If it's good enough for Russian and Ukrainian winters, it's probably good enough for Minnesota winters. A simmering bowl of borscht is hearty, filling, and loaded with nutrients. This week, we look at variations of the beet soup in two locations: Kramarczuk's and Moscow on the Hill.
Kramarczuk's Kramarczuk's serves East European foods of all flavors, including goulash, sauerkraut, and the delicious handmade sausages they are known for, which sell at the store next door. More of a deli than a restaurant, Kramarczuk's offers quick service: Get in line, buy your food, and sit in a booth. The decor is unassuming, though Matryoshka dolls do peek out from doorways. But the main attraction is definitely the food--perfectly seasoned and full of flavor.
A cup of borscht will run you $3.49, and a full bowl goes for $5.99. The soup has pork and beef, which tastes slow-cooked; it's incredibly tender. Sour cream is self-serve. Finely diced vegetables--cabbage, celery, onion, and carrots--provide a delicate melding of flavor to the beet base... and oddly enough, the beet isn't the least bit overpowering. Beet fanatics might be disappointed, but for the rest of us, this is delicious.
Moscow on the Hill Our next stop was Moscow on the Hill, just minutes from downtown St. Paul. It's actually more of a vodka lounge, with the most extensive selection of cocktails I've come across in a while. Moscow on the Hill is tastefully decorated with Russian artwork, red velvet tablecloths, opaque curtains, and elegant lighting. An accordionist entertained diners, adding to the charming yet relaxed vibe.
A bowl of borscht at Moscow on the Hill costs $4.95. Beet, cabbage, potato, fresh dill, and sour cream. The soup wasn't bad, but it was a bit too salty and not quite as filling--due in no small part to the lack of meat. It was tasty, sure, but didn't really hit the spot.
The winner Kramarczuk's emerges as the clear winner. What Moscow on the Hill's borscht lacks in flavor, the restaurant more than makes up for in atmosphere, but perhaps we'll get a few cocktails and skip the borscht next time. Kramarczuk's borscht, however, is by far the most delicious.
Kramarczuk's 215 East Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis 612.379.3018; Kramarczuk's website
Moscow on the Hill 371 Selby Ave, St Paul 651.291.1236; Moscow on the Hill website