Food, Wine & Spirits in St. Louis

Monday, February 6, 2012 / 4:10 PM

Eastern Promises: HandleBar Owner Stuffs Menu with Russian Delights

Have they considered a repeating loop of bicycle-themed songs on the PA at the Grove’s bicycle-themed watering hole, HandleBar? They could cue up Queen’s “Bicycle Race,” the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Bicycle Song,” Mark Ronson’s “The Bike Song,” Pink Floyd’s “Bike,” that stirring classical music from the great bicycling-themed film Breaking Away, or Christopher Cross’ “Ride Like the Wind,” the ultimate Walkman song while riding a bike (as determined by a couple of nine year old kids. All these years later, we were not wrong…).  

Or cue up "Raindrops Keep Fallin'.../On a Bicycle Built for Joy," and see who connects it to the iconic movie scene with Katherine Ross riding precariously atop Butch Cassidy's handlebars. Our HandleBar is getting creative as well...   

Under the direction of Russian-American owner Tatyana Telnikova, the tavern is letting its roots show with a new themed menu of classic Russian delicacies and Russo-American fusion dishes.

Between pints of microbrewed beer, patrons can now enjoy pelmeni (meat-filled dumplings served in broth), stuffed blinchiki (Russian pancakes), and pirogi (stuffed pastries). Every culture has its own dish of stuffed dough pockets (empanadas, knishes, wontons, kolaches, samosas…), and HandleBar is betting the comfort food of Telnikova's youth will be a hit with the party crowd in the Grove. 

“I came here [to the U.S.] when I was 16, and Russian culture is still a big part of me,” said Telnikova, 28. “I finally started feeling comfortable with the bar to the point that I can stand up and say, ‘I’m Tatyana, I’m the owner, I’m Russian, and this is what I’m doing!’” 

But with a few twists. She and HandleBar Kitchen Manager Trevor “Flynt” McCoy created the “Frank Blinchiki” (below left), all-beef franks nestled in a Chicago-style “salad” of veggies wrapped in a Russian pancake made with locally brewed beer. (We would have called it “From Russia with Heartburn.”) “We use the locally made beer we have on draft for this blinchiki,” explained Telnikova. “We have used Urban Chestnut, Perennial, and others.”


Other blinchiki are stuffed with various combos of rice, beef, veggies, and cheese. The pelmeni (above right) are described on the menu as “Russian-style meat dumplings in our delicious house made stock, topped with seasonal greens and served with baked bread and a side of sour cream and Sambal spice.” A recent special featured the pirogi stuffed with cabbage, mushrooms, onions, and egg.

“A lot of people I’ve spoken to have no idea what Russian food is,” she said. “I’m excited to educate people, and after 12 years here, I know these [dough pockets] are all foods that Americans seem to like.” She trusts that they also will enjoy the additional changes she has planned: more new menu items, Russian-cuisine specials, beer dinners, a Sunday liquor license in March, and lunch service hopefully beginning in the summer. 

In the meantime, HandleBar will continue to embody its owner’s expansive, welcoming, Russian spirit, exemplified by the freebies she likes to dole out to bicyclists. If you enter the bar with your bike helmet (proof you arrived by people power), Telnikova will gift you with a small item, often “a shot of liquor to warm you up,” she said.         

4127 Manchester
The Grove
Tue-Sat: 4 p.m.- 3 a.m. 

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