Kiev is a great city for many reasons and one of them is definitely food. Apart from the sublime fast food options like local chain Puzata Khata, which serves predominantly traditional Ukrainian dishes, and the countless coffee and pastry kiosks that line the capital’s streets, there are also places that offer a little something more. If you identify as a foodie, then read on for our list of places to check out in Kiev — whether you’re looking for something refined, quirky or just Instagrammable.
Hidden in a courtyard between some residential blocks of flats, Shankara Food might not look like a cafe from the outside. In fact, you could walk past and think it’s nothing more than friends and neighbours drinking tea in their yard. But come inside, come early (before they run out of food) and come hungry (so you can try more dishes). The menu is inspired by many national cuisines and is fully vegetarian; dishes have been Ukranianised in places but, surprisingly, they gain from these local adjustments. The menu changes often, but expect dumplings filled with local cheeses, noodle soups in rich broths, seasonal vegetables grown under the generous Ukrainian sun, exquisite vegetarian pâtés and edible flowers adorning everything that is served to you. The food is arguably much better than in big name Kiev restaurants, the prices are much lower and the atmosphere much more relaxed.
Bekhterevskyi provulok 4B
Bakery/cafe Yaroslava (you might also hear locals refer to it as Yaroslavna) is an institution that gets mentioned in most tourist guides to Kiev. But don’t let that put you off. Perhaps the only excuse you have not to visit this cafe is if you’re going gluten-free, as this place is a true cathedral of carbs. Start with the savoury pies: the best come with meat and cabbage or fish; if you’re a vegetarian skip the Westernised spinach fillings and go for a modest potato pie, laden with crispy fried onions. Other good options include chives with boiled eggs, cabbage or, when in season, wild garlic. Don’t go too crazy though, and leave some space for dessert — the must-try is a poppy seed pie with a filling so creamy and sweet you’ll be willing to surrender your passport and move here just to guarantee a steady supply. The cinnamon rolls are also worth a mention, but skip them if you must to try the fruit and berry pies, especially those with cherry and plum.
Yaroslaviv Val 13
This cafe serving up authentic Crimean Tatar food has two locations: a small take away kiosk in the Podil district by Zhitniy market and a bigger restaurant on Klovskiy descent — go to the latter for its expanded menu. The highlights of Crimean food are definitely chebureks and jantiks, fried pastry pockets filled with either meat, cheese or potato. Both are made from thin pastry that is a bit crunchy on the edge; the difference is that chebureks are fried in lots of oil while jantiks are fried on a dry metal skillet. You should definitely try the cheese chebureks, which come loaded with brine cheese and fresh herbs, and ask for extra tomato and chili. If you’re still hungry there are shashlik of grilled meat, mushrooms and vegetables. There’s a Turkic connection across the menu, with plenty of kebabs, vine leaf parcels (bear in mind that the Crimean kind contain beef mince) and yoghurt sauces. If you still have it in you at the end of the meal, Crimean baklava, soaked in honey but somehow still crunchy, is a must.
Klovskyi descent 10
If you’re lucky enough to be visiting Ukraine in summer or autumn, drop by this large market for some seasonal goodies. Especially revered are Ukrainian beef tomatoes and aubergines, affectionately dubbed sinenkiye (“blue ones”) by locals. Also try apricots, cherries and plums, so sweet and tender you’ll never be able to pick up a punnet of mediocre supermarket fare ever again. If you’re visiting out of season, do not despair: there are large stands of pickles, offering a briny version of everything from tomatoes and cucumbers to pattypan squashes, and jams, including quirky options like watermelon rind. If you’re looking for more of a quick snack, head to the Georgian bakery counter for a khachapuri, or, if you’re feeling healthy, go to Vegano Hooligano, a vegan falafel stand with cult status.
Bessarabska Square 2
There are countless places in Kiev to get decent Georgian food, but if you need to push your tastebuds to the limit, Shota is the place to be. The food here, cooked by big name Georgian chef Giya Khuchua, remains distinctly Georgian while sometimes going a bit more global with the addition of unexpected ingredients like prosciutto. This doesn’t spoil the overwhelming Georgianness though, so don’t be afraid to go for classics like the Adjarian khachapuri topped with egg, pkhali, mounds of herbs and freshly grilled shashlik. In the khinkali department make sure to try the cheese ones, which combine suluguni with Imeretian cheese, and for desserts go for the kiwi fruit and chili pepper or mint and coriander sorbets.
Mechnykova Street 9
If you’re a foodie on a budget, Kiev is a great place to be in general, but to achieve maximum bargain value head to Kiev’s latest craze, Biliy Naliv: a bar where everything costs one euro, or 29 hryvnas. You might have to queue if you come in the evening but it’s going to be worth it. First of all, try the cider (the bar derives its name from a sort of apple). If that’s not your cup of tea there are also craft apple infusions and apple cinnamon punch. Foodwise there are hot dogs, oysters and, of course, apple pie. Everything comes in take away bottles and boxes so you can take advantage of a warm night on the Khreshyatik — you’ll see that most of the locals will be enjoying their meals nearby. A small bottle of the apple infusion would also make a great gift for your thirsty friends back home.
If you’re into soups, smart solutions and like to do your bit to help the ecology, then the Soupculture chain is the place for you. Here you can get zero waste takeaway soup in handy and completely edible bread cups. All the soups are vegetarian and there are usually several varieties available: creamy mushroom, hearty lentil, cheese (yes, a soup that is just cheese, an idea worthy of a Nobel prize) and seasonal favourites like gazpacho, as well as several types of bread cups. While vegetarian clam chowder in a bread bowl might soud quirky, these are not only novelty items — they also taste great. Plus, you don’t leave plastic cups behind. Cyclists and students get discounts, and they now have branches throughout Ukraine, as well as in Slovakia, Poland and Belarus.
Volodymyrska Street 40/2