Summer Season Ex-pat Haunts
by Paul Miazga
It’s not terribly difficult to find most ex-pats in Kyiv. Often they’re out strolling along Khreshchatyk on weekends, people watching along with everyone else in the city or, no matter what day it is, frequenting the few spots in this city that are truly ex-pat friendly. Miss the ex-pat crowd? Not at these places!
But what constitutes truly “ex-pat friendly”? To be such, the place must be as obvious as a McDonalds location, big enough for ex-pats to meet in large groups (or lose themselves temporarily) and not so exclusive as to put the place out of reach for all but the wealthiest. Hopefully this means something to my readers and not just to me.
Anyway, first among these is Arena, which has become the locus of the universe for most ex-pats in the city, especially those business travelers who don’t care to slink down small side streets and add more verve to their Kyiv experience by trying out those little out-of-the-way places that I prefer. I digress. Arena has acres of balcony space, great beer brewed in-house, the best steaks in the city (or so says an English friend of mine whom I’ve never seen eat anything but red meat) and an English menu filled with lots of really tempting food. Given how prices continue to climb in this city, Arena has (knock on wood, someone) kept prices in check for at least a year now. Best of all, this is a one-stop shop in town: from food, patrons can watch the game on the big screen TVs inside on the second floor, hit the casino on the third or head to the top floor to cut a rug and wile away the night.
Not far away, T.G.I. Friday’s easily slides into space number 2 on this informal list. All the ex-pat food standards here – burgers, ribs, steaks, onion rings (all that stick-to-your-ribs comfort food), the service follows western standards almost to a fault but the real gem at Friday’s is the drinks menu – something not to be overlooked in Kyiv when the temperatures soar. Massive drinks of all kinds and priced to clear. Too bad this place is a “family” restaurant and they close their doors at 10pm. A standard meeting spot for the ex-pats out on their first date with the girl they met last night at a single’s social set up for others like them.
Golden Gate and O’Brien’s have become fair rivals in the city over the years, what with both sporting an Irish pub-restaurant theme and competing for the attention of sports fans with something on the big screen year round. Both have the outdoor terrace, billiards, standard pub fare described in English on the menus, lots of beers on tap (I’ll say no more here given I’ve shot my mouth off too many times on this score in the past) and some of the best service in town. What’s the difference? Not much. Golden Gate sits next to the famous Golden Gate landmark and perhaps serves more American and German clients whereas O’Brien’s tends to gather the Brits, French and Irish (the few of them here). The directors of the two places – Des at O’Brien’s and Robyn at Golden Gate – exemplify service and give both places a local pub feel in an ever-growing city.
Speaking of Zoloti Vorota (the golden gate), Pantagruel opened their summer deck and their summer service area around the fountain next to the great landmark. Around the fountain, it’s beers and cheaper food mostly, and good luck getting a table if just showing up on a warm evening hoping to get a spot for more than two. In the restaurant just a few meters away, though, diners will find some of the best Italian food around, seasonal specials always on the menu, a great wine list and the summer terrace demand only the best company. Great spots both.
Three more places demand some attention here to round out this list: long-time ex-pat standard Arizona BBQ seems to have been overshadowed by developments in the city center, but it still offers respite for many an ex-pat, especially the business lunch crowd and those taking advantage on weekends of its supervised children’s play area. A must for parents looking to enjoy a meal without the kids screaming at them the entire time. Also: the former Eric Aigner-run spots – Art Club 44 and Eric’s Bierstube – still attract a fair share of foreign guests, though fewer these days (at least at 44) given the underhanded way in which his former business partners forced him out. Anyway, cheap beer, decent eats and lively atmosphere can be found at both.
“The Arena beer house and entertainment center stands as Kyiv’s top ex-pat haunt.” (www.restauran.ua)