We got the following email from a friend of Russian decent about Dan's Select Meats (250 Church Ave). We'd never tried the store thinking it was mostly meat (and we're veg) until her recommendation and this weekend tried the potato dumplings and Baltica. Let's just say we will definitely go back. Below is her recommendation!
Select Meats is always hopping. In addition to, well, meats, the store sells a variety of Russian-produced foods and foods that people from the former Soviet Union like to eat. And drink.
Let's begin with Russian beer. They sell a couple of brands of Russian beer - I'm most familiar with Baltica - a great beer, in my opinion. Look for numbers on Baltica labels. The numbers indicate alcohol content: Baltica 2, for example, has 4.7% alcohol; Baltica 9 has 8% to get you drunk. All this is explained right here: http://www.baltikabeer.com/brands1-5.php Select Meats also carries non-alcoholic Baltica, for those who are into that sort of thing.
What goes best with beer? Cold-smoked mackerel! "Skumbrija" in Russian. These are the foot-long golden whole fish that you see in the lower left-hand corner of the deli counter. These are ready to eat - just lop off the head and the tail, and slice up! If you don't feel like lopping off heads, look for a large bin of packaged "fish jerky." There are several types of salted dried fish to munch on when you drink your Baltica.
If you need a quick dinner, pick up a bag of hand-made dumplings (Pelmeni) from the corner freezer. They have veal, pork, chicken, potato, and (maybe, I'm not sure), cheese and cherry dumplings. Veal dumplings are my favorite! Dump them in boiling water, and when they float up to the surface, they're done. Eat them with sour cream or butter and cracked black pepper. There are many different brands in the freezer - the store owners can recommend some (I trusted them, and the dumplings were in fact great). By the way, people who work at the store are friendly to a fault, love to help out, and speak great English. Just ask, don't be shy.
You can find every conceivable pickle at Select meats (pickled cucumbers, tomatoes, muchrooms, cheremsha (pickled wild garlic), even watermelon). Can't vouch for canned/jarred ones, but the bulk semi-pickled cucumbers and sauerkraut (in the back of the store in big plastic buckets) are great!
There are various salamis and cheeses - since we only have lived here for 3 weeks, I haven't bought any yet, but generally salami and cheese at Russian stores are fine! Russians love their salami and cheese.
Sweets, in no particular order: cookies that are shaped like nuts with chocolate condensed milk frosting in the middle,white multi-layered "Napoleon" cake, sunflower halva, poppy seed rolls, chocolate covered cheesecake bars (Syrok) that my daughter adores (in the ice-cream case by the door) By the way, the brown bear on the bar's wrapper is a Soviet cartoon version of Winnie-the-Pooh. Peaple w children or those in need of treats - I totally recommend Russian chocolate candy (sold bulk from glass bins above the deli counter), for birthday party favors! Cool-looking wrappers and mostly good chocolates.
They sell prettily packaged tea, too.
Generally speaking, the place is totally not forbidding, clean, and people who work there are happy to explain things to you. Go to Select Meats!