5 Great Places to eat in Riga
Many novice visitors to Riga wrongly assume that, owing to the lack of familiar western European institutions (McDonalds and KFC excluded), finding good food here is simply not possible. I hope the concise list that follows will dispel this, and instead demonstrate 5 great places to eat in Riga.
‘A Taste of Latvia’
For those seeking an authentic eastern European culinary experience, look no further than Lido, the restaurant chain that caters specifically for those seeking the warming comfort of Latvian and eastern European food. A real taste of Latvia. The food is hearty, as is typical of the cuisine in this corner of the world; it’s pretty carb and meat heavy, but the ‘serve yourself’ style means you can variate your choice to your hearts content. From блины, both savoury and sweet, to pleasantly familiar staples like солянка soup and even a variety of choices of компот to wash the bliny down, Lido is about as authentic an experience of Russian/eastern European cuisine you’ll find. Plus, they’re literally everywhere!
‘Looking Further East’
Should you be looking further east in your comestible desires, but still yearn for the meat and carb heavy menus of post-Soviet states, then Tbilisi Restaurant is the place for you. Located just off the main ‘Baronas Iela’ on ‘Gertrudes Iela’, Tbilisi offers the rich flavours of the delectable Georgian national cuisine, from the comfort of their cosy eatery (or from your couch, courtesy of Wolt, should you be that way inclined). Regardless, their succulent ‘Khinkali’ or wide choice of ‘Khachapuri’ (the Georgian take on pizza) will leave you craving more, and likely, a trip to the capital itself. Complimented by a serving of their delightfully saccharine Baklava, a meal at Tbilisi is a must for anyone visiting Riga.
‘Middle Eastern Munch’
Riga is also blessed with its own take on some eastern cuisine of a slightly more southern variant. That is to say, as much as I despise the expression, some ‘middle eastern munch’. For this, one needs to look no further than Hummus Restaurant (stylised as HuMMus), which sits on the edge of the old town, just off the Freedom Monument, and helpfully, directly opposite Cartel Bar. The menu isn’t extensive, but they offer supreme quality over vast quantity. Their range of hummus, falafel and salad options are ideal for the vegan and the falafel-loving-carnivore alike, especially given the meat-heavy focus of the Latvian national cuisine. Regardless of your dietary orientation, HuMMus is sure to serve up to expectations and will satiate that appetite without breaking the bank.
‘An appetite for the Autonomous’
If you like the idea of a eating without running the risk of racking up an eye-watering bill when the time comes to present your plastic, then Vapiano might be for you. It is likely the least ‘boutique’ suggestion on this list, but it serves its purpose as essentially a Baltic ‘Pizza Express’ (nod to my fellow Brits). What’s more, the process of ordering your food is novel; the founders evidently have an appetite for the autonomous as you order from McDonald’s-esque terminals, and your order is confirmed by a buzzing pager. The system may be strange to the uninitiated, but is ideal for those seeking a stress (human interaction) free dining experience. The food isn’t bad either. Where chains like Pizza Express in the UK inherently suffer from over subscription and therefore sacrifice quality time and time again, Vapiano unfailingly serves up fresh and tasty Italian cuisine at a more than reasonable price.
Do you find yourself craving the veritably Italian cuisine that you can only get in Rome, Florence, Pisa and Sicily? (Sorry Vapiano). Then my final suggestion might take your fancy; namely, RIONE pizza and cocktails, located on Barona Ielas just up the road from Liden and Denz’s Riga institute. Much like HuMMus, RIONE’s menu is concise, prioritising original pizza recipes over breadth of choice. Moreover, their beautifully wood-printed menus offer an inventively Italian concept: pizza and cocktail combinations – the idea being the delicate combination of the cocktail sets off the salinity of the pizza. Unquestionably, this works. Though, their offering of Messina beer, a further indication of Italian authenticity, is equally as complimentary. RIONE sits in a slightly higher price bracket than the likes of Vapiano or Lido, but its veracious devotion to Italian-ness warrants the extra few euros.
As always, the above is but a suggestion, and far from exhaustive. Nevertheless, should you be in Riga and in need of decent food, I recommend any of the above!
Patrick, currently studying at Liden and Denz, Riga.