In August we went to Moscow and ate a lot of great, affordable vegan food. We also truly enjoyed walking around the city, meeting friendly people, and looking at so much wonderful art. But this post is about food. There are around 7 vegan restaurants in Moscow (as of August 2017 – I took a little while to write this), 4 vegan food shops, and almost 30 vegetarian restaurants. On top of that, several traditional Russian and Georgian dishes happen to be vegan.
Moscow was cheaper than we thought.
The current exchange rate means if you’re coming from the United States, food and dining is cheap compared to eating in a major American city. Just a few years ago the ruble was worth twice as many dollars as it is today, so many guidebooks are out of date. We actually over-ordered a few times thinking certain menu-items were side dishes because of the price. However, price really depends on neighborhood and style of restaurant. There just don’t happen to be that many fancy vegan restaurants in Moscow – yet. We found that hotels, airBNB’s, and ride sharing apps were much less expensive as well. Our biggest expenses were airfare, visas (around $300 each to an expeditor), and lodging which though cheaper than in the U.S., adds up after a week.
Before our trip I created a google map of all the places we wanted to go which I could access from my phone once we were there. The Happy Cow website and app was our most valuable tool for finding restaurants to add. I also searched on Instagram for #veganmoscow, #moscowvegan, etc. But sometimes the best things aren’t planned, and one of our most memorable meals (see below for Cafe Batoni) came about unexpectedly.
The vegan/vegan-friendly restaurants on our radar tended to open on the later side, around 10am or 11am, and close around 10pm or 11pm. We did not encounter many tourists, and zero Americans while we were in Moscow, but many restaurants have English menus, or at least a server who speaks English. The restaurants we visited ranged in vibe. There was artsy vegan, upscale chic vegan, quick and cheap fast-food vegetarian, a museum cafe, a modern Georgian restaurant, and even the fancy Cafe Pushkin. But first, the airplane food. And stay tuned for a post about vegan food in Saint Petersburg.
Our Vegan Meals in Moscow – But first, the airplane food.
Aeroflot, Russia’s largest airline, provides vegan meals IF you order in advance. On the flight from the United States we had spaghetti with vegetables for dinner, and rice with vegetables for breakfast, with slightly different sides. Rolls were served with Smart Balance spread. On the way back to the United States we had the same meal for dinner and breakfast which had beans and vegetables. It was really pretty good for airplane food.
Ugol was our favorite vegan restaurant in Moscow! It’s a casual vegan cafe on a side street below a youth hostel. The crowd and music leans punk. Here we mistakenly ordered too much, thinking the low prices meant small portions. Our server very patiently translated the entire menu into English for us. Everything was DELICIOUS. For dessert we ordered two slices of cake, not realizing they were huge. We took the Oreo cake to-go, and that ended up being our favorite over the Snickers cake. There were some vintage vegan magazines (circa 2001) available for reading. Ugol is on the same block as some other cute bars and just around the corner from the Rhythm and Blues Cafe which we did not have a chance to go to.
Address: Starovagankovskij Pereulok 19s3, Moscow.
The Loving Hut
The Loving Hut has locations throughout the world and the menu varies at every single one. This Loving Hut has Russian specialties as well as international dishes, and of the handful of Loving Huts we’ve tried in the world, this location is our favorite. They have an English menu. Not only did they have a delicious Russian kombucha, but this Loving Hut was one of the restaurants where we found pretty paper straws – more environmentally friendly than plastic! The vegan garlic pizza and the vegan schnitzel were absolutely delicious. The Russian dumpling soup was a little bland and had the same fake meat as the schnitzel so it was a mistake to order them together. For dessert we had vegan chocolate bars. One was like a vegan Twix, they were both really good. This Loving Hut is a little tricky to find because it is upstairs behind another business. The last picture is of the storefront at the address listed. Enter that store and walk to the back and up the stairs where you will see signs leading you to the restaurant.
Address: стр. 1, Ulitsa Maroseyka, 4, Moscow.
Fresh is a vegetarian cafe for the fancy set. People at lunch were dressed quite chic, and the whole thing felt like it could be on the west side of Los Angeles. While much less expensive than LA, it was still one of the pricier places we ate, probably due to its central location, a ten minute walk from the Kremlin. They have an English menu. Fresh was the first place we tried lemonade in Russia before realizing it is a thing. You can get flavored lemonade at many different kinds of restaurants. Not everything is vegan and they were out of certain vegan options but the servers were very helpful in navigating the menu.
Address: Ulitsa Bol’shaya Dmitrovka, 11, Moscow.
Fruits & Veges
Fruits & Veges is a casual, artsy vegan cafe near the Artplay Design center in the artsy (yes, I know I used the word twice in one sentence) Basmanny neighborhood. It’s frequented by art students and is also only a 5 minute walk from the Vinzavod Gallery Complex. The menu at Fruits & Veges is in Russian and the server apparently translated only part of it. I saw several people get a big noodle bowl that looked amazing but I didn’t know it was an option. If you’re there, find that noodle bowl! The highlight for me was the brownie which I maintain is one of the best I’ve ever had. The vegan cheese on my vegetable sandwich was very good, but the soup was not the best.
Address: Nizhnyaya Syromyatnicheskaya Ulitsa, 10/12, Moscow.
Cafe Avocado is vegetarian. We ate at one of two locations – the one in the city center, not far from Fresh and the Kremlin. It was a little tricky to find – the entrance is actually around the corner from the address given, but once you turn the corner on to the side street you can’t miss the sign with the giant avocado on it. We had a vegan omelette that was really tasty but was more like a frittata. The vegan porridge was also good. There were some mesmerizing videos of sea life playing on a TV screen. We were the only customers right when it opened at 10am on a weekday so we didn’t get a real sense of the vibe.
Address: Tverskaya St, 5/6, Moscow.
Jagganath is a Vegetarian cafeteria-style chain where you pay by weight. It’s great for fast and cheap food and has a mix of Russian and Indian style dishes. There wasn’t much English written or spoken so I had to just point to what I wanted and ask if it was vegan first. I was very happy with my salad, potatoes and mushrooms (which is a vegan dish available almost everywhere in Moscow) and fried tofu. My husband loves Indian food and ordered some of the Indian style dishes but was a little disapopinted. We ate at the Jagganath near the Kitay-Gorod subway stop but there are other locations.
Address: Ulitsa Maroseyka, 4, Moscow.
Cafe Batoni, a modern Georgian restaurant, was a real treat for us. We never would have known to come here or what to order if not by happenstance. A friendly acquaintance whom we met by chance months earlier in Los Angeles put us in touch with his old colleague in Moscow. This colleague turned out to be vegan! What are the chances? He and his wife live near Cafe Batoni and eat here regularly.
The atmosphere was elegant and we sat on a balcony overlooking a nice staircase and the rest of the restaurant. Right when we entered we saw a man hand making bread in a small windowed room. Cafe Batoni does have an English menu but vegan options are not marked. I think the bread we had was lavash. Right when we walked in there was someone making bread in a sort of display area. I believe the colorful round foods in the first picture are beetroot pkhali, spinach pkhali, and green lobio which are listed on the “cold snacks” section of the menu. The main ingredient of each is mixed with walnuts and topped with pomegranate seeds. And I think that is “eggplants with walnuts” in the blue dish in the foreground. Those were all tasty for dipping bread. For something hot, we had red lobio, a traditional Georgian bean dish, in a pot topped with corn flower and pickles. We also tried this green drink, Tarhun, which is a Georgian soda flavored with tarragon and woodruff.
Address: Novoslobodskaya Ulitsa, 18, Moscow.
Cafe Pushkin was the most expensive meal of our trip, and though it was a fun experience, I would probably recommend just stopping in for a drink unless you are visiting during Lent when there are more vegan options. This 24-hour restaurant opened in 1999 in a baroque mansion near Pushkin Square and you feel like you’re in a 19th-century aristocrat’s house. The name Cafe Pushkin references a 1964 Gilbert Brecaud hit song, “Nathalie” where Brecaud sings about walking around Moscow with his Russian guide and visiting Cafe Pushkin – which was entirely fictional – until now.
Some blog posts out there mention a full vegan menu at Cafe Pushkin. Do not be misled! The full menu is only available during Lent and is known as a Lenten menu. During the rest of the year, it’s a bit trickier to eat here. We struggled to communicate with two waiters before we were assigned one who spoke English and understood our requests. He actually checked on the bread and found out it was vegan. We had a very nice asparagus salad, and potatoes with chanterelle mushrooms which happened to be in season while we were there. I also ordered two kind of pickles, “soft salted” and “hard salted.” That was pretty much all we could eat there. They sat us downstairs which was very nice, but if I were to go back I might ask to sit upstairs in the library. The architecture is stunning and even the bathrooms transported me to another time. Cafe Pushkin is also a great place for people watching. We went during lunch, and I’m sure the people watching is even better at 4 in the morning.
Address: Tverskoy Boulevard, 26А, Moscow.
GARAGE Museum cafe
The GARAGE Museum of Contemporary Art is located inside Gorky Park. We saw an excellent exhibit there called “Bone Music” about music banned during the Soviet Era that was secretly lathed onto discarded X-rays to make LP’s. After the show, we were hungry and there was nothing nearby on the Happy Cow app so we were happy to find out that we could eat at the museum. Vegan menu items are not marked on the menu but the servers spoke English and double-checked what we could order. Of course we had more mushrooms and potatoes, but also a vegetable sushi stuffed with quinoa instead of rice, a really tasty hummus with falafel, a refreshing cucumber and tomato salad, and a delicious black current lemonade.
Receptor is a cute omnivore cafe serving a mix of Asian and European cuisine with a few vegan options. We came here because it was listed on the Happy Cow app and was open late near a bar we wanted to visit (Mayak – I high recommend). It had no reviews at the time so I think they added themselves to the Happy Cow app. They also had free copies of the “Vegetarian,” a newspaper which we had previously only seen in veggie restaurants – so it seems like they are making real effort to reach out to vegans and vegetarians. That being said, the menu only marks vegetarian options and it took some time for the server to find out what was vegan and what wasn’t. Some of our first choices turned out not to be vegan so we ended up with Udon noodles with vegetables, and hummus. The food was pretty good. The hummus was a bit thick – still tasty but it took real effort to drag a carrot though it. The atmosphere was charming, with lots of fun details and quirky animal-related art and someone was playing the piano very well.
Address: Bol’shaya Nikitskaya Ulitsa, 22/2, Moscow.
After four days in Moscow, we took the train to Saint Petersburg. Buying our train tickets was so confusing that we never found the part where you can order a vegan meal in advance. Once on the train, you cannot purchase the vegan meal. Luckily we brought snacks. I’ll post the round-up of vegan food we had in Saint Petersburg soon. Overall, we had a wonderful time in Russia, and I recommend Moscow and Saint Petersburg for anyone interested in history, art, and vegan food. The restaurants listed above are just the ones we happened to eat at because they suited our tastes or were convenient to other things we wanted to do. To find more vegan Moscow restaurants, check out Happy Cow.