Five Reasons You Should Go to the Russian General Store

Tucked away in a small strip center at Hillcroft and Braeswood is the Russian General Store, an unassuming shop that looks small from the outside but contains a multitude of treasures on the inside.

From the moment you walk in, you'll hear Russian being spoken. In fact, there's a good chance that the person ringing you up at the cash register doesn't speak English. Most of the labels on the food are written in Cyrillic, the national script of Russia, which can make it hard to identify what's in cans and jars that don't have illustrations on the labels. But that's part of the fun.

In addition to food, the Russian General Store also carries stacking dolls (lots of them), fake Fabergé eggs, Russian books, toiletries, clothing and toys, making it a little slice of the homeland for emigrants from Russia and the surrounding countries.

I found myself embarrassed there, though, by my lack of knowledge. My heritage is Russian and Lithuanian, and yet I knew nothing about all the food around me, save for some sausages, blintzes and caviar. Kvass? What's that, I wondered, even after asking another kind shopper to explain the fermented soda-like drink to me. Varenye? It looks like fruit in syrup, but it's on the shelf next to what appears to be jam...what to do with it?

I still haven't discovered all the interesting items for sale at the Russian General Store, but I don't want my initial confusion to dissuade you from going. For those of us who are Russian newbies, here's where to start.

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Kaitlin Steinberg