We’ve all been on that flight, the one that comes in from the crowded holding grounds of the Istanbul Airport at 3am. It’s 3 pm or 11 pm where you came from, your head is still slightly spinning and you haven’t had a breath of fresh air for half a day. Maybe the friends you’re staying with aren’t yet up, or you’re tired of eating cellophane-wrapped food and don’t want to head home to an empty fridge. Or you’re driving back from a datcha, or stayed out late for a birthday bash and the hunger pangs have suddenly struck. Most of Bishkek will start waking long after the sun peaks over the apartment rooftops, but here are 3 joints to satisfy your 5 am (or 3 am, or any odd hour) food cravings:
1. Taksim Cafe (Chuy and Kalyk Akibev – one block E from Jash Gvardiya)
This is the late night burrito bar of Bishkek: cheap, reliable, and open 24 hours a day, not to mention on the way from the airport and within walking distance of several clubs. Menu is a mix of Russian, Kyrgyz and Turkish fare.
Go for the plentiful outdoor seating and warming homestyle soups. The omelets are also not bad. As a bonus, the outdoor garden also has an artificial stream and tacky-cute bridges. Just don’t sit inside – as only partially evident from this photo, the decor is enough to give you Madonna nightmares for decades:
Worth Visting During the Day? Eh…
Bonus: This vertigo-inducing 1 minute intro video put out by the management
2. Cave Coffee (Gorkova, 1 block E of Vefa Center)
The perfect place to relax after a long flight and wait for your hotel to open/your couchsurfing guests to wake up/your friends to come and get you, this simple cafe is both sumptuous and serene. Prices that are normally a little high for Bishkek will seem a genuine bargain after airport food court rip-offs.
Go for the calm and quiet atmosphere, comfortable couches, coffee, tea and desserts. If you’re on a budget, the tea is fairly inexpensive and always very fresh. While I don’t think they have a full kitchen, they do also pull together good Russian classics like blinis with fresh fruit toppings.
Worth Visting During the Day? Yes, for coffee and desserts. It’s also a great place to hold meetings when the electricity on your office goes out)
3. Cafe-Bistro Moskva (Razzakov, 1 block N of Bokonbaev)
If you’re absolutely new to Bishkek and starving after a half day’s journey, this slick soho-style not-so-soviet canteen is probably the best place to go. A clean, spacious and top-class take on the soviet-era stolovaya (canteen), Cafe Moskva lets you survey all the samplings of Russian and Kyrgyz fare before selecting your favoured plate. If you’renew to Kyrgyzstan and don’t understand anything on the menus, this is a great way to figure out what’s on offer and see what you might like.
Prices are certainly higher than those at classic canteens but lower than in a restaurant – almost everything on the menu (pdf here) is under 100 som. And unlike a regular stolovaya, nobody is impatient, unless it’s lunch hour at the nearby embassies.
Go for the wide variety of local food, clean and expedient presentation, and fresh-pressed espresso at the adjoining cafe.
Worth Visting During the Day? Yes, definitely – for a simple but satisfying meal, or newbies to the Central Asia food scene.