi (like at Pizza-Bar, it’s helpful to have a way to figure out the ingredients in all the rolls), or a “Wok Box” which is basically fried rice or lo mein with your choice of meat. I’m personally not much of a fan—the service was very slow for such small orders, even if the pricing was ok. The Wok Boxes are also very, very greasy.