You might have walked the streets or lounged on it's sunny beaches, but you haven't really "done" Odessa if you haven't sampled the trademark cuisine.
From trademark dishes like forshmak, eggplant caviar, to dried fish and mussel pilaf, you can taste the regional and foreign influences in every bite you take. And this is a city full of restaurants trying to outdo each other in creativity and presentation.
What is it that makes Odessa cuisines so unique? Some say the answer lies in the city's celebrated cosmopolitan mix of nationalities, which has historically seen large Jewish, Greek, Russian, Moldovan, and Ukrainian populations mixing freely with any number of sailors and visitors from around the world.
From places like Andijon (Genyeskaya 24) which is amongst the best in Odessa specializing in Uzbekistan and other Middle Eastern food (be sure to try the various Kebabs offered here, they are cooked in authentic Uzbek style!) to Steakhouse (on Deribasovskaya 20) serving up good old' American steaks with Odessa flavor and fantastic service, and even good ol' McDonalds, you will find something for everyone...
Except decent Mexican that is.
(And we tell you this as someone who opened two Mexican restaurants because of the complete and total absence of quality tasty Mexican food).
Sure, there are some place here that call themselves Mex grills and claim to serve Mexican food, but unless you're looking for soulless and flavourless meats with cabbage and no sauces served on lavash wraps, you might as well give up.
But not to worry, there are so many tasty places to eat, great food festivals and produce markets to cook up your own dishes in Odessa, and in this section we'll guide you through some of the best!
There are a few things to keep in mind in Ukrainian restaurants:
- A patron must ask for check in a restaurant,
- Servers tend not to check back with clientel once food is delivered.
- In restaurants, it is expected of foreigners to tip 10%. Ukrainians themselves tend to tip significantly less.
- Many items are often on the menu but not available.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union the number of resturaunts has increased a hundred fold, even though the average Ukranian can rarely afford to eat out frequently.
A few warnings from The Kiev Post about dining in Ukraine:
First, dishes, usually meat may be priced and measured in grams.
For example: You expect to pay Hr 40 for an order of shashlyk only to receive a nasty shock upon receiving the bill and realize you’ve been charged Hr 80 or more.
The reason: In most cases, you haven’t been taken for a ride but the shashlyk may be priced at Hr 40 per 100 gram serving. Since a typical shashlyk serving is 200 grams, that immediately doubles the price. The simple way to avoid a nasty surprise is to specify that you want one portion only or an approproximate number in grams.
Second, There’s rarely a standard alcohol or size, and therefore standard prices for a gin-tonic, or rum-, whiskey- or any mixed drink or multiple-liqueur cocktail will vary.
The result: Prices for something as simple as a vodka-tonic can vary wildly – even in the same bar and even on the same night. It all depends on who’s taking the order and who’s pouring it.
Third, bread given out in many restaurants is not complimentary.