Step inside Mari Vanna, and the first thing that strikes you is the feminine décor. The place looks like what I imagine a Russian grandmother’s house to be—lots of flowery wallpaper, crocheted lampshades, shabby chic furniture, lace tablecloths, and knickknacks displayed everywhere. But don’t let the grandmama décor deter you from taking a table.
This place serves up some seriously delicious Russian food and drink. Start your meal with a Russian beer or perhaps one of the restaurant's 70+ vodka-based cocktails. If you sit at the bar, be sure to dip into the candy jars. Unfortunately, the labels aren't in English, but my friends and I have come to the agreement that the ones featuring a girl, a squirrel, and camels are the tastiest ones—although after a few of the cocktails, everything tastes good!
I like to come here for happy hour and munch on the appetizers. You’ll likely find the vareniki, pirozhok (small Russian pies stuff with meat, cabbage or eggs), and pelmeni on my table. What can I say? I love dumplings! There are enough Russian entrees to satisfy both meat eaters and vegetarians. Be sure to end your meal with the Eastern European classic, honey cake. Mari Vanna does a particularly nice rendition, with wafer-thin layers of cake separated by honey-infused icing.
Mari Vanna is extremely popular, especially at dinnertime, so either go early or make a reservation.
Metro stop: Farragut North