On April 12, 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first astronaut to orbit the Earth. Named a Hero of the Soviet Union, he remains one of the most famous cosmonauts in the history of space travel.
Decades later, long after the fall of the Soviet Union and Gagarin’s own death in a training-jet crash, his legacy as the first man in space is still revered, especially at Kafe Gagarin, a Soviet-themed restaurant in Brest, Belarus, that celebrates all things Gagarin while serving Kremlin-worthy dishes that might even have satisfied Stalin.
It’s a unique, yet endearingly bizarre place to dine. The outside seating—a series of booths set inside a stretched, 1960s-style sedan and decorated with a backdrop of a Soviet beach holiday—doesn’t exactly fit chilly, inland Belarus. Inside, you’re greeted by a beaming Yuri Gagarin, depicted in a mural in full cosmonaut gear. Newspaper cuttings from April 12, 1961, adorn the front walls and serve as placemats, while the television’s endless loop of black and white newsreels take you back to the lofty heights of the Soviet space program. Communist flags hang from the ceiling, and Soviet stars decorate the napkins and menus.
But Kafe Gagarin is more than just a nostalgic shrine to Yuri Gagarin, and compared to the cosmonauts’ early space food, the Belarusian and Soviet classics on the menu are out of this world.
While Gagarin is blasted into space, you can slurp an appetizer of vibrantly pink borscht soup. When Gagarin lands back on earth, you’ll be tucking into plates of vareniki dumplings and stacks of draniki, the Belarusian potato pancake staple. And thanks to a plentiful selection of beers, wines, and vodkas, you can wash down pork cutlets or chicken kievs as you’re transported to a bygone era.