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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

China Town Cheap Eats

MTDespite its low prices and 'democratic' tag, Melenka is quite stylish.
Melenka is a democratic restaurant -- it says so on the sign at the front, right next to the restaurant's name. But that's not to say this budget-priced lunch spot is devoid of charm. Actually, it's surprisingly stylish, with interesting design features such as tabletops made from shattered safety glass sandwiched between layers of intact glass. The interior is bright, cheerful and thoroughly modern; overall the design is slick and not at all fast-foody.

The menu also offers more of interest than your usual sandwich shop. There are actually some interesting options besides the rather mundane and mayonnaise-laden salad bar (200 rubles per person), the hot mains buffet (250 rubles per person or 390 rubles for a cold-and-hot combo), and the sandwiches (club with fries 160 rubles or house special with fries 180 rubles).

Melenka specializes in blini, with different crepe-like concoctions in each section of the menu. The menu describes them as "blini of the world," and marks them with an orange dot. Diners may try such dishes as "Big-Ben blini" with bacon, tomato, lentils and a pepperoni sauce (205 rubles), or the Mexican "kempeche" with a mixture of beans, grilled pork, jalapenos tomatoes and sour cream (250 rubles). Sambousiki pies are another interesting choice, with chicken, mushroom, spicy vegetables (all 140 rubles), pork (170 rubles) and fish with rice (190 rubles). Besides regular pizzas, there is also the more-exotic pide with spinach (125 rubles), cheese (135 rubles) or beef (180 rubles). There are 10 varieties of ice cream desserts.

The large selection of coffees starts at 70 rubles for an espresso. Draft Baltika No. 7 costs 95 rubles a half-liter, while Carlsberg costs 120 rubles and Krusovice dark and light go for 130 rubles.

One of the most appealing features is a front wall of windows stretching all the way up to the restaurant's high ceiling, which gives the place a light and airy feel -- and makes for good people-watching possibilities on Kitai-Gorod's colorful Ulitsa Solyanka. Solyanka soup, by the way, is not on the menu.

1/2 Ul. Solyanka, Bldg. 1, 933-8319, 10 a.m.-11 p.m., M. Kitai-Gorod.