Where to Eat in Riga: The Best Restaurants and Beyond, Latvia

By Abi King | East Europe

Oct 28

Where to Eat in Riga, Latvia

Ah, where to eat in Riga. My eyes widen and my stomach sits up and pays attention every time I think of it. The cultural aspects of Riga and beyond fascinated me. But it was the food I fell in love with.

Traditional Latvian Cuisine

Now, typically, food in Latvia has not set the stars alight. Poets have not whispered verses into the heavens and foodies have not filled their suitcases with Latvian produce to haul past smugglers on the way home.

But what can I say?

Traditional Latvian cuisine involves fish, speck, beetroot soup and rye bread.

But while I expected hearty cabbage-based cauldrons of, hm, nothing very much, instead I uncovered a foodie extravaganza. 

So here's my suggestions for where to eat in Riga, including some of the best restaurants in town. 

 Go, travel, taste and enjoy!

Where to eat in Riga: The Best Restaurants

Food in Latvia- at Tam labam būs augt

1 – Drawing with food at Tam Labam Bus Augt

Sitting at the table at Tam labam būs augt was an exercise in creativity. As I sat chatting to my friend, the waiter reached over my shoulder and squirted passionfruit syrup all across my placemat. Then mango, a sprinkling of nuts, and some oil infused with herbs.

I was hooked. Now this was the way to nibble on bread while waiting for the meal to begin!

Lavender tinged cocktails in Riga Latvia via @insidetravellab

2  – Cocktails and  Canapes at Bar XIII

If cocktails could be called an art form (and let’s face it, why couldn’t they be?) then the black velvet hideaway box of Bar XIII would rival the National Gallery

. It’s a place whose owners have clearly fallen in love with their craft, preparing vanilla and lavender syrups by hand and serving canapes that would make many a restaurant blush. I opted for a “Lavanda Collins” with Beefeater gin, homemade lavender syrup and earl grey soda.

Pumpkins in the market in Riga in Latvia via @insidetravellab

Recommended reading: 27 Ways Food and Travel Go Together (Not just for “Foodies”)

3 – Pumpkins and Fish at Europe’s Largest Market

Riga Central Market (which translates to the delicious phrase Rīgas Centrāltirgus) lays claim to being Europe’s largest market. A stroll inside reveals plenty of insight as to what’s popular in these parts: fish. Fish, fish, fish, fish, fish and more fish. Small fish, large fish, smoked fish and vacuum-packed fish.

Yet, what kept catching my eye was the selection of bouncy, perky, orange pumpkins. Sliced and diced or hanging on a string, they were a cheery introduction to the tastes of food in Latvia.

Food in Latvia: hanging pumpkins at the largest market in Europe via @insidetravellab

 

Great Foodie Experiences Beyond Riga

 

Check out the gourmet fish and chips on string and aristocratic soup I found out in the Latvian countryside…

And for more on Latvia, check out my latest piece on Lonely Planet. 

 

What do you know about the food in Latvia? What do you think looks best here?

Disclosure

My travel to Latvia came about as part of a collaboration between iAmbassador and Latvian Tourism Development Agency with the support of the European Union Regional Development Fund. As ever, as always, I keep the right to write what I like. Otherwise, it’s just no fun! And when you get the chance to sip lavender cocktails, it really ought to be fun :-)

Food in Latvia from @insidetravellab
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About the Author

Hi, I'm Abi, a doctor turned writer who's worked with Lonely Planet, the BBC, UNESCO and more. Let's travel more and think more.

  • Having lived in Latvia for 5 years now, I have to say that this article completely bamboozled me. :) Firstly because you seem so elated with the food here in Latvia, and secondly because you seem to base this positive conclusion on having an artsy experience at one restaurant, a good drink at a super expensive bar (by Latvian standards) and finding good stuff at the market. Based on this blog post, one might get the impression that Latvia is a fantastic destination for foodies.

    However, as I’ve been documenting for years on my website, http://www.foodinriga.com, having a great food experience in Riga is an exception, not the rule. Sadly, the rule is that many restaurants are real disappointments, and that goes for both cheap restaurants and some of the most well-known and expensive places. Latvians tend to disagree, while many foreign visitors and residents share this view. Wikipedia describes the Latvian cuisine as being “quite fatty, and uses few spices.” If you’d want to translate this into “it’s greasy and tasteless”, you’d be quite right. This also goes for foreign food here, which is for the most part really bland and anonymous.

    Also, you don’t have to go to restaurants to find subpar standards. Most grocery stores and super markets have second rate vegetables, which are often soft and squishy, and it’s not uncommon to see mouldy vegetables lying around in the greens section.

    After 5 years here, I do have to say that I’m noticing a slight and slow improvement, but this country still has a very long way to go before I would recommend anyone to come here for the food.

    • Abi King says:

      Hello and welcome Michael! Not to worry, I think you underestimate the readers around here. They’re an intelligent and well read bunch – the title, post and linked to articles answer the questions you bring up and would settle even extreme cases of bamboozlement :-)

      I’d DEFINITELY recommend a 2-3 day trip to Latvia for foodies – IF you know where to look for the good stuff (which is what I’m trying to do here.) Would I recommend a 2-3 month sojourn for cooking lessons and writing a book? No, I wouldn’t, which is where we agree. Would I recommend five years worth of Latvian eating? Not at all – I’d send people to your site for that.

      Bon App!

  • Sarah says:

    I loved all the food I ate in Latvia! I’m quite picky and was worried I’d spend the week very hungry, but I ate a cheesy bpotato casserole and I still have dreams about it three years on.

    • Abi King says:

      So pleased to hear it! It was a surprise discovery for me too…Mmmm.

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