Russian Tea House and Piroshki in St. Paul’s Midway

Lori Writer / Heavy Table

Lori Writer / Heavy Table

Linda Alenov, half of the husband and wife owner-and-operator team of Russian Tea House and Piroshki in St. Paul, will tell you that their Piroshki are like Russian hamburgers. But, I think their Piroshki ($4.50 including tax), which are a mixture of ground beef, cheddar cheese, and rice, rolled into a soft, layery pastry dough and baked, remind me of my Irish grandmother’s meatloaf sandwiches, minus the ketchup.

My husband, who, if I let him, would pack our deep-freezer full of Russian Tea House’s frozen to-go Piroshki ($20 for six, plus the friendliest reheating instructions you’ll ever hear) so he can have them in his lunch-box every day, says they remind him of Hot Pockets. And he means that in the very best way.

Perhaps piroshki are the Rorschach test of meat-stuffed pastry, upon which you may project your own fond memories of childhood, bachelorhood, or wheneverhood.

Regardless of what memories piroshki invoke for you, Linda and Nikolai Alenov’s Russian Tea House and Piroskhi, located in a charming century-old house on University Avenue in St. Paul’s Midway neighborhood where it’s been a fixture for more 30 years, is a St. Paul original. When the Alenovs first opened Russian Tea House and Piroshki in the late seventies, they offered take-out only. They lived upstairs. Eventually, they renovated, turning the upstairs into cozy dining room, where you occasionally (typically on Fridays) might find a volunteer musician playing the mandolin, accordion, or violin.

The only hitch is that they keep limited hours, open for lunch only, Tuesday through Friday. I’m not saying you should take a day off work to visit Russian Tea House and Piroshki — even though you might — but if you’re like me, you’ll set aside a couple of hours of at least one day of every vacation to swing by for lunch, and pick up a dozen or two Piroshki for your freezer. I’ve also been known to schedule all my University Avenue errands so that I coincidentally end up in the Midway between 11 and 3, Tuesday through Friday. If you’re clever enough to run your errands on Fridays, you can order their Beef Stroganoff (ground beef, green peppers, tomatoes, and onions) Over Potato Vareniki (dumplings) ($5.60). The Vareniki are also wonderfully comforting on their own, but again, you can only get them on Fridays.

I always get an order of crumbly Russian Tea Cakes, too (two for $1 or five for $2). My husband doesn’t know this, because I always, despite every intention not to, manage to eat them in the car on my way home. Unless he’s noticed the dusting of powdered sugar down the front of my blouses, we’ll just consider that our little secret.

Lori Writer / Heavy Table

Lori Writer / Heavy Table

1758 University Ave. St. Paul; (651) 646-4144
Hours: 11:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. Tuesday-Friday

Russian Tea House and Piroshki
1758 University Ave W, St. Paul
651.646.4144

HOURS:
Tues-Fri 11am-3pm
OWNERS: Linda and Nikolai Alenov
ENTREE RANGE: $3-6
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Yes
BEST BETS: You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu — Borscht, Pel’Meni (Tuesday through Thursday only), Cabbage and Meat Rolls, Vinaigrette Potato Salad — but their Piroshki, Beef Stroganoff over Vereniki (Fridays only), and Russian Tea Cakes are impossible to resist. If you can’t choose between Piroshki and something else, buy the frozen Piroshki for your freezer so you can have them whenever you want.

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9 Comments

  1. I’ve never managed to get there when it was open, but my teenager has just started school very nearby and goes there for lunch at least once a week. Lucky her!

  2. Special K11/14/2009Reply

    I’ve always wanted to check this place out but the hours never worked for me. I’ll have to remember to give this place a visit if for some reason I’m in that area during that time of day.

  3. Wow. I’ve only eaten here once and both my dining companion and I considered to to be some of the worst food we’ve eaten in the Twin Cities. Completely anemic borscht, and I could barely choke down half of a dry, flavorless piroshki.

  4. I am a Russian immigrant, moved to the states in 1992. I grew up around this food and must disagree with Maley completely! The borsch was great, it reminded me of a cross between the two interpretations of this dish from two sides of my family. The piroshki were fresh and fragrant, very filling and comforting. The pelmeni are good though I felt the sauces should be served on the side as the mustard or balsamic were a bit too dominant and should be offered as a side in addition to rice vinegar or sour cream (as is traditional). Russian dishes are meant to be a rich comfort foods that are great reheated, The Russian Tea House seemed to hit that mark. Overall the food is great (not as good as moms but…) I will be returning there if the limited hours allow me to.

  5. May God bless the Soviet Torah!

  6. Does anyone know where I can buy frozen verenky to make at home? I’m from western ND where they have a Ukranian cheese pocket business. I’ve had both the dry curd cheese and potato varieties but the dry curd are the type that I’m looking to buy at the moment.

  7. The Russian Teahouse is a treasure in my own neighborhood that my family visits often. The pelmeni dumplings in chicken broth with a fresh warm piroshki are my comfort food! The generous conversation as my meal is being prepared is what makes the Teahouse my gem!!!

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