So, you’re at a reception for this or that, and amongst the shop-small-talk you spot a foodie who’s new to town and wants to know where to eat in central Riga. The conversation explodes and before you know it, you’ve promised to email her The List. You are busy and overwhelmed with end-of-year work, but since eating well is close to heart, you compile the list in your sleep that same evening, and write it up the following night. Here goes mine, for all to share, enjoy and add on!
Great food, reasonable price
AUSTRA Barona 41/43, FB*
Fresh, contemporary cuisine without being pretentious (you will not find a pea-shoot in every dish here). Go upstairs and check out the chef (Rūta) at work! Diverse and unusual brunch buffet on Saturdays and Sundays. Closed on Mondays, I think.
MAZA KANEPE, Skolas 28, FB
Fresh, unpretentious food, good veg options, perfect for lunch.
STOCK POT, Ģertrūdes 6, FB
A wonderful bistro with international and truly spicy menu. The owners are busy behind the counter (Linda!) and in the kitchen (Richard!), and seem to know all the regular customers. The queue during lunch-hours is usually out the door, so best time to go is before 11.30 or late afternoon. Takeaway. Not open on weekends
ISTABA Barona 31a, FB
Small, quirky balcony cafe above an equally cool art gallery and shop. Lovely food, great for lunch or drinks or dinner. Has two dramatic small separate rooms for secret meetings or romantic encounters.
Yakuza Elizabetes 10, www.yakuza.lv
Asian fusion, nice selection, good lunch offers in “bento” boxes. Takeaway. The only place in town I know that serves the special Japanese green tea with toasted rice.
FOOD BOX Andreja Pumpura x Antonijas, www.foodbox.lv FB
Best kebabs in Riga. The place is owned by the son of a former Turkish ambassador who is often in the kitchen. Very simple, cosy and authentic, free tea, takeaway. Cash only.
Up-scale and worth it
OSIRIS Barona x Lacplesa, right on the corner, FB
Has been around forever (20 yrs at least), one of the most famous and under-stated establishments among intellectuals, artists and the occasional politician/policy wonk. When I noticed a “closed for refurbishment” sign last summer, I almost had a heart attack. Luckily, when Osiris re-opened, nothing seemed to have changed – the same plain candle-sticks adorned the same green marble-top tables, old favorites on the menu. All is well in the world!
COD Tērbatas 45
This fine Japanese grill-restaurant is my discovery of the year. I’ve only visited once but am already looking for an excuse to return. Fresh, expertly prepared fish and seafood, great vegetarian options. So nice to have complimentary bowls of salty and spicy edamame greeting you with the drinks. I think this is the only place in town where they’ll grate fresh wasabi at your table. Elegant, understated minimalist interior, cozy downstairs bar. Very reasonable price for the quality of food and service.
Casa Nostra Elizabetes 10b, FB
Lovely Italian place, not cheap but not overpriced either like other Italian restaurants in Riga. Italians are both co-owners and work in the kitchen. Love their pizza.
ROCKET BEAN ROASTERY Miera iela 29/31, www.rocketbean.lv , FB
Well-designed and spacious coffee shop and roastery, innovative cuisine, stylish place to hang out in the hipsterish Miera ielas republika (Peace Street Republic) area. Get your V60 or Chemex pour-over here!
MR FOX Dzirnavu 34a, FB
Stylish place crammed with beautiful people and sometimes their dogs, rich vegetarian and gluten-free options, very healthy, take-away salads and sandwiches. Excellent breakfast spot (poached eggs, avocado toast, shakshuka, buckwheat waffles).
ARBOOZ Dzirnavu 34a, FB
A superfancy sweet shop, next to Mr Fox, owned by the same people. Their macarons are the best in town, and eclairs are to die for, if the prices don’t kill you first. Eclairs are on the menu on Fridays only, at about midday, and they are gone fast (pre-booking is advised). If you only try one thing, may I suggest the black currant eclair.
Best places for hi-end contemporary Latvian cuisine
FERMA, Valkas 7, FB
Modern, roomy and run by the young, talented chef Māris Astičs who also manages the next door Restaurant service school. Perfect for an important business lunch or dinner. Love the herb-encrusted fried herring!
VALTERA RESTORANS, Old Town, Miesnieku 8, FB
Named after the chef and owner Valters Zirdziņš, who plays with carefully sourced local ingredients. Truly great food, artfully presented, but not to the extent of serving you moss or a pine cone.
*FB means “look them up on Facebook for contacts and more info”