For some New Yorkers (say, the Sri Lankans on Staten Island I visited two weeks back), Manhattan's Washington Heights might as well be Russia—it's that far away. But it also might as well be Russia because, well, it's home to a sizable Russian population.
The aptly named Moscow on the Hudson right off the 181st Street stop on the A train feeds this Russian community. It's not Brighton Beach, but it's a closer-by source for Russian goods for most Manhattanites. Gleb has worked behind the counter for more than a decade. "This used to be another Russian store" he explained, "but it didn't do well. So the owners [of Moscow on Hudson] bought it, and they've been here ever since."
"Ever since" is almost two decades, and though Moscow on the Hudson doesn't only carry Russian goods—you'll also find products from neighboring Eastern European countries represented on their shelves—its priority is its Russian clientele. "They have a good community here," Gleb noted. (The community was out in full force on Sunday afternoon; though the owners were in Europe, the store was buzzing.)
The first thing you notice when you walk into Moscow on the Hudson (other than the bright red sign announcing its Russian wares) is the charming collection of dolls and tea cups behind the butcher counter, and the elegant samovar holding reign in the window. The real draw, though, is the grocery products. Here you'll find everything you need to make a proper Russian meal.
To start, behind the counter, you'll find some super-Russian delicacies: beautiful tins of caviar, whole herring, carefully packaged slices of smoked sturgeon and salmon, and dried and smoked meats. There are bowls of homemade salads and marinated mushrooms, and the length of the counter is decked out in candies, which you buy by the pound, wrapped in bright foil or printed with faces.
Other packaged Russian staples are well represented at Moscow on Hudson. Tea, key to a good Russian table, takes up several shelves of real estate in the tiny store, with both loose-leaf tea and its brewing vessels for sale.
If you're looking to drink more than tea, you won't be disappointed. There's kvass (bread soda), of course, as well as the popular soda Baikal and tallboys of Baltika beer in regular and "extra" lager.) You'll find black bread, jars of pickled cabbage, tomatoes and mushrooms, and boxes of kasha, the cereal (often buckwheat though not only so) typically served for breakfast. In the fridge there are homemade pickles and shredded cabbage salad, and large containers of tvarog, Russian "farmer" cheese.
And in the freezer you'll find the things you most expect to find in Russian market: pelmeni with veal and chicken fillings as well as its Polish cousin, pierogi,in cherry, mushroom and the "Russian fillings" of cheese and potato. There are bags of khinkali dumplings, stuffed cabbage and blintzes, and several brands of high-fat sour cream (and some uncured bacon) to serve them with.
Around the holidays they bring specialty products, especially baked goods, to celebrate, and the owners recently expanded their stock to include beauty products, music and newspapers from their homeland. And if Washington Heights really is too far away, you can order your Russian goods for delivery to your doorstep via their website. It is New York, after all.
Moscow on the Hudson
801 West 181 Street, New York, NY, 10033 (map)