It makes your stomach growl and your spirit soar.
If you’re visiting Russia, you’ll need more than Russian travel phrases alone to procure the stuff you so crave. Russian idioms will certainly make placing your order more colorful, but they probably won’t put tea in your cup.
Russian translator apps can help, but wouldn’t it be easier to learn a few phrases to help make ordering food simple and enjoyable?
No more pointing at the menu or trying to mime “please leave off the carrots” to your bewildered waiter!
With a little practice, you can confidently order food in a Russian restaurant and trust that you’re getting what you want.
Before you go, you might even want to read Russian blogs, like food blogs, to practice the terminology. You never know when you’ll need that extra skill to interpret a menu!
To that end, you’d also benefit by knowing some basic Russian beyond just food-related vocabulary. If you’re looking for a sweet study companion that you can have on-the-go during your travels, then check out FluentU!
Each video comes with interactive captions and transcripts that will teach you vocabulary in context. With FluentU, you can further your immersion into not just the Russian language, but also the Russian culture, which will only further liven up your time in the country. Your meals can get that extra kick that comes from your deeper appreciation and understanding!
But if you want to order food in Russia, look no further than these Russian words and phrases to whet your learning palate! Study them ahead of time, or just print out this list and carry it with you!
Restaurant Dining Etiquette in Russia
Before we jump into the restaurant vocabulary you need to know, it’s important to get familiar with the etiquette and customs of dining out in Russia:
- Usually, groups dining together don’t ask for separate checks. Instead, the group splits the bill themselves.
- Friends may offer to pay for your portion. It’s polite to decline respectfully. If they insist, don’t fight them, but also don’t jump on the offer too quickly.
- Opinions on tipping vary wildly. Tipping is polite, though not required. A good baseline tip is 10 percent. If the service is particularly good, you might tip more. If it’s particularly bad, you might tip less or avoid tipping altogether.
Before you travel to Russia, consider studying the finer points of dining etiquette, especially if you plan on eating at any upscale restaurants. Etiquette Scholar offers helpful country-specific tips.
60 Words and Phrases to Order Food in Russian
Hungry yet? Here are the words and phrases to learn for navigating a Russian restaurant, ordering food and interacting with the waitstaff and other guests.
General Restaurant Terms
At the table:
Menu — Меню
Food/Meal — Еда
Table — Стол
Chair — Стул
Knife — Нож
Spoon — Ложка
Fork — Вилка
Glass — Стакан
Bowl — Миска
Plate — Тарелка
Napkin — Салфетка
Breakfast — Завтрак
Lunch — Обед
Dinner — Ужин
Snack — Закуска
Dining and paying:
To order — Заказать
To eat — Есть
To pay — Платить
Check — Счёт
Talking to Your Waiter
What do you want? — Что вы хотите?
What would you like to order? — Что вы будете заказывать?
What do you recommend? — Что вы посоветуете?
Do you have…? — У вас есть…?
I want… — Я хочу…
I would like… — Я буду…
Bring me… — Принесите мне…
How much does it cost? — Сколько стоит?
Waiter — Официант
Chef — Шеф-повар
Bartender — Бармен
Popular Russian Foods
Traditional Russian foods may seem unfamiliar to Americans. Studying Russian cuisine before traveling to Russia will help ensure that you always find something pleasing to your palate. You might read a book like “Russian Food and Regional Cuisine” or “Russian Cuisine: Traditional and Contemporary Home Cooking.”
Kasha — Каша
In the U.S., kasha is most often associated with buckwheat. However, in Russia, Kasha can refer to a porridge made of any grain. Kasha is a popular national dish in Russia. It’s also versatile—it can be sweet or savory, and it can be consumed at any time of day.
Soup — Суп
Soup is extremely popular in Russia. You’ll find countless varieties of both hot and cold soups.
Schchi – Щи
While it may not be familiar to Americans, schchi is one of the most popular soups in Russia. It’s a cabbage-based soup that Russians have enjoyed for more than 1,000 years. It usually contains cabbage, meat, a selection of vegetables and spices.
Borscht — Борщ
Perhaps the most well-known Russian soup, borscht most likely actually originated in Ukraine. Still, it has long been popular in Russia. While it’s most known as a beet soup, other varieties do exist.
For instance, green borscht features sorrel. Additionally, borscht may be served hot or cold and sometimes has meat.
So in summation, borscht may or may not contain beets, may or may not contain meat and may or may not be served hot… This is why menu descriptions are so important.
Pancakes (Blini) — Блины
Blini are thin pancakes. They come with a huge and diverse array of toppings to suit any palate. You may find sweet blini with toppings like jam and honey. More savory varieties may contain caviar, mashed potato or meat, as seen in the main image at the top of this post.
Herring — Сельдь
Herring is eaten in various preparations, including pickled or in salads. One popular salad is селёдка под шубой (herring under a fur coat), which also goes by the English name “dressed herring.” This dish features pickled herring, onion, mayonnaise and cooked vegetables like potatoes and beets.
Thankfully, recipes don’t call for any actual fur.
Beef stroganoff — Бефстроганов
Beef stroganoff originated in Russia in the mid-1800s. Since then, it has become popular internationally. While variations exist, it usually contains egg noodles, beef, mushrooms, onion and sour cream.
Cabbage rolls — Голубцы
Cabbage rolls are popular throughout much of Asia, the Middle East and Europe, so it should come as no surprise that they’re also common in Russia. Russian cabbage rolls usually contain mincemeat and a grain like rice or buckwheat. The sauce usually contains tomato sauce and sour cream.
Caviar — Икра
Russia is well-known for its caviar, which is a salty fish egg delicacy. Russian caviar is considered some of the finest in the world and is popular internationally.
Rye bread — Ржаной хлеб
Bread is a staple of the Russian table, and rye bread (also called “black bread”) is particularly popular. Sharing bread signifies friendship, and in the past Russians used to welcome guests with salt and rye bread.
The popularity of rye bread began because it was less expensive and more nutritious than wheat bread, but rye bread quickly became a force in Russian culture.
Olivier salad — Салат Оливье
Russians love their mayonnaise-based salads. Olivier salad is a popular option that was invented by a Belgian cook working at a Moscow restaurant in the 1800s.
It’s a potato salad with carrots, peas, hard-boiled eggs, pickles, onions, apple and sometimes meat. It’s particularly popular on New Year’s Eve.
Cake — Торт
A wide variety of cakes are popular in Russia, and to snag one, you just need the password and some rubles. And that password is… торт!
If you’re a cake fan, you might also want to look at Understand Russia’s guide to cakes.
Water — Вода
Vodka — Водка
It goes without saying that vodka is popular in Russia. The very name is the diminutive for “water,” which says a lot.
If you go to Russia, there’s a strong chance that someone (or some people) will expect you to drink vodka. If you don’t want to, have a good excuse ready. If you do want to, don’t try to out-drink Russians. Pace yourself and be sure to snack while you drink.
Tea — Чай
Tea, introduced in the 1600s, is also quite popular in Russia and is often associated with national identity.
Coffee — Кофе
Milk — Молоко
Juice — Сок
Soda — Газированная вода / Газировка
Wine — Вино
Beer — Пиво
Vegetarian diet — Вегетарианская диета
The idea of what is and isn’t included in a vegetarian diet is likely to vary, so you may also want to compose a list of what you can’t eat. If you want to play it safe, you might also look into which restaurants are vegetarian friendly at Happy Cow.
Vegan diet — Веганская диета
Like vegetarianism, the idea of what’s included in a vegan diet may not be consistent. Printing a list of excluded items can be helpful.
Gluten-free diet — Безглютеновая диета
Wheat is widely used in Russian cooking, but you can still find some gluten-free options like potatoes, meat and some salads.
I have an allergy to… — У меня аллергия на…
…peanuts — арахис
…nuts — орехи
…seafood — морепродукты
Dining with Friends
Bon appetit! — Приятного аппетита!
This saying is used before meals.
For your health and prosperity! — За ваше здоровье и благополучие!
За ваше здоровье и благополучие! is a popular drinking toast.
These 60 words and phrases are a great starter course in your Russian dining adventure.
Use them in good health!
And One More Thing...
If you love learning Russian and want to immerse yourself with authentic materials from Russia, then I should also tell you more about FluentU.
FluentU naturally and gradually eases you into learning the Russian language and culture. You'll learn real Russian as it's spoken by real Russian people!
FluentU has a very broad range of contemporary videos. Just a quick look will give you an idea of the variety of Russian-language content available on FluentU:
FluentU makes these native Russian videos approachable through interactive transcripts. Tap on any word to look it up instantly.
Access a complete interactive transcript of every video under the Dialogue tab. Easily review words and phrases with audio under Vocab.
All definitions have multiple examples, and they're written for Russian learners like you. Tap to add words you'd like to review to a vocab list.
And FluentU has a learn mode which turns every video into a language learning lesson. You can always swipe left or right to see more examples.
The best part? FluentU keeps track of your vocabulary, and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It'll even remind you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You'll have a 100% personalized experience.
The FluentU app is now available for iOS and Android, and it's also available as a website that you can access on your computer or tablet. Sign up for a free trial today!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Russian with real-world videos.