Go Only for the Readings: Russian Tea Room

Driven by our desire for new experiences, I met up with Annie, Janice and May at the infamous Russian Tea Room (10312 Jasper Avenue). My coworkers had talked about getting their palms read at the Tea Room, and there have also been a few media spotlights of the stalwart restaurant recently.

Walking in, there was a clear lack of gauzy red curtains and wafting smell of incense – two elements I was expecting. Instead, the dim dining room was lined with large, deli-style coolers showcasing the dessert varieties, and featured chairs and furnishings that likely have never been updated. Two television monitors – one in the bar area and another in the main dining area – were tuned to Entertainment Tonight and Treehouse Television, respectively. The latter set was primed for our waitress’s granddaughter, who had free reign in the room that night.



The waitress asked if our party would be interested in readings that night, as we said yes. When we were ready, we would be called up to individual tables on the tiered back area of the restaurant. About a half dozen tables were manned by very casual looking psychics (only one bared any resemblance to Professor Trelawny, heh), all looking ready to offer their sage predictions. Two readings were priced at $30, with the choice of tea, numerology, tarot, and palm.

We decided to satisfy our hunger pangs first, and paged through the menu. I hoped to find more European dishes (similar to the offerings at Bistro Praha), but the menu was decidedly skewed to the West. I ended up ordering the Chicken Crepe ($15.95), which was served with a choice of starch and fresh vegetables while Annie chose the Vegetable Quiche, served with a side salad ($7.95) and Borscht ($3.95), May the stuffed chicken breast ($15.95), and Janice the Combination Plate ($10.95), which included perogies, Ukrainian sausage, a cabbage roll, and rice.

The food took a while to come, allowing us to note the stream of patrons who arrived for readings – while there were a few customers of the younger set, most were older, and seemed like regulars. Not necessarily a negative thing, it did make us feel slightly out of place.

By the time our dishes arrived, we were starving. My crepes looked like they had been made using boxed pancake mix, and unfortunately, they tasted like that too. Sadly, the rest of my plate was no better. The chicken was dry (though the "white wine" sauce helped alleviate that somewhat), the home fries tasted more baked than fried, and the vegetables had been steamed from a frozen package. May was similarly unimpressed with her less-than-moist chicken. Janice and Annie found their dishes all right, and in my opinion, Annie’s entree was the most economical of all.

Chicken crepe with vegetables and home fries

Stuffed chicken breast with vegetables and pasta

Vegetable quiche with Caesar salad

Combination plate with perogies, sausage, cabbage roll and rice

Even before we had all finished our meals, the waitress was already on top of us, asking which one of us wanted to get the reading done (I’m assuming she must have been working on some kind of commission deal with the psychics). May was first up, while the rest of us looked on. Janice and Annie headed to their individual tables soon after May returned. All three of them received mixed truths, with some inaccuracies, for example, on their actual career choices. None of them received any overly negative or foreboding predictions though. And what of my reading, you ask? I am ashamed to admit that I chickened out. I wasn’t psychologically prepared for what could have been a potential arsenal of bad news. In hindsight, it would be a better business practice to offer a positive future outlook, as if even a modicum of the prediction were to actually occur, the chance of repeat visits would be more likely.

Janice and Annie compare their palm lines


May getting her palm read

In sum, the Russian Tea Room provides an interesting, off-the-beaten path night out, great for conversation starters and discussions for future hopes. Just go elsewhere for food first.

3 thoughts on “Go Only for the Readings: Russian Tea Room

  1. I agree that the food at the Russian Tea Room is not very good. I was there for dinner with a friend about 2 years ago and I will never return (not for food, at least). I might go for a psychic reading of some kind, but not for food.

  2. Agreed. They would almost be better off to limit their selection to beverages, pastries and sandwiches. At least that way the customer knows not to expect that much; ESP not required. 😉

  3. This is NOT a Russian Tea Room. Please change the name and stop misrepresenting my country and my culture. I am tired of feeling ashamed of this place every time I walk by.

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