Food Issue - Around the world: Russia

Old World comfort food at New Odessa

Thursday October 21, 2010 04:00 am EDT

Joseph Stalin is alive and well at New Odessa European Market & Deli. Well, not really, but his likeness graces the label of Uncle Joe wine that's displayed alongside other quirky wines in bottles the shape of everything from woodland creatures to tree branches. There's something unmistakably Eastern Bloc about the vibe at this market and deli — a yellowed austerity to go with the occasionally severe service.

"What sandwiches are good?" I ask the stone-faced young woman behind the counter.

"I don't eat," she replies in a thick Russian accent.

Odessa's owner, Viktor Reznyk, moved to the U.S. in 1993 from Odessa, Ukraine. In 1995, he opened the first of three incarnations of the store on Shallowford Road. The latest location on Clairmont Road shows no sign of moving as Reznyk has just started construction to expand the small dining area into a full-service cafe. The new menu is a work in progress, but the standard favorites, such as the hulking sandwiches, will remain. Even if you aren't from the former Soviet Union or Eastern Europe, New Odessa offers a variety of comfort foods that will convert you into a regular at first bite, as well as crunchy salads — such as beet or cucumber — fresh borscht (beet soup), and an assortment of diner-sized desserts straight from Brooklyn.

Every aisle of the market holds a treasure. Beers emblazoned with lobsters, naked ladies, and funny taglines sit in the cooler next to a freezer stacked with large bags of pierogi. The section near the deli case is stocked with every type of smoked meat imaginable. It's a picnic-lovers paradise.

The best part of New Odessa, however, is the homemade savory and sweet Russian pastries. Reznyk makes the dough every morning and manipulates it into khachapuri (cheese pies), chebureki (fried pastries stuffed with lamb), and an assortment of pirozhki stuffed with melted cabbage, ground beef, potatoes and more. New Odessa also happens to make the best blintzes in Atlanta. Each silky blintz is filled with sweet farmers cheese and can be served warm for on-the-spot enjoyment. The cool comrade taking orders doesn't know what she's missing.

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