Welcome to the 2018 edition of The Essentials, our catalog of indispensable and quintessential Phoenix food and drink. From now until May, we'll be sharing 50 dishes, drinks, and food experiences that make up the culinary backbone (and personality) of metro Phoenix. This list is highly eclectic, mixing classics with newer and lesser-known favorites. But all The Essentials have one thing in common: We think they're required eating (and drinking) in metro Phoenix.
29: Rye bread from Yasha From Russia
Craving some take-away borscht, knishes, or beefy piroshkis? How about homemade pelmeni dumplings, stuffed with ingredients like ground pork and mashed potatoes? Or maybe you're in need of a special occasion dessert, say a traditional Russian honey cake?
Traditional Eastern European dishes and ingredients are still in short supply at most local big-box supermarkets. Thank goodness, then, for Yasha From Russia, a quirky standalone grocery store and deli located near the intersection of 32nd Street and East Shea Boulevard in Phoenix.
For nearly two decades, this "mom-and-pop" shop has been a lifeline for folks on the hunt for import food and drinks from Russia and other Slavic countries (the shop also carries a wide-ranging selection of Scandinavian and other European import products).
The neighborhood market was founded by Uzbek-born Yakov "Yasha" Gadaev almost 20 years ago. Today, the shop is operated by son Nerik Gadaev and his family. Service, as it has been for many years, is polite and accommodating. Whether you're on the hunt for Russian cookies or a specific brand of Polish beer, somebody behind the counter will help you find it.
Check out the imposing deli counter in the middle of the shop, stocked with smoked fishes, caviar, and a robust assortment of cured meats and import cheeses. Look closely and you might spot some aspic-encased headcheese.
It's easy to lose part of an afternoon browsing the store's refrigerated cases and well-stocked aisles, the shelves bulging with products like canned pâtés; fruit preserves and spreads; Russian crackers and cereals; big bags of pre-toasted buckwheat; and a fun selection of import chocolates, cookies, and candies.
There's also an enticing bakery case filled with party-ready cakes and treats. On a recent visit, the selection included honey cakes, tiramisu, and smetannik, a traditional Russian cake featuring sour cream frosting.
Yasha is known mostly as a deli and market, but it's also one of the most interesting specialty beer and wine shops on this side of town. The selection of Slavic beers is immense, and you'll find a whole shelf dedicated to Georgian wine.
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For my money, the most indispensable treat at Yasha is also one of the most simple: a big, crusty loaf of rye bread. The beautifully shaped loaves, which are baked in-house, are pleasingly dense and earthy. It's a simple treat, but one that's helped turn a relatively modest shop like Yasha From Russia into one of the city's most unique and essential neighborhood grocery stores.
Yasha From Russia. 10240 North 32nd Street, 602-347-6055.
Monday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The Essentials so far:
50: Soul food platter at Lo-Lo's Chicken & Waffles
49: The Bear at Short Leash Hot Dogs + Rollover Doughnuts
48: Grilled squid and other specialties at Andreoli Italian Grocer
47: I-10 Nachos at Cocina 10
46: Coffee made from ROC2 beans
45: The Haturo Sub Sandwich at Cheese 'n Stuff
44: Zookz at Zookz
43: Jade Red Chicken at Chino Bandido
42: Tasting menu at Quiessence at The Farm
41: Single-origin Papua New Guinea Bar at Zak's Chocolate
40: Green chile at Casa Reynoso
39: Brûlée burger from Paradise Valley Burger Company
38: Hand-pulled noodles from China Magic Noodle House
37: Carne adovada sliders at Dick's Hideaway
36: Crispy Pig Ear and Amaro cocktails from Crudo
35: Chile-laced specialties from Cafe Ga Hyang
34: Martinis at AZ88
33: Nooner at Duck & Decanter
32: Eggs Maximilian at Harlow's Cafe
31: Beef Tacos from Asadero Norte De Sonora
30: Orange Blossom from Huss Brewing Company
29: Rye bread from Yasha From Russia