SELF-SERVICE CANTEENS

An ordinary citizen of Minsk eats their breakfast and dinner at home. But what about lunch? Don't be fooled by so-called "lunch menu": not every restaurant will serve you the lunch quickly enough, and it won't be like you'd imagined it. (Probably it will be 20% to 30% smaller). But almost every district of the city has secret places that might look too embarrassing to invite foreigners there. At such places, you can eat for just $2-3, at your own risk. These secret diners are actually canteens of state enterprises and municipal facilities, such as Central Universal Department Store (TsUM) or State Universal Department Store (GUM) and the city administration, and also educational institutions. Many of them are not bad, by the way. The canteen by the Academy of Management is well-known far beyond the Belarusian educational system, and personal at the canteen of the Linguistic University may be able to help you even if you don't know Russian.  

Not many canteens have signs, although normally you don't need a pass or an ID to get inside. You need an experienced local guide to find a really good canteen. Sometimes it's enough to come to the factory or the university and say "Ja v stolovuju" to the receptionist. You'll be allowed to enter. 

So, welcome to the time machine: plastic flowers, peachy-colored walls, white glazed tiles like in a hospital - the USSR in all its glory. Even the smell is the same as 30 years ago. Sometimes it's mouthwatering, sometimes it's sour, sweet, bitter, suffocating. Anyway, unless you breathe it, you will never understand life under socialism, and how does it feel when the state cares about your daily bread. The pots are rattling, and the steam from the borsch tank literally punches you in the face. The food is rather ordinary: huge bones and chunks of lard are floating in soup tanks, salads are covered with a thick layer of old fat mayo, and meatballs are half meat half white bread. Traditionally, in our childhood, such food was served in steel bowls firmly stuck to untidy brown trays, but hopefully the times are changing. If you are smart with food, you can eat cheap, tasty and healthy: according to the standards established in the USSR, everyday menu must have healthy foods, not like at private restaurants where the only state standard is a certain quote of Belarusian national meals. 

If you liked the lunch, you may ask for "The Book of Complaints and Suggestions" and leave a positive review (be sure to persuade the personal that you are not going to complain, otherwise you are in hot water). Customers don't tip at canteens, still, a handwritten review from a foreigner may become the reason for the official monetary bonus.  

Just one last thing: most canteens, with very rare exceptions, work only at lunchtime, which is, according to the same Soviet standards, set from 12AM to 4PM.  

Here is a short list of selected and personally tested canteen in the centre of the city. 

The canteen of the Minsk College of Economy and Finance

A shamelessly cheap old school canteen. It even has an archaic conveyer band to carry dirty dishes to the dishwasher - like in our schools in the nineties.  
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  • Address: Cyrvonaja Street, 17, a one-storeyed building behind the college
  • Opening hours: 10:00-16:00

The canteen of # 7 building of the Belarussian State University

Unlike all the rest of BSU canteens, this one is clean and the menu is varied. The public is not only students, since a creative cluster and a coworking space have opened in the nearby building of a former factory.   
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  • Address: Kastrycnickaja Street, 10а
  • Opening hours: 12:00 - 16:00

Canteen of “Luch” shoe factory - 2

Don't even get me started on these shoes, but cheap canteens of "Luch" have saved many office workers from hunger and gluttony-induced overspending.    
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  • Address: Kalvaryjskaja Street, 18
  • Opening hours: 12:00 - 16:00

Canteen of “Luch” shoe factory - 1

Don't even get me started on these shoes, but cheap canteens of "Luch" have saved many office workers from hunger and gluttony-induced overspending.  
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  • Address: Karalia Street, 2
  • Opening hours: 12:00 - 16:00

The canteen of Minsk Administration Bureau of Maskouski District

This unique enterprise have made a big leap into the XXI century, from a socialism food factory to corporate catering. They even have a website! 
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  • Address: Praspiekt Dziarzynskaha 10
  • Opening hours: 12:00 - 16:00
  • Website: stolovka.by

“Zalataja Zhytnica” - the canteen of the Regional Administration of Minsk Oblast

You can meet anyone here – from an administrative official to a developer from a successful financial startup. It's hard to say what attracts the latter category. Cleanness, and the smell of this place are far beyond acceptable at times.  
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  • Address: Enhielsa Street 4, entrance from the basement in the backyard of the Music Academy
  • Opening hours: 12:00 - 16:00

Canteen of the Medical University Student Dormitory

A comparatively conservative place. Apart from medical students, cadets of the Academy of Ministry of Internal Affairs are also frequent guests. The trays are the same sticky as fifty years ago, but the prices are beyond competition.   
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  • Address: 19 Čyrvonaja St. (5 minute walk from Metro station Plošča Jakuba Kolasa)
  • Opening hours: Mon-Fri from 12:00 till 20:00

Canteen of the National Library of Belarus

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  • Address: 116 Niezaliežnasci Ave (Metro station Uschod)
  • Opening hours: Mon from 12:00 till 18:00, Tue-Fri from 12:00 till 16:00

Canteen of the Central Post Office

A decent, sufficiently clean place in the very center of city, popular among savers from all walks of society, from students to white collars.   
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  • Address: 10 Niezaliežnasci Ave (Central Post Office building, Metro station Plošča Lienina)
  • Opening hours: Mon-Fri from 11:00 till 15:00

"Naliboki" Canteen

It's the best canteens can offer. Great quality of food, a rich and diverse menu, clean plates and even couches and MTV.   
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  • Address: 16 Kulman St. (5 minutes walking from from metro station "Plošča Jakuba Kolasa", close to Kamaroŭski Market)
  • Opening hours: Mon-Fri from 11:00 till 16:00

GUM's Canteen

Apart from the staff of GUM, who can have their food with no waiting and with a discount, you can see many teachers of the Belarussian State University here. Unfortunately, most BSU canteens are considerably worse. The food here is not bad, but it is even better when there are meals from anniversary banquets on the menu. 
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  • Address: 21 Niezaliežnasci Ave (Metro station Kastryčnickaja) (4th floor, turn to the right from the main entrance)
  • Opening hours: Mon-Fri from 11:00 till 16:00

Minskvodokanal's Canteen

This canteen has a pleasant inclination toward banquet meals. Also, an unusual installation in the courtyard is definitely worth your Instagram.   
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  • Address: 15 Pulichava St.
  • Opening hours: Monday - Friday 13:00-15:30

Canteen of the Ministry of Internal Affair's Academy

For some reason, this canteen is less popular than two others at Czyrwonaja street, but it's cleaner, and most customers wear uniform, which actually rather scares typical Belarusians away.   
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  • Address: 4 Mašerava Ave (Metro station Plošča Pieramohi)
  • Opening hours: Monday - Friday 10:00-16:00

CUM's Canteen

It’s a very basic, frequently overcrowded and, to tell the truth, not the cleanest and most pleasant place to eat. If you happen to be here at lunchtime, better go to restaurant-bistro “Staličny” instead (Niezalezhnasci Avenue, 52). It also belongs to CUM, but everything is great there in every respect.   
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  • Address: 54 Niezaliežnasci Ave (2nd floor, entrance from the shopping area - ask sales attendants)
  • Contact data: Mon- Ths 11:00-18:00 Fri 11:00-17:30