I live right by Little Russia but have never really believed in it. Yeah, there are those huge gold onion domes on the Russian Orthodox church and the occasional sign in Cyrillic. The ratio of hunched-over, scarf-wearing old ladies to anyone else is alarmingly high. But until I crashed my bike and was stuck on foot, desperately a-wandering to find something to eat, I’d never given the place much thought. A quick lunch search, though, turned into a three-hour saga, a veritable openmouthed sampling of culinary delights and bizarrely translated names. If you like pierogi and pickles, you’re in luck, this is the spot. But that’s just the beginning.
Struck by a late-night craving for deviled eggs and minibar-sized Smirnoff? Hollywood Market Liquor & Deli has just the thing – rather, both those things, sold side-by-side for the casual quick fix.
The real gastronomical draw of Little Russia, though, is the sausage. Kielbasa, summer, veal, blood, “gooze”: it’s all there. SEAKOR Polish Deli (all-caps for emphasis, I guess), is a family-run deli and literal sausage factory. Their pickles swim in five gallon buckets, run fifty cents, and taste like heaven, if heaven was made of garlic, which it should be; the recipe dates back 5 generations. Within gleaming glass cases sit mounds of sausage and vats of pale sauerkraut, racks of ribs, and the hearty “hunter stew.” If you are even thinking of gearing up for a trek through the brutal Siberian wilderness, this is the place to fuel up.
Further down Geary sits the New World Market, which can best be described as a gourmet melding of Russia and Costco. Free samples are everywhere: you can honestly eat a three-course lunch here for free, starting with juicy melon, pausing for a sausage plate or some mackerel, and ending with a poppyseed blintz. Another plus is the huge and incomprehensible beer selection – one caramel-colored product described by an eager customer as “fucking liquid gold.”
For those of you with sweet teeth and a high tolerance for mystery, Moscow & Tbilisi Bakery Store is chock-full of unidentifiably named goodies, from prezidents to mother-in-laws to bird milks (which, contrary to your probable expectations, are solid). Pretty much everything is under five bucks and probably closer to two.
So if you’re looking for a whole plastic-wrapped mackerel, a few meters of specialty sausage, or a quick and salty bite, and you need it on the cheap, Little Russia is the place. There’s way more to the neighborhood, too, like a few jewelers, a kick-ass tea pot store, lots of empty storefronts, and that impressively large Orthodox Church. And head cheese, lots of head cheese.
Hollywood Market Liquor and Deli
5619 Geary Blvd.
SEAKOR Polish Deli and European Foods
5957 Geary Blvd.
New World Market
5641 Geary Blvd.
Moscow & Tbilisi Bakery Store
5540 Geary Blvd.
Photo Credit: Dr. T on Yelp