As you all know, Chicago is a very diverse city. It has Little Italy, Greek Town, Little India, Polish Village, Ukrainian Village, etc. However, finding some sort of Russian Village poses a much greater challenge. Sure, you have the suburbs of Buffalo Grove and Wheeling, but overall Russians don’t stick together in the city anymore. We are here to help you find everything Russian in the Windy City. So if you are interested in Russian culture and want to explore what Chi-town has to offer, keep reading!
There are several Russian grocery stores both in the city and suburbs. Be sure to note that Three Sisters on Devon Street recently closed. There are a couple of stores in Ukrainian Village that are worth visiting, but the best places are the two below.
Fresh Farms (5740 W. Touhy Ave) in Niles is a Russian experience both inside and out. Your first challenge is finding a parking spot in the always packed parking lot – be aggressive or miss out. As you step inside, you’ll find a fabulous and affordable selection of fruit and vegetables, but the real adventure starts when you turn the corner and are faced with the meat and cheese counter on your right and the bakery at the very back of the store. The first stop is the bakery. Not only will you find the best selection of fresh-baked bread, but also a genuinely delightful collection of sugary goodies for your sweet tooth. Despite their serious photos, Russians actually know how to do sweets and they usually involve lots of layers. After that you can move on to a savory collection of the freshest and best sausages, cold cuts and other meaty delicacies for the carnivores out there. You also can find different kinds of buckwheat in the store. Before heading home with your Russian feast, don’t forget to check out the homemade salads and pickled products – Russians love to pickle just about anything, and it’s delicious! Be sure to budget some time for this trip – the place is huge, the selection is overwhelming and there’s so much to explore.
Georgian Bakery (2812 W Devon Ave, www.argobakery.com ) – what does a Georgian bakery have to do with Russia, you might ask? Well, it’s the OTHER Georgia – the former Soviet republic that is known for its friendly people as well as its food and wine sent straight from heaven! Don’t be fooled by the white film covering the surfaces – it’s not dust, it’s a fine white flour used to make lavash (a Georgian flatbread) and khachapuri (a Georgian cheese bread). Salty, creamy cheese baked into bread – do you really need any more encouragement to check it out? The deep brick oven is built just like the ones in Georgia and the guys throwing the bread against the side are authentic Georgians. Speak a little Russian? Try it out on them – they’ll be thrilled. Bring home a bag of homemade pelmeni – you’ll be back for more the next week. If you really want a taste of Georgia, try out the plum sauce called Tkhemali, which you can put on just about anything, or bring home some spicy Adjika sauce for your meats.
Red Square Café and Sauna (Wicker Park, 1914 W Division, www.redsquarechicago.com)
If sometimes you get intense cravings for Russian food and also for Russian banya, that’s the place to go! How exciting is it that the Russian & Turkish Baths on Division have reopened and include a full restaurant?! The dining room is really cute and is set up to simulate a Russian train car — through the "windows", you see videos of the Russian countryside passing by, so you can pretend that you're in the dining car somewhere between Moscow and Vladivostok, but the toilets are infinitely nicer. There are plenty of beers, including Baltika 5 and 7 from Russia and Lvivskie from Ukraine in bottles, as well as some nice things on tap. The pelmeni are very good — homemade, and they come with a side of sour cream — though they do contain veal (it's not the most vegetarian-friendly place — it is a Russian restaurant! — but they do have tasty-looking vareniki stuffed with potatoes). Golubtsy (stuffed cabbage rolls) looked delicious. They also serve salo, which is definitely worth a try if you haven't had it before. It is pig fat, which you eat on bread with a smear of garlic and mustard. It might sound weird, but it's very nice (like butter made of meat). The restaurant has a mixture of people who are well-dressed for a meal and those, fresh from the sauna, eating in their bathrobes, so it's easy to fit in. 🙂 Next time plan to try the blintz with caviar…
Russian Tea Time (77 E Adams St, www.russianteatime.com)
It used to be the only Russian restaurant in the city. This and the fact that it’s located right across from the Art Institute made it a popular place for sophisticated tourists. There is a good selection of Russian beer, authentic food and real Russian tea in stylish glasses. A little bit overpriced but fun to visit at least once. They offer a very good afternoon tea service.
Jibek Jolu (Lincoln Square, 5047 N Lincoln, www.jibekjolu.us)
This place is the best. It might become your favorite place to eat in Chicago. The food is great, and the place is cosy and unpretentious (the disco ball hanging from the ceiling suggests that things get pretty festive). You must eat the oromo, a steamed pie filled with potatoes, onions, cabbage, and carrots in a delicate wrapper. If you are normally a meat-avoider, everybody always goes nuts for it. (There are a couple of other vegetarian items on the menu, also tasty, but this is our favorite.) We also recommend the borsch, beshbarmak (lamb on noodles), samsy (little pies with beef inside), and manty (steamed dumplings filled with, among other things, pumpkin). They are wonderful. If you aren't familiar with Kyrgyz cuisine, but you do like either Russian or Tibetan or Chinese food and always wondered what it would be to combine these different falvors, you should definitely try it. Many of the dishes here are subtly spicy, more flavorful than hot, but with a pinch of hotness too. It's satisfying, and to an American palate mysterious and exciting, comfort food. Highly recommended for the cooler months ahead! BYOB.
There are also some other interesting ethnic cafes such as the Uzbek Chill Café (2949 W Belmont), Uzbek/Kazakh Lazzat (2245 W. Irving Park Rd, www.lazzat-restaurant.com), Armenian Sayat Nova (157 E Ohio St, www.sayatnovachicago.com), Russian Zhivago in Skokie (9925 Gross Point Rd) and Armenian Siunik in Glenview (1707 Chestnut Ave).
Russian ATA-certified translators – Cloudberry Language Solutions, www.cloudberrylanguageschool.com, 773-942-6262
If you need your diploma or birth certificate translated to English by an ATA- certified translator, look no further. It’s very affordable and fast compared to other places – $50 to $100 per document depending on the size.
Russian visa – Travisa, www.travisa.com
Need a visa to Russia? There are many agencies out there that can help. The process is cumbersome but Travisa has vast experience and is very responsive.
Russian Passport (2816 N Lincoln Ave, www.russianpassportservice.org)
Do you need to renew your passport or get one for your child? This company can help but it won’t be cheap ($470-$830). The most affordable way is still to go directly to the embassy but traveling expenses will be about the same.
Russian Notary (2921 W Devon Ave, Raya, 773-262-0550)
It’s a pretty Soviet experience but cheap and fast at $15 per notarization.
Russian Language & Cultural Training – Cloudberry Language School (Old Town, Lincoln Park, Lincoln Square and the suburbs, www.cloudberrylaguageschool.com)
There is simply no better place for Russian language classes in Chicagoland. This is the only school in the country that focuses on teaching non-traditional languages and Russian is their strongest one (followed by Mandarin and Arabic). They work with both adults and children (including heritage speakers!) and do amazing corporate cross-cultural training to prepare employees for relocation to Russia, Ukraine or Kazakhstan. They have developed one-of-a-kind pre-travel programs as well as courses for bilingual and adopted children with Russian language background.
Russian interpreters – Cloudberry Language Solutions, www.cloudberrylanguageschool.com)
If you need an interpreter for a meeting with a client or a colleague from Russia, you can find one here. Cloudberry is not only a language school, it’s a one-stop language services company.
Russian Voiceover – www.russianvoiceoverservices.com
If you are making a commercial for the Russian market, this company does a great job and is based in Chicago.
Russian Play Dates
Eva is a great person who hosts Russian play dates at her house in Logan Square. Originally from Moscow, she has three children herself and is always a pleasure to talk to. Join a Russian Club on Meetup and search for play dates at upcoming events.
Russian School of Mathematics – www.russianschool.com
The best after-school mathematics program for children. It was founded by Russian immigrants in Massachusetts and keeps expanding to other states. In Chicago area they are located in Naperville. Classes are held in English.
Russian Day Care – Children’s Land (Wheeling, Glenview and Lincolnshire, www.childrensland.us)
Many like these developing centers. They have caring bilingual teachers and great space.
Art & Media
Chicago even has two Russian choirs! One of them is Golosa (www.www.golosa.org) at the University of Chicago and the other one is at Northwestern University. They are open for the community to join. Golosa perform folk songs. Natalia Lyashenko, who worked at the Novosibirsk Opera in Russia, is in charge of the Northwestern choir. They perform songs by famous Russian composers such as Glinka, Sviridov, Prokofiev, and etc. Their performances are free.
The main radio stations are Vashe Radio, New Horizons, New Life, Radio Narodnaya Volna (The People’s Wave of Chicago).
Some Russian language magazines and newspapers include Russian Chicago, Russian-American Yellowpages, Svet and Reklama.
Russian literary salon
A Chicago enthusiast, Alla Dekhtyar, organizes Russian poetry and music evenings. Join their page on Facebook.
Russian ballet pointe shoes – www.russianpointe.com
People used to come to their luxurious boutique on Michigan Avenue from all over the States. Now you can buy their pointes hand-crafted in the ballet capital of the world, St. Petersburg, online and in multiple stores around the country.
Russian Theater – Tet-A-Tet, www.tetatetchicago.com
Good Russian theater born and raised in Chicago.