Being a vegetarian is hard. Being a vegetarian in Russia is especially hard.
(As a not-so-quick aside, since this is invariably the question that pops up after a slightly repulsed/shocked face and a “really?!”: “why?!” I’ve actually always been a vegetarian. Seriously. Always. My parents were both vegetarians when I was born and it just happened. No, they never refused to feed me meat, but as a little kid who understood exactly where beef came from, I wasn’t really interested in eating any animals. And no, I’ve never eaten meat. I mean, I probably have — just not that I know of.)
So. Yes, being a vegetarian has been quite the feat here in Moscow. Like any other major city there has been some progress in terms of accepting and embracing a vegetarian diet… However vegetarianism is still not very common in Russia’s major cities and basically unheard of to a non-metropolitan Russian. A lot of interactions (particularly with older generations) have gone something like this:
Because I’ve suffered through the pain of being the non-carnivorous weirdo for years, I’ve compiled a list of three vegetarian-friendly restaurants to try the next time you’re in Moskva. You’ll thank me later when you don’t get weird looks for asking about it:
Centrally located in Moscow, Juggernaut’s main location is always packed full of people. (Maybe the lone 50 vegetarians of Moscow city?) There’s an eclectic mix of food on offer: some Indian, raw foods, and a lot of fresh produce. No alcohol, though. I feel they get the impression that vegetarianism=healthy… The food is good, if pretty pricey, and there’s a health food store attached with a pretty interesting range of products. One highlight is their outrageously overpriced Nature Valley Bars. Soy milk and other soy products can also be found at high, high prices.
Kuznetsky Most 11 (Metro Kuznetsky Most)
Avokado has two locations that offer vegetarian, vegan, and raw food. The food is pretty internationally inclined, but I’ve heard you can get some interesting “vegetarian-ized” Russian dishes there. Like vegan blini — though what’s the point without the butter?! The cafe is expensive but, hey, it’s Moscow. Why are you surprised?
Tverskaya Ulitsa 5/6 (Metro Okhotnyy Ryad)
Bul’var Chistoprudnyy, 12, bldg. 2 (Metro Chistye Prudy)
Aroma (Indian Restaurant)
While not strictly vegetarian, this place is AH-MAY-ZING and has lots of vegetarian options. The workers are all Indian and speak excellent English (and Russian, to my envy). The curries are delicious (I always go for the paneer butter masala) and the bread can be consumed by the basket-ful. It’s about a ten minute hike from the metro, but totally worth it!
Krzhizhanovskogo ul. 20/30, k. 1 (Metro Profsoyuznaya)