Wednesday, December 15, 2010


After more than a month of living on a diet, I am proud to say that I lost most of my dignity and finally ate at Hessburger. I should have photographed my meal, because I don’t think I’ll eat there again, and thus will not review it. But if you just have to have fast food while on a diet, it’s the place to go. The quarter-liter drinks and miniscule fish fries won’t make you too fat. Fish fries? Well, French fries, but because they don’t seem to change the oil too often, they taste like fish sticks. The burgers though—let’s just say I was surprised the patty filled even half the bun. They really make ‘em thin there. And due to my promise to myself and my family to never eat at McDonald’s again, I think that pretty much cuts fast food out of my life. Win.

But where in Tartu can you eat if you’re short on time, and don’t want to feast on industrial leftovers that aren’t good enough for even Mickey Dee’s? Let’s face it—most of the restaurants here are slow as escargot, unless you score a lunch special somewhere. Vilde has a pretty good one, at under three euros. Oops, that’s next month. Let me try again. Vilde has a pretty good one, at forty-five kroons. However, I’m talking about dinner.

In a rush one snowy night last week, I decided to give Ruunipizza a try, on Rüütli Street. The first thing you notice, apart from the fairly extensive menu, is the ceiling. Reminiscent of a frat boy’s bedroom ego, I’m fairly certain you could look down the blouse of that hot teenager sitting in the corner across the restaurant. It’s covered in mirrors. That’s not the current owner’s doing, however. This space used to be a bar called Rüütli Pubi. Pubi means pub, if you didn’t catch that.

Rüütli Pubi had its jaans where the kitchen is now located. Just if you’re interested in knowing that. Ruunipizza built an external jaan that juts into the dining area. Made of cheap drywall and a lack of soundproofing material, I suppose I don’t need to complete this sentence.

I’d heard their food was good and cheap and fast. Rumor was right. It is cheap, and if you don’t mind cheap, then it is also good. And if you’re on a diet, then you won’t mind the portions being small either. Then again, for the price, gram for gram it’s still a bit less expensive than a more reputable establishment. Just a bit, mind you.

I ordered a crêpe with bacon, garlic and cheese. Mrs. Mingus ordered some other crêpe that had canned vegetables on it. That may sound overly harsh, right? The menu says, “Canned Vegetables”. Look toward the bottom of it. Her crêpe was nice and full, completely appetizing, in all honesty. Mine was flat as, well, flat as a pancake. I took a peek inside and it was mostly empty, compared to hers. The bacon was pre-sliced and cold as a bone. Some of it didn’t even make it into the crêpe. I sent my plate back.

Krista, the cashier (maybe also the food assembler?), never apologized, but she took it back with a smile and a moment later re-served me, again with a smile. Now my crêpe was appetizingly stuffed as well. And it’s not bad. Not at all. At least when it’s warm. I am curious though as to what kind of cheese was in it. The menu lists Saare cheese, presumably from that big western island resort place owned by Finns (like Hessburger), but I suspect the all-popular atleet juust, or “athlete’s cheese”, one of the most unfortunate food names I’ve ever heard.

Then suddenly a young man burst into the restaurant, with half-centimeter long hair, an argyle sweater vest, piercing eyes, a crooked smirk on his face that never left and a laptop bag. He loudly asked Krista from the door, “Do you have a plug for a Macintosh?” The brand name was heavily emphasized. He was proud. Krista pointed to the wall under the table next to me. That Macintosh plug was very similar to normal plugs, if not identical. He sat down and pulled out his prize machine, neglecting to plug it in. The back of the screen said, “Dell” in big letters, and there were tape stains surrounding it. I would wager he didn’t know his self-adhesed label was lost.

A moment later he started listening to rap at a few hundred decibels above what is considered polite in a public eatery. In addition to not plugging in the power cable, he didn’t plug in the earphones sitting between the laptop and the trackball mouse, which was plugged in. After a moment, I started to stare at him. He sensed it, and his smirk became smirkier. So finally I just leaned forward and ventured an “Excuse me,” which was met by his “Mis asja?” (“Huh?”) and disdainfully reluctant eye contact. I tapped the back of my fork against his earphones and firmly said, “Please.” He obeyed.

As we drove home (my diet was over, so no more walking), Mrs. Mingus remarked how our car didn’t handle the snow very well. I suggested that we sell it and buy a Mitsubishi. And then chisel off the make and stick on a Volvo symbol with wood glue. It’s true though, it’s very hard to drive on the streets of Karlova with the way the city ploughs the roads here. The city obviously hasn’t heard of snow-day parking, used widely throughout the snow cultures of the world. Park on one side of the road one day so the other side can be properly ploughed, and if your car is blocking the road, it gets towed.

That doesn’t happen though. It’s a practice that more than pays for itself in terms of ticket fines and tow-truck fees, but apparently tow-truck technology hasn’t been discovered here yet. Neither has shovel-out-your-backyard-and-park-there technology. On a more positive note, most of the sidewalks have been beautifully ploughed this year. Not shoveled, but ploughed. It’s just pure pleasure to walk in the neighborhoods and gaze at all the snow-covered trees in the parks, the asbestos roofs masked in white softness. An ATV with a small plough attached to the front drove by at more than a hundred, in a hurry to find the Rimi parking lot and get to work. Too fast for me to get a photo. I think he’s still looking for that parking lot, too. Selver’s not very far, and I should walk more anyhow, especially as it’s so pretty outside.


Pene said...

Where is the photo of all the pretty pottery taken?

Mingus said...

Ruunipizza. They sell pottery and pizza. Natural combination.

Protivnik Naroda said...

Hello Mr. Mingus:

I suggest you review BogaPott, also a cheap place to have a snack and outstandingly beautiful potery, located at the junction of Pikk Jalg and Lühike Jalg, in Old Town Tallinn.

Maria said...

Oh my gosh, that was very brave of you to have eaten that visually unappealing pancake ;o) Seeing that ham and cheese concoction was reminiscent of something I had attempted to eat in Tallinn but it was graced on top of a baked potato. It didnt taste bad but I could not get over how it looked like someone had regurgitated ham and cheese and then called it "the special"

p.s. nice to see you writing again ;O)

jakimiku said...

i ate at hesburger today. one cheeseburger at ridiculous price and it was, as you said, small as hell. didnt taste anything special for that amount of money too. think imma have to satisfy with teine koht/city burger. never been to ruunipizza tho, and i think i like my portions bigger than that :)

Marika said...

Ruunipizza is a good default option since, like you said, it's cheap, quick and right in the middle of everything. I usually get pizza there (topped with canned vegetables) and for me it's a satisfying size.