Oleg Mironov hails from Sochi, a Russian city on the coast of the Black Sea. Though he initially studied to be a teacher, he gave it up after less than six months because it didn’t pay well enough. Oleg later opened a coastal restaurant where he worked in a managerial capacity. He knew the headaches involved in running a restaurant, and when he entered this country as a refugee 18 years ago, getting back into the service industry was the furthest thing from his mind.
Instead Oleg started working at Hewlett-Packard, the beginning of a series of jobs at different electronics companies. While working as a supervisor at Western Electronics, Oleg met his now-wife Svetlana (Lana for short), a woman from Belarus who had been an attorney before immigrating to the United States. After Oleg left that company, the two began dating. It was Lana who pushed the idea of opening a restaurant when Oleg was laid off from his last electronics job. Lana’s persistence was the seed that eventually grew into the Russian Bear Cafe, which opened in February of 2008 on Rivershore Lane in Eagle.
The Mironovs bought used equipment, found a contractor who would build them a counter inexpensively and did all of the paint and decorating themselves. A cousin of Oleg’s who works in design and photography in Moscow sent the pictures of Russian landmarks that adorn the cafe’s walls.
Oleg is quick to point out that Lana’s lack of a formal culinary background doesn’t mean that she can’t cook.
“We grew up at a time when, for girls, it was almost mandatory to learn how to cook,” Oleg explained. “Otherwise there was no chance for them to get married.”
Long before they got Russian Bear Cafe off the ground, Lana was bringing back empty trays from workplace potlucks and hosting dinner parties for the couple's close friends. At first the cafe’s menu consisted of coffee, Russian crepes and cabbage rolls, but it wasn’t long before people who had lived in or visited Russia began asking for their favorite dishes.
While Lana does most of the cooking based on her family’s recipes, Oleg is solely responsible for a few items—including his great-grandmother’s hot sauce recipe and a traditional beef stroganoff lacking mushrooms or egg noodles. Oleg takes great pride in his skills with meat, including a prime rib that's tender enough to eat with only a fork. Some customers even leave their phone numbers to be notified when it’s on the menu.
Oleg and Lana have added a concessions trailer to their enterprise, which can be found at various fairs and festivals in the spring and summer. The Mironovs have been married for five years, and have a son who will be six-years-old this month. Family is very important to them, and you can feel it when you’re at Russian Bear Cafe. They laugh and joke with customers, and love nothing more than to see people linger over their meals.
“We want people to feel like they’re at home,” said Oleg.
What has been your biggest culinary disaster?
Lana: A year ago, I made borscht and I put in something too much, and it was so bitter. It was bitterness that we never experienced before in our lives. We took the whole [thing] and threw it in the dumpster.
If you knew the world was ending tomorrow, what would you choose for your last meal?
Oleg: The best steaks I have ever made and a nice, big bottle of beer.
Lana: Ice cream.
What is your favorite food/restaurant scene in a movie?
Oleg: It’s not a movie, but I always love to see the restaurant scenes in The Sopranos. I want to be there with those guys, the way they eat. I can tell they love and enjoy food.