In short-order - St. Petersburg fast-food outlets and street food

If you're looking for snack food in St. Petersburg, you'll have no trouble finding the standard range of international burger and pizza chains. If you want something with a bit more flavour and local character, however, there is a small but increasing number of homegrown offerings worth exploring.

The arrival of McDonalds in Russia in the early '90s was a seminal indicator of the changes the country was undergoing, as locals queued for hours no longer for bread but for burgers and fries. Other international chains such as Pizza Hut and KFC followed in time, but with decreasing levels of popular enthusiasm. Attempts at creating homegrown equivalents were initially disastrous (the grey burgers and soggy fries of a certain "Burger Kvin" in Moscow became a standing joke amongst expats). The first truly successful Russian fast-food venture was Teremok, which began as a chain of street kiosks serving bliny (Russian pancakes) and kvas (a soft-drink made from fermented rye bread) and has expanded to offer dozens of restaurants in St. Petersburg - as well becoming an ubiquitous feature of shopping mall food courts - with an expanded menu that includes a variety of "traditional" dishes in fast-food format.

The other traditional staple that has been successfully translated into a modern fast-food offering is the Russian pie (pirog when full-size and served by the slice, pirozhok when offered as a single-serving bun). The most common fillings include potato, cabbage, mushrooms, chicken and salmon, and good pirozhki are filling, cheap and very portable, making them ideal for long train journeys, days out sightseeing, or as a respectable offering if you're invited to somebody's home for tea. A reasonable selection can now be bought in most supermarkets, as well as convenience stores and cafes like the Stolle chain.

The only other "local" fast-food widely available in St. Petersburg, especially outside the city centre, is shawerma (shaurma, doner kebab), but as the Russian version doesn't even have chili sauce to disguise the dubious provenance of the other ingredients, it's probably best avoided...

Selected fast-food outlets and street food:

Russian $
This chain of cafes has a deceptively Germanic name as the first location was opened in the former German quarter on Vasilievskiy Island, but the menu is based firmly and almost exclusively around traditional Russian pies. These can be ordered to take away or enjoyed on-site in any of ten outlets in St. Petersburg, all with attractive turn-of-the-century interiors.
Fresh Point
International $
This comparatively new chain of sandwich shops takes its inspiration wholesale from London chains like Pret a Manger and EAT, but in St. Petersburg that makes for a refreshing change. Airy, IKEA-style outlets and dedication to fresh, organic ingredients make up for somewhat bland sandwich fillings, and the daily changing soup specials are nearly always excellent.
Middle Eastern, Vegetarian $$
Bringing Israeli street food to the heart of St. Petersburg, this trendy bar and café on the city's best-loved dining street serves up falafel, shakshuka and other Middle Eastern favorites in a stylish, cozy interiors. There's now a second location on New Holland, but quality remains consistently high for budget prices.
Pedro & Gomez u Larisy
International, Vegetarian $
A side project for Norwegian chefs brought in to run one of St. Petersburg's most exclusive restaurants, this democratic establishment on Ulitsa Rubinshteina serves a great range of street food that straddles the globe, including kim chi, waffles, and baked mussels, as well as an extensive drinks menu.
Kim & Chi
Korean, Vegetarian $$
Boasting a great location near Nevsky Prospekt and the Hermitage, this basement café offers low-cost Korean favorites in generic Nordic interiors. Hot dogs and potato snacks are also on the menu, and the combination of great prices - especially for set-menu lunches - friendly service, and a few more unusual menu items are a recipe for success.
International $
This rapidly expanding street food operations now counts five branches across the city, several at prime downtown locations. The menu takes a range of wraps and filled breads from across the world and adds some intriguing original touches, making for god-quality, low-cost food that filling and fast to eat.
Sandwiches $
A small and friendly establishment next to the Fontanka River, BGL specializes in bagels, with a great range of fillings for vegetarians and meat-lovers. Soups, hot drinks, and craft lemonades are also on offer, and the whole menu is very competitively priced while retaining a good quality of fresh ingredients.
Middle Eastern $
Russians have been guzzling greasy, mayonnaise-filled shawarma on the street for decades, but this tiny outlet is more in line with the recent international enthusiasm for the Middle Eastern favorite, combining good-quality fresh ingredients with a range of imaginative variations, a pita filled with pickled herring among them.