There were supposed to be six of us; when you’re retired you have the luxury of such excursions on a weekday, but you also have health issues that intervene. So today four of us headed to Chicago and the Russian Tea Time Restaurant.
Stepping into Russian Tea Time is like stepping into another world. A most civilized host with an accent greets you and escorts you to a table while Russian music swirls about. We resisted dancing as we shed jackets, stowed handbags, and settled in. Our server, whose name we never got so I’ll call him ‘Ivan’, was there in an instant offering Russian tea. Of course we nodded “Yes” in unison, and he went off to get it while we studied the menu and weighed the merits of mushroom barley soup over borscht.
Ivan returned, not only with tea but also with both white and brown sugar cubes — How civilized! — lemons, and small cookies. He poured our tea, gave instructions on how Russians drink it, and answered our questions.
Are the potato pancakes crispy? “For you, Madam, I make them crispy,” Ivan said.
Is the borscht served cold? “In winter, we serve everything hot,” he said.
Would you get the Vareniki or the Piroshkies? He pointed to the Piroshkies.
Our questions answered, we ordered and returned to sipping tea. It was a perfect antidote to anything that ailed us, and we thought of the two friends who weren’t able to come.
Then Ivan brought bread, and we swooned collectively. It must have been obvious, since Ivan said that sometimes there were loaves for sale, and we promptly ordered them.
So it went. Soup. Pancakes. Piroshkies. And for dessert bread pudding split four ways.
As we dined, we noticed small touches. The tables had tablecloths. The flowers were real. The service was impeccable. Ivan kept replenishing both our water and our tea. He even brought four forks and four small plates for the bread pudding and a knife to cut it. I suspect it was an extra large portion too.
We all agreed the only thing missing was our two friends who had to cancel at the last minute. So we decided we needed a return visit to Russian Tea Time. If you’re interested you can visit the restaurant’s website, www.russianteatime.com; but I assure you it doesn’t provide a real sense of the ambience.