There were a number of well known restaurants, bars and cafés in the Soviet Union and the ones I am about to discuss pertain to the Estonian SSR simply because I know the most about them due to being Estonian.
Opinions on Soviet era restaurants vary (as they do in everything). Some say that restaurant “culture” and etiquette wasn’t developed enough and restaurants at the time were very expensive. Others say that restaurants were very fancy and exclusive, people couldn’t get in unless they were wearing a suit and dress and that the waiters were true professionals.
Negativity breeds negativity so I am only going to focus on the positive aspects of Soviet era restaurants, I hope you don’t mind!
The following excerpts are copied and translated from an Estonian online newsportal that asked people to comment and recollect their memories about Soviet era restaurants.
Estonia was filled with great restaurants in the Soviet era. Orchestras played, the service was great (when you tipped, of course!). People fondly remember restaurants such as Kännu Kukk (rough translation: Rooster on a treestump), Szolnok, Gloria, Moskva, Vana Toomas (Old Thomas), Tuljak, Pirita, Viru, Olümpia, Tallinn etc. Every hamlet had its own restaurant and what’s most important – anyone, including university students, could afford going to a restaurant at least once a week. You don’t get that nowadays!
Things were a lot more clearer back then – you would have restaurants, cafés and cafeterias. Now they’re all basically the same and they’re hard to tell apart.
There were five awesome restaurants in Tallinn – you’d go to two of them for the great food and you’d go to the other three to have fun. The great foods were at Kaukaasia (the memories from that restaurant’s shaslik still makes my mouth water…) and Europe (fish restaurant, fantastic). You’d go to have fun at Kungla, Vana Toomas (Old Thomas) and Kännu Kukk. We’d go to Variet as well but didn’t like it that much, too many foreigners. There was a great place outside of Tallinn, Merepiiga (Sea Maiden).
During the Soviet era you’d have a white tablecloth on every table in the restaurant, every proper restaurant had an orchestra and the kitchen was open until 11pm. The vodka was cheap and the foods delicious.
The level of service was a lot higher than today. The foods were high in quality and delicious. You’d have natural music and the best singers would perform. Noone was shuffling around being drunk and holding beer cans, people knew how to dance. You’d always go to a restaurant in a suit and tie.
The atmosphere in restaurants at the time was always pleasant, not everyone was allowed inside. The tables were properly laid out, the waiters were punctual and professional. The foods were excellent, there was live music and everything was affordable (university students were regular customers). I miss restaurants with live music and dancing. Live music and dancing should start at 8 pm like back then not in the middle of the night like nowadays.
When the orchestra played a specific song, the dance floor was immediately full. There were white tablecloths, great foods and cold vodka, there was a buzzing of voices and cigarette smoke, there were loudmouths and drunks. You’d have to wear proper clothing and wear a tie. Women weren’t allowed inside without stockings, pants for women were allowed. It was impossible to get inside the restaurant if you were wearing jeans or a casual sweater. A restaurant was a cultural staple. Prices were low that even poorer people could sometimes afford eating dinner out. After independence I haven’t gone out at all basically because I don’t have the money to pay the servers and afford to pay VAT to the thieving restauranteurs. Ever since that my restaurant has been at my home! Bon appetit!
What do you think? Would you eat in these vintage restaurants? Let me know in the comments below! 🙂
The bowl dates back to the early 1980s, approximately. The sugar bowl is made of dark cobalt blue glass and is adorned with golden metal decorations around the bowl that is connected to a circular golden handle.
The gold decorations are 3D and are presented as rose wreaths.
Vintage items come with stories and emotions attached to them and due to its age it’s quite likely that this bowl was used for serving sugar with coffee when friends came over or at more formal family gatherings.
The bowls could also be used as a candy bowl for serving but would also work as an authentic interior design decor element, as an unique collection piece or as a rare gift.
The set has a rustic yet very refined look to it and the item is in good vintage condition. The mugs are handmade and hand glazed, that is also why one of the cups is pinker in color.
Vintage item with a rustic feel to it, perfect for your country home!
These plates were produced at the Baranovsky Porcelain Factory. The plates come with a gold finish, the plates are in very very good vintage condition. Only available for purchase as a set.
Vintage items come with stories and emotions attached to them and due to its age it’s quite likely that these plates were used for eating pancakes on one of those lazy weekend mornings.
The plates would also work as an authentic interior design decor element, as an unique collection piece or as a rare gift. Also perfect for country homes!
Soviet kitchenware was made to last since the selection at the time was quite small. That’s why Soviet kitchenwares were handed down from generation to generation, from mother to daughter.
Vintage items come with stories and emotions attached to them and due to its age it’s quite likely that these knives were used at family gatherings or at birthdays or Christmas.
Vintage shabby chic items with Soviet charm, perfect for country homes!
This adorable bright yellow hand whisk dates back to the late 1970s-early 1980s when it was produced in the Soviet Union. It’s handle is bright yellow whereas the rotating wheel/handle is white in color. The blades are made of stainless steel.
The whisk is manual yet mechanical with authentic Soviet era design. It is unique in nature because it’s the go-between of an old hand whisk but has a more modern feel to it because of its mechanical rotating wheel. It’s simple in design yet elegant.
Vintage items come with stories and emotions attached to them and due to its age it’s quite likely that this whisk was used when baking a cake with grandmother or a mother teaching her children the joys of cooking.
Would also work as an authentic interior design decor element, as an unique collection piece or a rare gift. Also perfect for country homes!
Produced at the Soviet Union in the early 1970s at the Gorodnitsky Porcelain Factory in Ukraine, these bright colored cups and other vividly colored items were very hard to come by and were usually owned by people in the upper echelon – members of the Communist party, factory owners, university professors, etc., whereas the proletariat were left with items of far lesser appeal and value.
Shabby chic cups with Soviet era charm to them, perfect for country home decor!