Fast Food, Russian Style

Associated Press

Hold the burger and fries. Moscow has its very own, very Russian, fast-food restaurant.

The Russkoye Bistro is serving up Romanov pea soup, mushroom- or cabbage-stuffed pirozhky, or pies, and kvas , a traditional drink made from fermented bread, near the glittering shops full of imported trinkets on Tverskaya Street. All sell for under a dollar.

Unlike Russia's typically drab cafeteria-style restaurants with surly waitresses, the Russkoye Bistro has copied the West with its pastel-pink decor and polite young women in toy-soldier caps behind a brightly lighted counter. But the menu has a distinctly Russian flavor.

"Mushrooms, sour cream, potatoes--this is our food," said 23-year-old student Svetlana Podkovitova. "I only go to McDonald's as a last resort."

Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov's administration owns 20% of Russkoye Bistro, which plans to open 200 outlets in Moscow in the next two years. It also owns 51% of the Moscow McDonald's, which arrived in 1990 and plans to expand to five restaurants. The three now open are constantly crowded.

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