By Sylvan Hardy
With a name like Kalashnikov you can be sure there’s a good story behind this Av. Remigio Crespo bar. If you stop in for a drink, you’ll be surprised at what you’ll hear.
A couple doors east of Agustin Cueva, Kalashnikov is run by a brother and sister from Siberia and the house specialty is serving up good times.
Ilia Danilenko joined his sister Ekaterina in Cuenca two years ago after a career in engineering in Angarsk, near Baikal Lake in southern Siberia, and decided to open a bar. He was looking for a different life, he said, away from the cold winters and the bureaucratic challenges of running a business in Russia. “Here, things are easier and simpler,” Ilia says. “I like to be around people who are having a good time and that’s the kind of place Kalashnikov is.”
After three years studying German and Spanish in Germany, Ekaterina moved to Cuenca where she teaches at the German Center during the day. “It’s a very busy life,” she admits. “I don’t mind it because I like to be active and always have something to do.” Even during her little time off, she says she doesn’t stop, and is busy with friends and her mother, who also lives in Cuenca.
Tucked into a small storefront with outside seating under a canopy, Ilia’s and Ekaterina’s bar has the feel of a traditional neighborhood bar where you always get a warm welcome. It caters to a mixed-age crowd and is not overrun by Cuencano teeny-boppers, as is the case with so many of the hole-in-the-wall bars in El Centro.
Kalashnikov serves all the standard drinks, plus some Russian-inspired house specials for the serious party crowd. Best of all, drink prices are among the lowest in town and are often served on special.
A major incentive for the Kalashnikov faithful are Ekaterina’s Russian appetizers, which can be mixed and matched into a meal if you’re hungry. For variety, she adds new dishes from time to time.
The favorites are the Pelmeni, a meat-filled Russian version of ravioli at $3.50. The Kartoshki, fries mixed in a thick sauce of ground beef and cheese, for $4 hits the spot on a cool night. And the Pirozki, Russian empanadas in Ekaterina’s special sauce, is $2.50.
In addition, there are choices of international favorites such as guacamole and chips and BBQ wings.
Needless-to-say, if you’re looking for Russian cooking, Kalashnikov’s is the only game in town.
The drink list at Kalashnikov is extensive. The cocktails, served in tall glasses, include caipiriñas, Cuba libres, margaritas, mojitos, Long Island teas, white and black Russians, of course, Tom Collins, and many more, for $3 to $4.
For the heavy shooter crowd, you can get mixed-liquor cups of your favorites for $2 to $3.5. Beer cocktails, with such imposing names as Odessa Mama, Submarino Ruso and Bomba, run $3 to $6.
The major draw for the good-time crowd are the jumbo-sized flaming cocktails. Favorites include the Kalashnikov en tres Pisos, with shots of white, gold and black rum, with a splash of juice and grenadine. The Lambrogina has sambuca, Irish creme, blue curacao and coffee liqueur. Stick in the straws, light up the fire, and you’re ready to go (but watch your eyelashes).
There are nightly specials, including frequent 3-for-2s, as well as other deals on the Kalashnikov Facebook page.
Kalashnikov is not the place for high-society social sippers, but if you’re looking for a great neighborhood quaff house where everyone knows your name, it’s hard to beat. Throw in Ekaterina’s appetizers, and you’ll find nothing better.
Kalashnikov Russian Bar, Remigio Crespo and Agustin Cueva, Tel. 099 547 5605.