There are two main places that we know of to eat meals inside Izmaylovsky market. There is a shashlik place that’s easy to find inside the market. The smoke from the grills billow up and make it easy to locate. Shashlik is a form of shish kebab that the meat has been marinated overnight. You can choose from a variety of meat: chicken, beef, pork, and salmon.
The meal usually comes with a flatbread called lavash, a special sauce for the meat, sliced, raw onions, some form of salad (we had carrots drenched in vinaigrette), pickles, and pickled tomatoes. Yes, Russians love vinegar. In fact, I read that part of the marinade is often vinegar. The chicken and beef shashlik is OK for me, I don’t care for pork myself, but the salmon is to die for! I have such a weakness for salmon! If you don’t mind picking out salmon bones, it tastes wonderful. The one drawback to getting shashlik is that it can be quite expensive, especially if you’re feeding a family. We always like to share among the children to help save money. You can choose to sit at an inside or outside table. However, to get to the inside table you have to climb a steep set of stairs.
The second place that we know of to find a meal is a place that serves rice pilaf with a cabbage salad and lavash. This place is a little more tricky to find, but it’s near the bathrooms (if you can find those). The rice pilaf is a lot more affordable, and they give you a generous amount. I don’t think it’s quite as filling as the shashlik, but you can’t beat the price.
One thing I suggest, no matter where you choose to eat, is to bring your own bottle of water! Most restaurants in Moscow will serve you bottled water, probably because tap water isn’t always the safest or best tasting, but often that is where you can really get gouged with the price of your meal.
There’s only one bathroom that we are aware of in the market, and my best advice is to avoid it like the plague, ESPECIALLY if you’re a woman! I try to avoid most public restrooms, if I can help it (even in America), but after eating our shashlik that day, Bruce really needed to go! We were not finished with out outing that day, so we couldn’t just take Bruce home. It was really tough to finally locate where the bathrooms were and we finally had to ask someone.
Any dirty bathroom is a turn-off, but the one at Izmaylovsky market is more than just dirty and smelly. The first slap in the face is that you have to pay to even get in. Of course, it doesn’t cost much, but it’s the principle of the thing. Next, AND THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT, there is no toilet paper inside the stall. You have to pick up a handful at the window where you pay. I didn’t realize this until it was too late, so it was lucky that I had a Kleenex in my purse.
Hand-and-hand with Bruce, walking to a stall and trying to avoid touching any of the walls, we pushed open the stall door to find, not a toilet, but a hole in the floor. Uh... I stayed at the doorway of the stall in shock for few moments. Then, we entered and locked the door.
I critically studied the stall and I knew that no memory could retain the entirety of its grossness, so I pulled out my camera. Was I allowed to take a picture? I didn’t know, but it took two pictures and quickly stashed my camera back in my purse. Moments later, there was a knock at the door of our stall. Oh no, I was about to be yelled at by a babushka! I slowly open the stall to only find a woman who had left an item hanging in our stall. Phew!
Finally, Bruce took care of his business. Then, I decided that I should use the hole in the floor, if nothing more than for the experience. I mean, how often do you get to squat over a hole to take care of business? I’m not a survival camper, so a hole in the forest floor would never-ever happen. Plus, I did need to go and that was, honestly, the only reason I decided to try it.
I just have to say that this definitely made the list of the worst, most disgusting experiences of my life! *shiver* I should have just held it! The bathroom walls seemed to have a grey hue over everything, the place smelled of urine, and the surrounding area of the hole was permanently discolored and had wet, dirty footprints. At least over a hole in the forest floor you’re not stepping in spriklage (my new, made-up word for the day) of one or more women’s urine, and plus, in the great outdoors the breeze removes any smells.
The wastebasket behind the toilet was actually for the toilet paper. It seems a lot of Russians throw away their toilet paper rather than flushing it. I’m not sure if it’s out of habit from the old, really thick toilet paper and plumbing that might not be able to handle it. It’s not always that way, in fact it's usually not, but I’m sure having it in the wastebasket didn’t help the smell.
After our disturbing bathroom experience, Bruce and I rushed to the sink and did a double hand washing with a thick, sudsy lather of soap. I didn’t feel like there was such thing as over-kill or being obsessive compulsive at that moment.
If you’re ever at Izmaylovsky market and you DO need to use the restroom, but are not too terribly enthused about braving a hole in the floor (or using your empty water bottle), Jon and I discovered that there are normal bathrooms over at The Kremlin at Izmaylova -- the beautiful, intricate buildings next to the market.