Taste of Samara: discover the city’s riverside dining and decadent desserts

Taste of Samara: discover the city’s riverside dining and decadent desserts
Kakao Mama

There’s a reason Samara is known as Venice of the Volga — dining here comes with riverside views, fresh seafood and intricate desserts. There’s even something for the veggies and vegans among us

14 June 2018
Text Nastya Gritsenko, Polina Nakraynikova

Samara has plenty of coffee shops to satisfy your caffeine and cake addiction. The city’s specialty, however, lies in seafood. Where else to try the catch of the day than aboard the deck of a boat on Europe’s longest river, the Volga. Sample a seafood twist on the classic Olivier salad, prepared with crayfish rather than meat at Red Rak. Once you’re satiated, head to Turbaza Veterok for horseradish infused shots and feel-good vinyl.

Carrie

Carrie’s trademark is the turquoise colour used to decorate the interiors, and the famous 100 rouble ($1.60) eclairs, which go down well with a cappuccino. The window displays lure customers in with desserts in jars (the banana pudding is especially tasty), and colourful cupcakes. As well as the coffee, there is a range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails. The kitchen doesn’t only cater to its sweet-toothed clientele, but athletes too: there are healthy salads on the lunch menu, and you can order all manner of breakfast porridges at any hour of the day. For a carbohydrate extravaganza, head over to 2 Dachnaya Street, 94 Kuybysheva Street, Kosmoport, 2 Moskovskoe Shosse or, for those chasing a more romantic experience, the city embankment.

Address: 2 Dachnaya Street, 94 Kuybysheva Street, Kosmoport shopping centre, 252 Moskovskoe Shosse

Scriabin

Samara is the Venice of the Volga, and it would be a real crime to miss out on dining with riverside views and a dappled sunset. Around a dozen decent restaurants line the embankment, but the most eye-catching is perhaps Scriabin, a restaurant-cum-landing stage moored at Kinap that revives the aesthetics of the 1920s and 1930s. With Soviet propaganda and semi-antique cream chairs, the restaurant is an atmospheric recreation of beloved Soviet satirists Ilf and Petrov’s Twelve Chairs. The best spots are on the summer veranda, of course, with an open view of the Volga. There is both Russian and European cuisine on the menu: the steaks, salmon pelmeni dumplings, fried carp and quail with spinach all come recommended.

Address: 23 Lesnaya Street

Red rak

“The writer Alexei Maximovich Gorky lived and worked in this building, which now houses a European restaurant”. So reads a sign at this crayfish joint, with a sort of resigned sadness. Down in the Kuybysheva basement, however, nobody pines for the past. Sample a plate of locally-caught crayfish, and wash it down with a craft beer. You can choose the broth the crayfish are boiled in: “classic”, French wine, or Saratov beer. Black rubber gloves are handed out to diners to ensure they don’t get their hands dirty. There’s also a crayfish version of Russia’s favourite salad, Olivier, creamy ukha fish soup with crayfish, fried mussels and assorted seafood skewers. While the expense is an affront to native Volgans (it’s far cheaper to buy a bowl of crayfish from the market), the opportunity to try Samara’s favourite dish easily justifies the price tag of 840 roubles ($13.50) per plate.

Address: 91 Kuybysheva Street

Turbaza Veterok

Samara had been yearning for an affordable bar in the city centre for a long time when finally, in 2017, Turbaza Veterok appeared. The local specialty is a range of lethal nastoiki (aged homemade spirits) priced at 120 roubles ($2), with flavours including thyme, horseradish, prune, cherry, currant, orange, strawberry, pomegranate and a raspberry infusion as sweet as jam. The bar also has inexpensive beer, including Zhiguli from the local brewery, and even cheaper beer snacks. Veterok fills up with crowds of young Samarans in the evening, when DJs play music very loudly on vinyl. The nastoiki won’t make it easy to remember the details of the night, but you’ll be safe in the knowledge that it was a good one.

Bridge DoJo

Lurking behind a bright-lit neon sign is a small bar with candlelit wooden tables and Samara’s most outlandish cocktails. Here, mixology is a sacred craft: as well as classics like sours and eggnogs, you’ll have the chance to sample the extravagant house cocktails, made with anything from moonshine and tequila to bourbon, champagne and even cider. Your best option is to conduct an alcoholic experiment and ask the bartender to mix something for your mood and palate. In addition to the intricate cocktails, Bridge DoJo also serves up delectable Japanese food (try the onigiri, or stuffed sushi triangles) and organises Saturday dances and Sunday jazz concerts.

Address: 63a Molodogvardeyskaya Street

Kakao Mama

This chain of barista bars rode an initial wave of popularity in neighbouring Tolyatti before expanding into Samara. The team stresses the importance of craft in everything, with specialty drinks made using special Arabica blends, and homemade desserts and snacks prepared every morning on the premises. Ask the barista for Mosaic Coffee if you want to try coffee brewed using locally roasted beans. The menu has a separate page for vegetarians, offering marrow squash spaghetti, hummus, veggie burgers and cold ginger soup. For the meat eaters there are chicken nuggets, soups and sandwiches. There’s craft beer too, and it seems the locals are even happy to wash their cake down with beer.

Address: 82 Molodogvardeyskaya Street

Est Zhelanie

Got a sweet tooth? You won’t want to miss Samara’s premier spot for decadent treats. At Est Zhelanie you’ll find delicate layer cakes made with the highest quality ingredients — think fresh vanilla and sumptuous local berries — vintage furniture, mismatched crockery and plentiful good vibes. The ideal place to catch your breath (and caffeinate yourself) between matches, here you can wash down your dessert with a good flat white or a classic Russian raf – a sweet coffee concoction with cream and vanilla sugar created in the 1990s, available here flavoured with lavender or coconut. Combine your visit with a trip to some nearby attractions: will it be an afternoon at the puppet theatre, the bustling Troitskiy Market or perhaps Russia’s first pasta factory (yes, you read that right)?

Address: 65 Molodogvardeyskaya Ulitsa