In general, expats who decide to live in a little-known Central Asian country aren't the kind of people who compulsively google everything. They don't look for answers on western internet. Instead they head to the streets. They take bold forays into the local language and culture, and pull from the vast store of information sourced from their local friends. They are not afraid to duck inside random cafes and make the best of it. They are content with not knowing and with figuring things out as they go.
But you know, I'm not one of those people. I am a I-gotta-know-what-I'm-getting-myself-into kind of person. Whenever I'm sick you know I'm all over WebMD. If someone suggests a movie I look it up on IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes before adding it to my list. I use the internet to solve a lot of my day-to-day problems; recent Google searches include "How long should chicken thighs bake", "is mahi mahi really dolphin", and "how to manually flush a toilet." (Friends, my life, you have no idea how exciting it is.)
So when I was trying to find a new place to eat this past week, I quickly exhausted the English resources available on the interwebs and instead decided to step out in faith. And trial-and-error has been a fabulous way to find the good food in this city, but for those who, like me, prefer something a little more premeditated, I've prepared a small guide of good restaurants in Karaganda based on my own experiences. As damdi bolsyn!
So for all you Googlers out there . . .
Uighyr food and some central Asian offerings, as well. Flakey, melt-in-your-mouth samsa! The menu has pictures, which is always appreciated, but you can't go wrong with any of the lagman. Off Bukhar Zhirou, bus stop Shestnasti. (Near to the other Uighyr restaurant, which is also tasty, but Arzu has free wifi and nicer decor.)
Korean food. It's not on the menu, but they have dog if you ask for it. (I don't know how to do this, but if you speak the language or go with a local, you can make this happen.) I have only had the dog (which was great!), so I can't speak for the rest of the food, but the place is immaculately clean. It's not on the bus route (maybe it's on Street Ermekova?) so you'll have to go by taxi.
Americanized Chinese food. English menu available. Don't get the crispy chicken, it's mostly bones. Everything else is great, though. Tempora cauliflower is outta sight. On Gogol Street (Yogo-Vostock side), across from the German Orthodox church and next Infiniti night club.
A small cafe nestled in Stepnoi 3, this was a favorite. Georgian food! You simply cannot go wrong with Georgian food. Cheesy bread. Enough said. They didn't have an English menu, so we just pointed at random things and were never disappointed. Cheaper and more delicious than the Georgian place on Nurken Abdirova. Within walking distance of the Korzina bus stop.
Italian fare, altered slightly for a Russian palate. (Case in point, there is dill on the Margharita pizza.) English menu available. The horse meat pizza is great. The price is in the middle, not so cheap but not extra expensive. The place has a classy vibe. I always went to the one on the second floor of Korzina in Yugo-Vostock, but there is another location on Alikhanova in Centre.
German food and beer. The menu is in both English and Russian. The decor of this place is incredible. It's like eating inside the basement of a castle. Prices are on the high side (we were conservative but it cost ~3000/person) but the food is excellent. The sausage dishes are only sausage, so, get a side. On the corner of Bulvar Mira and Bukhar Zhirou.
For sushi this place is affordable, clean, and pretty chic. It reminded me a lot of my second favorite sushi place back home. We got a sampler tray and it was plenty for six of us. (They also have this berry tea that is RAD.) The cafe atmosphere makes it a good place for hanging out for an extended period of time, and there's a semi-open kitchen. On Bulvar Mira, close to Stanislovski Theater.
I've never had food here, but their desserts are lovely and their drinks are great! This is my favorite place to go warm up in the dead of winter, especially with their pirate punch. And the decor is adorable, it has such a cozy feel inside. Bright orange on the outside. Menu in both English and Russian. Halfway down Nurken Abdirova, bus stop 1000 Melochey.
If you're needing a little slice of America, this place feels like a typical western coffee shop. Lots of foreigners hang out here, and the staff usually do what they can to overcome the language barrier. And coffee is a bit cheaper and more delicious than Intercoffee, I think. On Bulvar Mira near the Galleria mall, Dietctolovaya bus stop.
These recommendations are based on my own limited experiences living in Karaganda, Kazakhstan for the 2013-2014 academic year. Corrections or other recommendations welcome!