Expat Living: Let’s Meet Up At The Local Putin Pub, or the Obama Grill

Really… I’m not making this up!

…but I could have!

Having lived in the former Soviet Union so long, I naturally gravitate toward light-hearted looks at political life. Similarly I readily related to a post on the same subject from Yomadic (linked below) and I think you will too!

Yomadic’s Nate Robert (self-described “dilettante photojournalist writing about long-term travel”) perfectly captures the “tongue-in-cheek” attitude of some current (I was going to say ‘modern,’ but let’s just go with current) republics of the former Soviet Union.

I love how he colors the mood so well. My curiosity is always “how things work”- how people in other cultures deal with change, pressures, and the general getting on with life amid so much upheaval. Yomadic gets it just right! In Bishkek, apparently they play both sides, just in case.

(Nate has another post that you really should read, called “I Was Held Captive for Eighty Hours at the Armenian Border – It Wasn’t So Bad. I was immediately transported back in time, to the hours driving that same M-1 (in the same condition) from the border of Georgia to Yerevan… the only difference being that we actually did get to Yerevan.)

It all captures the spirit of the time in a way that reminds me of a joke I heard in Baku:

“What’s the only thing that can make Communism look appealing these days?”

“…American politics.”   ( bah dum bum)

Since America held its national mid-term elections (meaning not a presidential election) this week, we have recently been hammered by much of the worst in politics that did indeed make other systems look appealing (at least for about 5 minutes).

In light of all the hand-wringing here about whether we will ever re-gain our advantage over Vladimir Putin in Russia, or whether President Barack Obama will ever have a legacy of “hope and change” as pledged, I want to share an excerpt of Nate Robert’s fun take on how others view these two politicians. We could learn a lot from these folks in Bishkek!

Poster of Vladimir Putin as a bar promotion for free beer- in Russian

From Yomadic “Putin Pub, Bishkek Bar


“Formerly part of the Soviet empire, home of the plague, dead-goat-carcass-polo, and possibly cannabis, the ‘burbs of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, is now home to Putin Pub – a very Vlad’ themed bar. It’s a bit like Cheers – a place where everyone knows your name. Russian secret service monitoring may have something to do with that, I’m really not sure, nor am I too inclined to investigate, the FSB really doesn’t mess about. In any case, after 821 days on the road, as I’m here in the unknown capital city of an unknown central Asian nation, I had to see Putin Pub for myself.

Obama Grill in Bishkek Kyrgyzstan interior photo

Obama Grill… How appropriate for these times!

So, I left my cell phone and identification papers back at the hotel, donned a fake mustache, filed away my fingerprints, and headed out for a cash-only night at Putin Pub. I figured that any hangovers could be cured by a visit to nearby Obama Bar and Grill, for a greasy American breakfast.

Please keep in mind, I’m not making any of this up.

Kyrgyzstan is a country full of love for Putin. Recently, a poll revealed that 90 percent of Kyrgyz locals expressed either a “great deal” or a “fair amount” of confidence in the democratically elected Russian president.

For geopolitical rival Obama, the result was only 26%.

Fortunately, a result not low enough to prevent Obama Bar and Grill from doing a roaring trade in Bishkek, fanning the flames of a new cold-war… of alcohol and spicy Buffalo wings. 

In 2012, the Kyrgyzstan president, speaking of the “special love” his people have for the Russian leader, sponsored a bill to name a mountain after Putin. It’s right next to Mount Boris Yeltsin. On a personal note, typing this paragraph is actually hurting my brain.” …

[Read the rest of this post (and see more of Nate’s pub photos):  Yomadic.com “Putin Pub, Obama Bar”- Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan]

I share all this with you because these were fun posts and videos. I thought you would enjoy them, but also it fascinates me to see how the rest of the world either admires or mocks leaders who (as we here in the USA have seen a bit too intensely of late) take themselves all too seriously.

Would you try one of these restaurants out if you were in Bishkek, or someplace similar?

I would try the Putin Pub for sure, but the Obama Grill looked too much like a regular imitation restaurant. I mean, if I wanted imitation American food, I’d cook it myself. (Although I did on occasion order “pizza” from the Baku Pizza Hat (yes, Hat) when I was at work.)

What’s your favorite type restaurant to look for when travelling? Do themes like these attract you?

My daughter and I had a fun time at an “English-version-of-Tex-Mex” place near the Millennium Bailey’s Hotel in (Kensington) London (keep in mind I was coming from Baku so my expectations were adjusted accordingly!)- it was friendly enough, and right-down-the-block close enough to go there on back to back nights when I was too tired to negotiate London traffic for a meal. Alas, it seems to be closed now.

Another themed restaurant was the Texas Embassy in London…  (it was a favorite in the good years, but such a loss, it’s also closed.)

I wonder how long the Putin Pub and Obama Grill will be able to stay open? The video above seems to indicate the Putin Pub’s days are numbered. What happens when Obama is no longer president? Term limits in America will force a change for 2016, but with Putin, who knows what laws will change to allow him to continue yet again!

It would be interesting to see which political leader around the world has been honored with the most namesake bars, pubs and restaurants- got any favorites?

Share your stories and let’s keep the light humor humming. I hope you enjoyed this alternative to the near constant drone of US.S. political press this month! I know I have, thanks Nate and Ukraine Today!





2 thoughts on “Expat Living: Let’s Meet Up At The Local Putin Pub, or the Obama Grill

  1. I might try the Obama Grill. Sometimes if I’m in a foreign country where I don’t especially like the food, I just want something that I can identify. And at the Obama grill I would expect to find it.
    I found that what I really missed when I moved to London from the US was Mexican food. As you mentioned, there were a couple of Tex Mex places but good Mexican food was (and still is) a rare treat.


    • Interesting, I agree about being able to recognize something familiar. What is it about Mexican, or Tex-Mex, dishes that makes it so comforting? 😉

      Totally agree that finding something your body recognizes is often the key to being relaxed and ready to explore in new places. I know that often when I came from a long stint in Azerbaijan, first thing was to have a meal of a known restaurant or market to get myself back on an even keel. After a day of rest and familiar food, I was ready to be adventurous again. I don’t know quite why that was important.

      I recall that whenever I went to London, I liked to stay at the Millennium Bailey’s hotel because the Tube stop was across the street and a small market was nearby- I always stopped in for a pint of fresh milk before having a good night’s sleep.

      Funny the comfort routines we have when we travel… Thanks for weighing in with your “vote” – I’m sure Mr. Obama appreciates your support!


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