Кафе Николай/Nikolai Cafe
Старая Басманная, 5
Hours: 9:00 – 20:00
Prices: 175 rubles+
If you are studying at the Higher School of Economics through SRAS, there is a restaurant that you’ve probably missed on the way to the classroom building on Staraya Basmannaya. On the outside, the faded purple sign that says”Nikolai” may lead you to believe that it is an abandoned establishment. However, in the inside, the interior is beautiful. They serve pirogi, which are like pies, that are beautifully laid out on the counter. They offer unique combinations of savory fillings, such as chicken and apple, or turkey and plum. Nikolai Cafe also serves amazing fruit pirogi, such as raspberry, lingonberry, and apple with cinnamon. Each of these costs about 175 rubles, but you will probably need two to be full. There is also a menu for food you can order, but it was a little more costly.
According to an announcement posted indoors, Monday nights from 20:00-21:00 are improv saxophone nights. Sundays at 9 pm are movie nights.
Nikolai Cafe is also pleasantly quirky. In homage to the name of the cafe, there are photos on the wall of famous people with “Nic” in their names. This includes old Russian writers named Nikolai and even Nicolas Cage and Nicole Kidman. For some reason, there is also a cute shower in the restroom.
If you still don’t feel compelled to come here, the owner’s two cats wander around inside. Imagine my surprise when I walked in and saw a cat lounging on one of the couches. Of course, one of these cats is named Nikolai. I saw customers take a break from working on their laptops to pick up and snuggle with the cats.
There are two other Nikolai Cafe locations in Moscow, located on Tverskaya, 30/2 and Pyatnickaya, 53.
For group and faculty-led tours, this would be a good place to get some quick pirogi. Because the food is already prepared and set out, you could be served quickly. However, during lunch hour it does get crowded so it may be difficult to find a table.