Gastronom6701 N. Burnet Rd., in the Burnet Farmer's Market, 459-1449
Monday-Friday, 12-7pm; Saturday-Sunday, 12-5pm
Looking for a place to stock up on munchies for your next vodka party? Austin now has its very own Russian grocery. Called Gastronom, which in English implies a person who loves food, but which in Russian means simply, "grocery store," this little market capitalizes on the convenient cross-cultural double entendre of its name. Owner Sasha Lifschitz opened Gastronom not only to serve the expat Russian community, but also in hopes of introducing Americans to the delights of a little-known culinary heritage.
People used to the gleaming aisles of American grocery stores may find this tiny, ill-provisioned-looking stall in the Burnet Farmer's Market a bit Spartan, but homesick Russians will immediately recognize in it an overseas incarnation of a state-run provisions depot. Indeed, Gastronom looks like a real Russian grocery, with jars of canned tomatoes, horseradish, ikra (a Russian vegetable puree made of squash, garlic, peppers, and onions), and sunflower oil neatly arranged on metal shelves pushed against the wall. Its tiny deli case is haphazardly filled with various types of hard sausages, and a small refrigerator case in the corner features soft farmer's cheese, kefir, a thin, drinkable yogurt, Russian butter, cured fish, sunflower seed halvah (a common candy found throughout Turkey, the near east and Central Asia), and vobla, a dried, smoked fish that is a favorite Russian snack. No drinking session would be complete without it.
In true Russian fashion, this little deli has the look of a place always on the verge of going out of business. However, don't be fooled by appearances. Since Lifschitz opened a few months ago, business has surpassed his expectations. Word of it has permeated among local Russian-speakers, many of whom used to drive 200 miles to Dallas to purchase their favorite foodstuffs from home, and it is quickly becoming a focal point for the community. Look for Gastronom to expand its business and possibly move locations in the coming months.