While wandering down Soviet Street, I noticed a little café tucked in between a convenience kiosk and what appeared to be a swanky, upscale restaurant. The name, Matrix Café, peaked my interest and I was a weary from a long walk around the downtown, so I asked what appeared to be a manager smoking outside if they served coffee. After dancing around the language barrier, I determined that they did indeed serve coffee and decided to take a chance on it.
The café is in the basement of the building, I assume directly under the swanky restaurant. The further down the steps, the hotter it got and I began to wonder if it was worth it. The main doorway to the café is at the bottom of the steps, next to a full sized movie poster of the original Matrix movie. Luckily I stayed at it, and my daring was rewarded.
Once inside, the air conditioning kicked in and the first thing I noticed was an espresso machine. I walked up to the bar and the bartender began speaking in Russian, but he understood “latte.” He offered me a seat at the bar or at a table. I chose the table, which was glass. The table is surrounded by couches that were quite comfortable. The décor of the café is patterned after the Matrix movies, with ersatz humans hooked up to the matrix, slip plate floors and intricately textured plaster walls. The matrix “code” is also visible through several view screens/windows.
The latte was excellent. It cost 9 hrivnias (about $1.75), which was less than the cup of sludge I got at the other café, but considerably more expensive than beer. Even imported beer only costs about 5hr per bottle (about a dollar). I normally drink Tuborg Gold, which goes for 4.50, while Stella Artois, the Italian beer, goes for about 5.50. While Ukraine is known for vodka, it appears that it is drunk only on social occasions, while beer is ubiquitous.
My students tell me that the Matrix Café is a very popular late-night spot for young people to go to after the clubs close. I am told that the food is excellent and I can tell you from personal experience that the service is top notch. The waitresses do not speak English, but there is a bi-lingual menu, so I have been able to get what I need (coffee!) without incident. There is even a call button on each table to get the waitress’ attention if you need her. Club music is playing over several speakers, although they sometimes turn it off if something is interesting on the TV. On Sunday morning, for instance, I watched “Pirates of the Caribbean” in Russian.
Mary (my colleague from Franklin Pierce College) and I have been there several times and it is now our café away from home. If you get to Luhansk, I recommend the Matrix Café without hesitation. It is located about 2 blocks from the corner of Soviet and Defense Streets, heading toward the Central Square. The Café is open 24 hours, but late night (early morning) will be filled with clubbers wanting to continue the party. The afternoons and early evenings were relatively quiet.