Odessa is a city that absorbs. It’s defined by diverse influences, by triumph and tragedy, and, because of its location on the Black Sea, by fantastic seafood. Odessans proudly wave the independent Ukrainian flag nowadays, but the Soviets, Germans, and Ottoman Empire have all occupied the city in its less than 250-year history. As such, Ukraine’s third largest city is an amalgamation of cultures and home to one of the most vibrant culinary scenes in Europe.
Odessa is the type of place you want to see for yourself. Be sure to watch Everything is Illuminated on the plane over, though the film — and the larger-than-life Jonathan Safron Foer book it’s based on — hardly does Odessa justice. Most importantly, though, show up to Odessa hungry. Here’s why the city is the culinary capital of Ukraine.