The Russian Tea Room

 The Russian Tea Room

By Lou Pastina

In 1927, just ten years after the Russian revolution, the Russian Tea Room was opened by former ballet dancers serving mostly chocolates and tea. Over the years, the restaurant moved across the street to its current location on West 57th Street and has had many different owners but always remaining true to its original Russian cuisines. Think borscht, beef stroganoff, blintzes, vodka!! Because it was so close to Carnegie Hall, it has been a favorite of musicians and artists and has been featured in many movies and TV shows.

If you go on to the Tea Room’s website, you will find a fascinating statement outlining their position on the Ukrainian war. They side with the Ukraine and denounce Putin just like the original founders denounced Stalin. They are for democracy, and against Soviet dictatorship. I found their message inspiring and brave.

So, what better way to enjoy the holiday season than to go to the Russian Tea Room. If you didn’t know it, the Russian Tea Room is beautifully decorated for Christmas, and the art on the walls is world class (not sure it’s real, but beautiful nonetheless). And 57th Street begins to decorate as well, so there is a festive feel to the night. There is a bar on the left when you enter and a gift counter, too, where they sell those little Russian dolls that fit neatly into each other. The dining room is on the first floor and goes back far, but the room is narrow, which gives it a cozy feeling. There are other great places to go which are festively decorated such as Rolfs, Pete’s Tavern, and Harry’s Bar downtown, which is close to the NYSE Christmas tree. Besides Rockefeller Center, the NYSE Tree is the best place to get into the Christmas spirit. But don’t forget to put the Tea Room on your list too.

Now I know some of you are saying, hey isn’t it a tourist trap? And the answer is yes. It is overpriced, and don’t even think of going there to drink, it will break the bank. I mean a 12-year Glenlivet on the rocks shouldn’t be $29 anywhere. And that was the least expensive scotch on the menu! The food is good, although limited to Russian dishes, but let’s face it, unless you are eating at Uma’s here in Rockaway, when are you going to eat Russian food? The caviar is expensive, but I usually stay away from that kinda stuff, but I do like the blintzes and duck though.

If you are going during the holidays, it is festive and fun and family oriented. And I am a big believer in being a tourist in your own city. How many New Yorkers do you know who have never been to the Statue of Liberty? The Empire State Building (come on, if you have seen an “Affair to Remember,” you must go)? Lincoln Center? Carnegie Hall for that matter? We live in the greatest city in the world, and despite all the problems the city and our country have, everyone wants to migrate here. Ain’t no one from here migrating to Russia, that’s for sure.

So as the holidays get into full swing, get out and enjoy and celebrate. One thing I have my eye on is this light thing they have happening at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. Not that I want to hang out on Washington Avenue at night, but you have probably seen the ads on Instagram or Facebook. I got that one on my list. What’s on yours? Maybe the Russian Tea Room?

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