By Stan Gaivoronsky
Who is Sofia Melnikova?
Firstly, she was an actress and a muse, secondly, it is a Fantastic Douqan.
Everyone knows the story of Niko Pirosmani and actress Margarita. But that’s a different story.
On November 12th, 1917, the Poets Club, the original name of the Sofia Melnikova’s Fantastic Douqan, opened in Tbilisi. It quickly became a favorite hangout spot for Tiflis Bohemia.
Ilia Zdanevich, aka Iliazd – a Georgian-French writer and a theorist of the avant-garde, who frequented the club, fell in love with the young actress Sofia Melnikova. He decided to give her a great present and together with his avant-garde friends, artists, and poets, he made a book of illustrations by Goncharova, Larionov, Bazhbeuk-Melikov, and poems by Tizian Tabidze, Kruchenikh, and many others. The book was called “Sofia Melnikova’s Fantastic Douqan”. The latter means a Georgian national cafe with khinkali and dry wine.
He printed the book in 180 copies and almost overnight it became a masterpiece of Russian avant-garde. Soon after Ilyazd emigrated to France where he collaborated with Coco Chanel and Picasso and later married an African princess.
A few years ago a couple of enthusiasts revived this restaurant in the honor of Sofia and Ilia. The original cafe was on the opposite side of Rustaveli avenue. But who cares about a small detail like that? It’s a bohemian place tucked in the backyard of the museum of Georgian literature with a garden that hosts sculptures of Georgian and Russian writers and poets.
I often take my family to Sofia Melnikova’s Fantastic Douqan. Kids love french fries the most. The two things they can never get tired of eating and drinking are french fries and traditional Georgian lemonade made with tarragon – dragon grass.
I even thought of creating something like a ‘french fries rating’! So, French fries from Sofia are 5 out 5.
I may be biased, but I have a feeling the most child-friendly waiters in town are working in Sofia Melnikova. They always bring a blanket to a child if you sit on the veranda under the grapevine. They also pack all the meals that children want to take home. And they do all of this with great pleasure.
You can find about ten sculptures of writers in their yard and check your knowledge or teach your children about them.
Sofia Melnikova’s Fantastic Douqan is notorious for being hard to find. Not only it’s hard to locate on the map but it’s also hard to find the entrance to the restaurant. The name, however, is written on the door and the door opens in the opposite direction.
Sofia Melnikova’s Fantastic Douqan is known as a place that friends take you there.
But if you’re new in town – here’s the address: 22 Tabukashvili Str. Good luck finding it!