Just a couple of hundred meters from the Tulskaya station of the Moscow Metro, basically where the Third Ring Road crosses the Moskva river, you can find a pretty unique place where to eat and do a little food shopping: Danilovsky market.
In the past, this used to be one of Moscow’s largest and most renowned farmer’s markets and it was meant to both offer an outlet in the city for real farmers and provide access to fresh produce to Muscovites (in the Soviet times, that was definitely not always easy). It was built like a huge concrete circus tent (or a flower, it actually really looks like a flower from the air, as you can clearly see in Google maps).
Now the whole neighbourhood is undergoing strong gentrification, with new luxury residential complexes being built and former factories being turned into lofts and space for tertiary. One noticeable effect of this process has been the transformation of the Danilovsky market from real farmer market into an upscale market with a variety of offerings, including handcrafted products, flowers, delicacies and a delightful series of small restaurants offering cuisines from around the world.
This has turned the market from an affordable food and produce shopping place for the area residents to a very hip meeting point where to explore different flavours in a very informal setting. The market is also very popular among the “office crowd” as it offers a very wide variety of foods to consume during a short lunch break, with the added benefit of being able to shop for dinner in the same place.
One of my favorite places where to eat is the “Chowder and Pie”, where (as you might have guessed from the name) you can find excellent chowder. Their offer includes a fantastically authentic New England Clam Chowder and a more “localized version” of crab chowder, made with real (and rather abundant) Kamchakta crab meat.
In general the prices are on the low-side for Moscow standards and really quite cheap compared to “the West”. You can easily eat a full lunch for under 5 Euros/USD and a dish with lots of crab meat will set you back less than twice as much.
Most, if not all, of the restaurants actually have other locations in the city, but they usually created special menus and special offers for this informal settings. So, instead of having to go to a restaurant and likely reserve in advance to enjoy a properly prepared Beijing duck, you can just walk in the market and order a portion.
Another great thing about this setting is that you and your friends (or colleagues) can easily eat together, while having completely different foods. That is because each kiosk/restaurant does not have a “reserve” sitting area. There are tables and chairs (or benches) all around the perimeter of the market (including a very nice “inside terrace” from where I took the feature picture of this post) and you can get your food and sit wherever you want.
You can still find fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, cold cuts and cheeses in Danilovsky market, but… there’s a but. As I mentioned, this is no longer a market aimed at low-income families where the main selling point is the low price (during Soviet times it was mostly the actual availability to be almost extraordinary…). Everything is high quality and very… how can I say… “polished”. Of course if you can afford to spend a little more you find fantastic fresh fruit and vegetable, especially for seasonal foods. In the warmer months of the year there are a couple of pomegranate stands that offer both the fruits and their freshly squeezed at the moment for you. The central part of the market is occupied by a 360 degrees circular fish stand, which sells fantastic fish and seafood (some of which is still alive), including marvellous sturgeons (the fish from where black caviar comes from).
The real forte of the market today, though, is speciality foods, which are harder to find elsewhere, even in huge supermarkets. Many kiosk have a decidedly “regional” soul, like the ones with all kind of frozen fruit and sweets from the middle-east or the states South of the Russian border (Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan Armenia, Georgia and so on). Apart from that you can find Italian gelato (ice cream – but that is actually not very much like the real Italian one), Belgian waffles, French patisseries (sweet shops) and boulangeries (bakeries) and so on.
Finally, some other stands specialize in a specific product (meat, fish, cheese and so on) and there you can find a pretty good choice of varieties coming from all around the world and in general of good to high, to very high, to excellent quality (with prices to match).
Ah, I was almost forgetting, but if you aren’t yet convinced by all you’ve read so far, my Travel Tip is pretty simple: trust me and go visit Danilovsky market in Moscow, especially if you have an hour or a little more free for lunch or dinner and you want to experience something different, fun, exotic and overall decidedly affordable for your meal!
Would you like to discover the Russia that foreigners rarely, if ever, get to see, with an English (and Italian, Spanish and French) speaking guide (me and my wife) showing you the sights and telling you a bit about Russian history and traditions? If so, do get in touch and we’ll be happy to create an unforgettable, tailor-made experience for you!