Kruzhka is a very interesting place. You think that you’re entering a bar as you go through the heavy wooden door. The bottom floor is a dark room with red brick walls upon which are mounted flat-screen TV’s showing an endless stream of dance-pop music videos. If you come by later in the evening, you’ll often find sports matches there.
They also offer Moscow’s cheapest mug of beer, their own branded “Kruzhka ot Klinskogo,” which they produce in conjunction with Klinskoe, a Russian beer company that might well be thought of as Russia’s Pabst Blue Ribbon. Not known for its savor, but rather its working-class price. Its obvious that this plays into their brand-building as “Kruzhka” itself actually means “mug” and the restaurant’s logo is a mug of yellowish, foamy beverage (whatever could that be?) with a knife a fork placed along side as if the mug and beverage were your plate and meal.
They do offer a wider menu featuring mostly fried treats: fries, fish, onion rings, and the like – all stuff that goes great with a tall, cold mug of beer. It seemed like most of the patrons were there to just drink, however, as empty beer glasses sat in front of them, and no food.
The Taganskaya Kruzhka was staffed by two young, energetic waiters who seemed to really enjoy the dance music. No matter what they were doing they were bobbing their heads to the American rapper Akon or whoever happened to be playing at the time. They got me seated quickly and took my order and brought my food in the same manner.
I had missed the lunch special (169 rubles) by fifteen minutes, but it looked like a good deal: meat, fries, seasoned veggies, and soup. I ended up deciding on the Arabskaya Shwarma (225 rubles), the only plate they offer that remotely resembles a balanced meal (unless one goes for the soup and salad combo, which can be had from between ~200-300 rur depending on what exactly you order).
My shwarma included a very nice portion of seasoned meat, fries, cabbage, pickle slices, and mayo for dipping. This was actually my first experience with french fries in Russia. They weren’t bad, but needed a healthy dose of pepper to bring them up to snuff. On the whole however, the meal was quite good. I’d never put mayo on my fries, or on anything for that matter really, before, but I really liked it.
If you are looking for something quite filling (and also quite good), other SRAS folks recommend the Kartofel zharenyi s myasom (Potatoes fried with meat) for about 280 rur. You might also want to try to the traditional Russian Dranki, which are basically mashed potato patties run through a deep fat fryer and then served with mayo for 150 rur. If you have heart problems, you should probably generally stay away from this place – but it’s a great place for “man food.”
If you want to eat at Kruzhka for the lowest possible price, go there between noon and five, that’s when they offer the lunch special. If you like sports, go a bit later and have a beer or three while watching. I should also mention that while I was there, they were actually dry on their cheap-end beers and I had to forgo the full Kruzhka experience to stay in budget because they only had their more expensive foreign brands available (Bud and a Belgian brand called “Leff” for 130 to 180 rubles. I don’t know if I’ll go back, but the meal was pretty tasty. All in all, a good place for fried food, but I’m not sure it’s an absolute must.
For groups and faculty-led tours, Kruzhka can be an option, although you’ll want to reserve a table at one of their larger restaurants (they have several around Moscow) and probably order a set menu so as to keep prices reasonable and the service quick for a group.