WASHINGTON - With the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, there has hardly been a day that has gone by where Russia is not in the headlines.
But there is another Russia-Washington D.C. connection that has quite a different flavor from the investigations and innuendo.
While you might think the Russia investigation may have turned people away, the opposite has happened.
Mari Vanna DC in Dupont Circle said its tables are booked and business is actually up about 30 percent. Its staff is made up of chefs and servers from several Russian-speaking nations and they count Russian Embassy staffers among their regular customers.
The manager of the D.C. restaurant, Tatiana Misiuchenka, said it is now riding a wave of curiosity about Russian people and cuisine.
"People talk, but I think it's even better for us because people talk,” she said. “It's better that people talk than don't talk. What I can tell you is I see a lot of interest to our restaurant, to our culture than the other things. Now it’s better. It's nothing negative. It's a lot of interest.”
Mari vanna means "homemade" and as you make expect, beef stroganoff, borscht, caviar and vodka dominate the cuisine.
For Russians living in the United States right now, the D.C. restaurant has become a refuge as U.S.-Russian government relations may be at their lowest point since the Cold War.
In the restaurant, when there is political talk, it tends to not be about the differences the two governments have, but it is usually what the Russians and Americans have in common.
The staff at Mari Vanna D.C. said they are a restaurant first, but are hoping they can build the kind of bridges between the two countries with their food.
"I would love them to know that we are good people, kind people, that we have huge hospitality,” said Misiuchenka. “I’m trying to treat every guest like they are part of family. And we cook good."
Mari Vanna isn’t the only Russian restaurant in town. The owner of Russia House on Connecticut Avenue in Northwest D.C., which sustained some vandalism after the inauguration, told FOX 5 they are about to start a renovation project.
Mari Vanna is one of four restaurants around the globe. They have other locations in New York, Moscow and St. Petersburg.