Russian Phrases For Dummies
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Russians are famous for their bountiful cuisine. Whether you're on a short visit or planning to live there, knowing how to talk about Russian food is essential. Eating out at Russian restaurants and cafes can be a lot of fun, especially if you know some basic restaurants vocabulary.

Rasschitajtye (ruh-shee-tahy-t'eh) [m] (check)
platit' (pluh-teet'; to pay) (to pay)
myenyu (mee-n'u; menu)
ofitsiant (uh-fee-tsih-ahnt; waiter) or ofitsiantka (uh-fee-tsih-ahnt-kuh; waitress)
myetrdotyel' (mehtr-dah-tehl; maitre d')
kryeditnyye kartochki (kree-deet-nih-eh kahr-tuhch-kee) credit card

Choosing the right place

You can find lots of different places to eat out, Russian-style, depending on your mood and budget. Ryestoran (ree-stah-rahn) (restaurant) are fine-dining establishments where you'll be treated to an eight-course meal, lots of drinks, and live music. If you want a more affordable option, try a kafye (kuh-feh) (cafe). The cafés can serve anything coffee and ice cream, to pancakes, to pies. There are many different kinds of kafye, such as:

  • blinnaya (BLEE-nuh-yuh) (cafe that serves pancakes)

  • chyeburyechnya (chee-boo-R'EHCH-nuh-yuh) (cafe that serves meat pies)

  • kafye-morozhenoye (kuh-FEH mah-ROH-zhih-nuh-eh) (ice-cream parlor)

  • pirozhkovya (pee-rahsh-KOH-vuh-yuh) (cafe that serves small pies)

  • pyel'myennya (PEEL'-m'ehn-nuh-yuh) (place that serves Russian ravioli)

  • pyshyechnaya (PIH-shihch-nuh-yuh) (donut shop)

  • stolovaya (stah-LOH-vuh-yuh) (dining room)

  • zakusochnaya (zuh-KOO-suhch-nuh-yuh) (snack bar)

Keep your eyes open. Cafes have interesting names that are often unrelated to food. If you pass one of them on the street, you may not even recognize it as a place to eat!

What to order

The ofitsiant (uh-fee-tsih-AHNT) (waiter) or ofitsiantka (uh-fee-tsih-AHNT-kuh) (waitress) may also ask you specifically Chto vy budyetye pit'? (shtoh vih BOO-dee-t'eh peet'?) (What would you like to drink?). To answer, you simply say Ya budu (ya BOO-doo) (I will have) + the name of napitki (nuh-PEET-kee) (beverages) you want.

  • sok (sohk) (juice)

  • chaj (chahy) (tea)

  • kofye (KOH-f'eh) (coffee)

  • vodka (VOHT-kuh) (vodka)

  • pivo (PEE-vuh) (beer)

  • vino (vee-NOH) (wine)

  • kvas (kvahs) (a nonalcoholic beverage made of bread)

Be sure to take time out of your travel schedule to try the famous Russian tea-drinking tradition called chayepitiye (chee-pee-tee-eh). Russians love tea almost as much as the Britishs do and drink it in huge quantities, usually in big glasses.

Russians eat three meals a day: So, what you order will vary depending on the meal. But Russian meals have quite a few unique food, which you discover in these sections:

Zavtrak (ZAHF-truhk) (breakfast)

The Russian breakfast is called zavtrak (ZAHF-truhk). In contrast to a European-style breakfast—fruit and a pastry—the Russian zavtrak is very flexible. Some Russian breakfast favorites include

  • butyerbrod s syrom (boo-tehr-BROHT s SIH-ruhm) (cheese sandwich)

  • kasha (KAH-shuh) (cooked grain served hot with milk, sugar, and butter)

  • kolbasa (kuhl-buh-SAH) (sausage)

  • kyefir (kee-FEER) (kefir)

  • syelyodka s kartoshkoj (see-LYOT-kuh s kahr-TOHSH-kuhy) (herring with potatoes)

If you're not quite ready for syelyodka s kartoshkoj in the morning, use the following words to order Western-style breakfast foods:

  • behkon (bee-KOHN) (bacon)

  • bliny (blee-NIH) (pancakes)

  • kukuruznyye khlop'ya (koo-koo-ROOZ-nih-eh KHLOHP'YUH) (corn flakes)

  • ovsyanka (ahf-S'AHN-kuh) (oatmeal)

  • tost (tohst) (toast)

  • yaichnitsa (ee-EESH-nee-tsuh) (fried/scrambled eggs)

Obyed (ah-B'EHT) (lunch)

Obyed (ah-B'EHT) (dinner) is the main meal of the day. For their midday meal, Russians usually enjoy a four-course meal consisting of zakuski (zuh-KOOS-kee) (appetizers), sup (soop) (soup), vtoroye (ftah-ROH-yeh) (the second or main course), and dyesyert (dee-S'EHRT) (dessert). Popular Russian lunch items are

  • kapustnyj salat (kah-poost-nihy suh-laht) (cabbage salad)

  • salat iz ogurtsov i pomidorov (suh-LAHT iz ah-goor-TSOHF ee puh-mee-DOH-ruhf) (salad made of tomatoes and cucumbers)

  • salat olivye (suh-LAHT uh-lee-V'YE) (meat salad)

  • vinyegryet (vee-nee-GR'EHT) (mixed vegetable salad made with beets, carrots, and pickle)

  • borsh' (bohrsh') (beet root soup)

  • molochnyj sup (mah-LOHCH-nihy soop) (milk soup)

  • sh'i (sh'ee) (cabbage soup)

  • ukha (oo-KHAH) (fish soup)

  • bifstroganov (behf-STROH-guh-nuhf) (beef stroganoff)

  • golubtsy (guh-loop-TSIH) (stuffed cabbage rolls)

  • kotlyety s kartoshkoj (kaht-L'EH-tih s kuhr-TOHSH-kuhy) (meat patty with potatoes)

  • kuritsa (KOO-ree-tsuh) (chicken)

  • makarony (muh-kuh-ROH-nih) (pasta)

  • ryba (RIH-buh) (fish)

  • kompot (kahm-poht) (compote)

  • morozhenoye (mah-ROH-zhih-nuh-eh) (ice cream)

  • pyechyen'ye (pee-CHEHN'-eh) (cookies)

  • pirog (pee-ROHK) (pie)

  • tort (tohrt) (cake)

Uzhin (OO-zhihn) (supper)

The last meal of the day is called uzhin (OO-zhihn) (supper), and it's usually a small meal eaten with family at home. Obyed usually consists of soup and a main course. Some Russian supper favorites include

  • Butyerbrody (boo-tehr-BROH-dih) (open-sided sandwiches) may also be served.

  • blinchiki (BLEEN-chee-kee) (crepes)

  • pyel'myeni (peel'-M'EH-nee) (Russian ravioli)

  • syrniki (SIHR-nee-kee) (patties made of cottage cheese)

  • tvorog so smyetanoj (TVOH-ruhk suh smee-TAH-nuhy) (cottage cheese with sour cream)

Receiving and paying the bill

When you're ready to pay, you'll need to flag down the waiter by saying Rasschitajtye nas pozhalujsta! (ruh-shee-TAHY-t'eh nahs pah-ZHAHL-stuh!) (Check please!) The waiter may tell you how much you owe by saying S vas . . . (s vahs) (you owe [literally: from you is due . . .]). For example, S vas dvyesti rublyej sorok odna kopyejka (s vahs DV'EHS-TEE-roob-L'EHY SOH-ruhk ahd-NAH kah-P'EHY-kuh) (You owe two hundred rubles and forty-one kopeks).

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Andrew Kaufman, PhD, is currently a Visiting Lecturer in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Virginia. He holds a PhD in Slavic Languages and Literatures from Stanford University, and he has recognized success as both a published scholar and an innovative, award-winning teacher of Russian language, literature, and culture at some of the country’s top universities. To learn more about Dr. Kaufman, please visit his website at

Serafima Gettys, PhD, earned her doctorate degree in Foreign Language Education from Gertzen State Pedagogical University, Leningrad, USSR. She is currently a Coordinator of the Foreign Language Program at Lewis University, where she also teaches Russian. Prior to coming to Lewis University, she taught Russian at Stanford University. Gettys is also a member of a number of professional language associations.

Nina Wieda is a doctoral student in Slavic Languages and Literatures at Northwestern University in Chicago. A trained linguist with an MA in Social Sciences, Nina also has a book of poetry published in Russian, and a number of scholarly articles on Chekhov and contemporary drama published in English.

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