Taking Advantage of the Summer Scene: Bishkek

A few weeks ago one of our Turkish guest noted something that I’ve since noticed everywhere: while Bishkek has these long, beautiful stretches of park, very few businesses take advantage of the city’s outdoors.  There are few shops lining the parks that spill their wares onto the sidewalks or even fling open their doors (actually, there are comparatively few shops at all lining the parks).  There are few restaurants or cafes with streetside patio or garden seating.  Of course, the man who mentioned this is an Istanbul businessman, a character who calculated potential profit in everything, in a warm-hearted way.

Eskisehir outdoor cafe

Us, stopping for tea outside in Eskisehir, where temps plunged to negative ten

I’ve always thought or Bishkek as having outdoor cafes – at least compared to Chinese cities, garden cafes here are many.  But since he said that I have noticed the lack while walking around the city.  While there is great potential, there really are few spaces with truly comfortable outdoor spaces. Perhaps this is partially due to the lack of street life I’ve noticed generally in post-soviet cities. Perhaps this is partially due to the winter weather. But even in Eskisehir – in the cold Anatolian heartland – cafes keep their patios open year round, kept functional with the addition of outdoor heat lamps or roll-back roofs and slidable paneled glass walls (if you haven’t seen these, see what I’m talking about here). Like over-the-door hooks, this seems to be one of those things so common in Turey that has failed to make its way across the steppe.

Instead the shops cluster along busy streets while the two longest parks are lined with… a few shops, salons, housing, closed-faced offices, and ancient government buildings. But cafes beckoning with outdoor seating are few. Cafes or restaurants with any really nice outdoor seating are actually few.  Perhaps this is also because temps above 25 are often deemed “too hot”, and locals would rather be inside with the AC.  But I like balconies and terraces and patios and gardens, especially when surrounded by sufficient greenery.  So, while I’m still searching for the perfect place, I thought I might share a few venues I’ve found that are near-perfect for enjoying the cool summer eves outdoors:

barashek

Barashek

Restaurants:

  • Old Edgars: Located in the park and shaded by centuries-old-oaks; what more could you ask for?  Almost everything on the menu is at least decent, and prices are not scandalous.  Go for a meal, chat, drinks or work.
  • Furusato: This quaint, clean and enthusiastic Japanese joint has a serene, albeit small, outdoor seating area.
  • Cyclone: Our fall-back Italian joint has nice summer outdoor seating somewhat separated from the street by a trellise. (my review here)
  • Barashek: Plentiful outdoor seating with a nice open air garden feel.

Cafes and Cafe-Restaurants:

  • Coffee Cafe (Togolok Moldo 40/1): The branch on Manas has eh outdoor seating often covered in clouds of putrid smoke.  This one just north of the Russian cinema has a nice wooden porch jutting out over greenery and is surprisingly quiet for being located close to the center.  A good place to work during the week.
  • Sushi Room (formerly “Cafeteria”): One of only two establishments along the Erkindik Park to offer outdoor seating; shaded and cosy; everything is a bit overpriced.
  • Slim Fit BishkekSlim Fit: The other establishment with outdoor seating on Erkindik; healthy food, helpful waitstaff, and looks like it popped out of a sunnier Portland, OR.
  • The string of shashlik places south of Aaly Tokombaev and East of Victory Park (look for the ferris wheel): Go for the beer/tea and the bountiful outdoor seating; let me know if you find one serving decent food.
  • Vanilla Sky: Small open patio on one side, glassed in ‘sunroom’ on the other (so you can kind of sit outside in winter).  I’d go for the coffee rather than the dessert or food.
  • Navigator Bar/Cafe: Seriously overpriced with no aparent justification (a bottle of water will set you back as much as coffee at most similarly-decorated places), but it does have one of Bishkek’s only garden seating areas.
  • Buddha Bar: I hate Buddha Bar.  But it does have nice outdoor seating in the corner of a park on Sovietskaya and Axunbaeva.
  • Bar 12: Not just a bar!  The patio is also open for drinks/dessert/dinner and offers perhaps the only panoramic view of the city.

Also, Marius (on Chuy) looks promising, though I have yet to visit.

Let me know if there are any places I missed – I would also love to find some new summer spots (especially some place I could do work during the day!).

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