Monday, October 22, 2012

St. Petersburg Restaurant & Vodka Bar – Robbinsdale, MN

I had heard about this top secret Russian restaurant a few years back from a co-worker. She said the place has a weird and powerful vibe to it and when you eat there, you keep your eyes down and it’s all business. I didn’t even know what that meant.

The librarians and I like to have the occasional happy hour after our various work hours and some of them chose this place. I had forgotten all about hearing about this place until I saw the stair case. My co-worker told me you had to go up a hotel-like staircase to get to the restaurant and it had a weird flow. When I walked into what looked like the basement of the VFW (same building, but next door over), I immediately thought I was in the lobby of an old-school hotel. Here’s what I mean.

Hello? Anyone?

That’s all there is. Nothing around. No signage (except for the elevator sign). No people. No nothing. Anywhere. Is this the right place? Like any good video gamer, if you don’t see people, but you DO see a staircase, you cautiously proceed up the staircase, wary of any gun shots that may come from above. I’m not joking.

I got to the top of the stairs. Looked to the right, and there’s a huge dining room with blue linens and blue heavy curtains. Swanky. With no one in it. Apparently, that room gets closed off on non-busy nights. Looked to the left and there’s a small bar area filled with people. A surprising number of people, based on what I expected when I walked into the empty and unmarked lobby. I strolled in like I belonged there and found the librarians. Already drinking, as I suspected.

People laugh when I tell them librarians are formidable drinkers. It’s true. Think about it. People who work construction don’t want to come home and work on their house. They want to relax. It works both ways. If you’re quiet and holed up all day in the office, you don’t want to come home and be quiet, you want to drink. Hahahaha. These are my people.

The bar is almost movie-like in its décor. Lots of curtains.

Lots of mirrors.
REALLY dark, but energetic and loud. It hints at being swanky, but it’s more like that old-school like 40’s swanky that old people love. Like Mancini’s Char House in St. Paul. This is the Russian version of that. Even the wallpaper is awesome.

I like this place. A LOT.

Let’s get to happy hour. Two-for-ones until 6:30pm. BAM! That’s like a bonus round in Mario Brothers for librarians. We want ALL of the martinis, thank you. We started with Lemon drops, which the high-energy (as in red-bull-since-noon-high-energy) bartender made “extra sexy” for us. The sexy part must mean alcohol.
They’ve got some appetizer-y things on special, so we all ordered a few things and split them all.

Country-style Pelemini – homemade ravioli with beef covered in mushroom sauce. Actually quite good and we may have fought over it.
Chicken wings – decent, but nothing ground breaking.

St. Petersburg Chips – sliced potatoes deep fried and served with dipping sauce (aka ketchup). These were pretty unexciting, but we didn’t seem to have a problem polishing these off for some reason.

Chebureck – this thing was fantastic. It is a puffed pastry filled with smoked chicken. Really flakey and delicious. I’d order a bunch of these. Not the best size/shape/format for sharing, but we managed to get things done. I didn’t get a photo of this, but it’s worth ordering.

By then, we were out of drinks and needed more. I got a something-or-other martini with mango puree in it (I can’t remember what it was called). It was awesome. I should have been drinking these all night. Wow. Super tasty.

I had to use the restroom and sometimes I take photos when there are funny things inside. This one had three urinals that were almost on top of each other. There is no way to use all three at the same time without leaning against another man. No way. Now imaging large burly Russian men packed into this space and you’ll chuckle like I did.

Which brings me to some of the stories the librarians were telling me about this place. This part is all hearsay, so I can’t vouch for it. But they’re generally honest people. I guess they’ve come here before and were not dressed appropriately and didn’t eat. Whether they were told they couldn’t eat or they just didn’t feel comfortable is up for debate. But suffice it to say you had better dress NICE if you come here for dinner on a weekend. They also don’t allow jackets in the dining room. Not for men or ladies. Apparently, there are weapons issues from the past. Seriously. I understand the food is quite good, but also pretty pricey. It’s where the fancy Russian community comes to eat in the Twin Cities, so they make it count. Remember that when you want to come here for a date. Dress up with a removable jacket and no gun. Keep your eyes down and do as you’re told. I can’t wait to bring D.Rough here for a surprise dinner date sometime. She will absolutely love it! She loves old-school swank like this.

The moral of this story is, go to St. Petersburg for happy hour and have a blast. Get cheap food and 2-4-1’s and live it up. It’s a really fun place with a very unique atmosphere, like few other restaurants. And maybe try some vodka flights, since that’s what they’re known for. Hahaha Whoops.

Then, on the drive home, you can pass the Amazing Oriental Supermarket, Restaurant, and Bait Shop! Apparently, the city ordinances are looser in Robbinsdale. I’ll take these noodles, some kung pao chicken and some night crawlers. Thank you.

Top 5 things about St. Petersburg Restaurant & Vodka Bar
1. TWO-For-ONEs
2. Chebureck
3. Country-style Pelemini
4. Super fun staff
5. Really swanky but kitschy and energetic/tense atmosphere

Bottom 5 things
1. Unmarked and unmanned lobby
2. If you want a fancy sit-down dinner, you may have to wait for the weekend
3. The bar gets packed
4. The restroom is better used alone
5. A cab ride home to West St. Paul could be very expensive if you have too many 2-4-1s


Jen said...

I'm glad you got to check this place out! I used to have an ex-boyfriend who lived around the corner from this restaurant. What a hoot!

Anonymous said...

I went there once with an ex-girlfriend who "knew somebody" (engagement party or somesuch). Your description fit the place to a T.