Outside of the club hot-zone and streets saddled in salad bars, West Hollywood comes dotted with occasional Russian options, with the bakery Stolichnaya reliably pumping out rye, pastries, and Georgian khachapuri, liquor stores stocked with wines from much lesser-known producers like Armenia and vodkas seemingly in every fruit flavor, as well as restaurants that sometimes stand out from the pack, like Traktir. But the corner of Sunset and Fuller is particularly fertile, offering a deli, two related restaurants (one for home-cooking and one for celebrations, both fit for and primarily designed with a strong drink in mind), and a bakery of basic charm. Here's a look at three great options to be found within 7300 Sunset Blvd. for Russian feasting.
A gleaming, gorgeous delicatessen lined in glass display cases laden with smoked fish and mouth-watering meats, shelves stocked with bottled sauces, pickled produce, and Russian-made chocolate, and fridges stocked with cold malty kvass and baked kefir (ryazhenka). Babushka, sometimes called Grandma's Deli, is worth a look even if you're just here to browse and fantasize about the endless eating options. Specialties to-go are all made in-house and include such delicacies as smoked ribs and smoked chicken, baby bologna, stuffed meats including chicken-stuffed chicken neck, the Russian equivalent of prosciutto (okorok), caviar, coveted Vologda butter, farmer's cheese, and a slew of Slavic sausages. Service is friendly and the hip Ukranian owner will even play you jazz on the piano, while the staff will heat up or prepare almost anything on offer for you to grab a seat outside and eat among their arrangement of tables.
Babushka, 7300 West Sunset Blvd. #M West Hollywood 323-851-2312
Don't be afraid of Troyka, it doesn't bite. This is actually two connected establishments with the same kitchen, the one on the left a more glamorous, full-service restaurant fit for banquets and special events, but which is generally open to the public (when not reserved) for lunch and dinner. The menu is big with staples like assorted fish plates, chicken Kiev, plentiful kebab (shashlik) options, and vareniki, plus more adventurous fare like beef tongue, chicken jello, sturgeon kebab, and fried beef liver. The kind owner also has a lot of confidence in his kitchen and tells us if you want something that's not on the menu, they'll make it for you. This bigger side of Troyka also provides live dance and music performances on weekends, when it's at its most swinging.
On the right side is a tiny cafe that truly has a power to transport you straight to Mother Russia, as evidenced by the home-cooking in its dishes and the rather casual, unsmiling service that leaves much to be desired, plus the occasional running out of menu items. Cooler, the napkin holders have dollar signs on them and vodka is served in small glass carafes at a small cost, perfect for a mid-evening showing of the Russian equivalent of The Daily Show on the T.V. A feast of simple, but generous portions are had here at a low price, with ten dollars buying enough to fill two people full of meat and Russian comfort eats. We recommend a homey, if visibly oily, bowl of dill-heavy borscht priced at only $3.50 and a huge plate of hot pork-stuffed pelmeni dumplings on a bed of butter under a sheet of sour cream for $5.00. The stuffed cabbage ($6.00) is a great way to start and the kutlet is a gift from the cheap-eats gods, something like a combination of fried chicken and a meatball served hot with a crisp shell. The pork rib stew could use more juice and we'd suggest a side of buckwheat rather than the questionable mashed potatoes, but everything, especially the vodka, goes down easily with a fruit juice compote. (Side note: the kitchen closes at 8:00 P.M. on weekdays and you may be gently scolded for not ordering before 7:30 P.M.)
Troyka, 7300 Sunset Blvd. West Hollywood. 323-851-5531.
A small corner bakery and coffee shop of Armenian heritage whose shelves are stocked in different variations on wheat and rye bread (Bavarian rye, Ukranian rye, etc.), poppy seed rolls, and displays of pastries, cookies, and cakes. The coffee is strong and a patio has some charm. While we like the selections at Stolichnaya better, its proximity to Babushka and Troyka helps complete the feast with a reliable output of sushki (those miniature bagel-like breads you see draped around the necks of statues), suhariki (toasted bread snacks), sweet pryaniki (ginger and honey cookies), napoleans, and savory, stuffed pirozhki. Root around and you're sure to find something you'll like with your espresso, but don't leave without trying the hyper-green tarragon soda from Georgia (Tarhun) for a different taste altogether.
Golden Wheat Deli, 7300 W Sunset Blvd. Ste H West Hollywood.