One sorry journalist described the sauna room experience at the Russian Banya as akin to being “render[ed] like a brisket.” But the high-heat exertion in the banya’s “Russian room,” which is heated to 200°F by a wood-burning stove, came with a delectable reward: the option to dine at the old-school bathhouse’s Restaurant Volga, which provides some of Texas’s finest Eastern European cuisine.
The menu ranges from “herring under a fur coat,” Russia’s hearty, colorful fish salad, to a variety of East European dumplings, including Siberian pelmeni and Georgian khinkali. These favorites are served alongside meat-filled puff pastries, caviar on freshly baked bread with a dollop of sour cream, borscht, stuffed cabbage, and more. Diners can wash down their meal with freshly squeezed juices, vodka, or Russian beer, and, if they still have room, cap things off with a slice of Napoleon cake. All of this in a nondescript, one-story building in a Texas strip mall.
The spa portion of the bathhouse has three rooms of varying temperatures. In addition to the Russian room, there’s a “Finnish room” that goes to 180°F and a 110°F “Turkish steam room” for those less inclined to barbecuing themselves. A cold tub lets guests enjoy an icy plunge. A Russian immigrant named Tony G. (he is adamant on not revealing his last name), opened the banya in 2005, after his son won $1 million in a reality show contest. The banya has since changed ownership, but has maintained its blend of spa treatments and traditional fare. Restaurant Volga unveils the vast world of Slavic foods to Texans and provides a taste of home for Eastern European immigrants. It’s also one of the few restaurants in the world that will let you dine in your bathrobe.
Know Before You Go
The banya is open every day except Monday.