The maze of Riga’s tiny streets hides a never-ending trail of treasures for foodies. The food tour across Riga starts in one of the oldest European food markets based in former zeppelin hangars, and finishes in a cozy restaurant or bar on the Daugava river shore or in the old town. Traditional Latvian, Russian and Jewish dishes neighbor with delicacies from Italy or France, for those who know where to look. We explore Riga’s top ten restaurants and cafes.
As its name suggests, Riviera restaurant, located just outside Riga’s historic centre, specializes in Mediterranean cuisine. The venue’s philosophy revolves around high-class service, friendliness and a rich menu. Another notable part of its character is the cozy, cottage-like interior with soft colors and glass elements, created by designers from Dizaina Līnija, a respected Latvian design studio. On top of the light interior, Riviera also boasts a beautiful terrace sheltered beneath an Italian-style marquee. Though the menu offers a wide array of fresh snacks and salads, it also features original creations, such as the black cod cooked in Nobu style and served with almond sauce; or the catfish fillet baked with nuts and greens, bathed in a mushroom velouteé sauce.
The hip place to be in Riga, Koya boasts a stunning location on the Daugava River and an unmatched view on the marina. A modern interior, spacious rooms, large terrace and a light breeze blowing in from the river make it especially enjoyable during the summer months. Koya regularly hosts bands and DJs, offering a repertoire that ranges from jazz to house. The menu has international fare with a strong undertone of fusion: most dishes are composed with influence from cuisines and a great deal of sophistication. Staple dishes include mussels from France or Ireland, tuna steak and fried sweet potatoes with rosemary and garlic. Breakfast and brunch options are equally appetizing.
One of the pearls of Riga’s riverside restaurants, Fabrikas Restorans sits on the Daugava shore, opposite the old town. Situated in an old factory building, the venue is highly esteemed by locals and tourists alike. Its classy and romantic décor, occasional live piano music by maestro Uldis Stabulnieks and a no-rush atmosphere make it the perfect location for a relaxed dinner in a stunning setting. On Fabrikas’ menu, you will find a solid selection of international dishes, but French recipes inevitably take the lead with delicacies such as foie gras with artichokes and mushrooms, julienne with mushrooms or freshly sourced seafood. In addition to Fabrikas’ chic and raw interior décor, patrons can enjoy their meal on the summer terrace, which sits directly on the river.
Dorian Gray is an eccentric, bohemian gem in the heart of Riga. It’s not easy to find your way in (this small restaurant is tucked away in one of the labyrinthine streets of the old town) and it’s not easy to find your way out (there are doors hanging from its ceiling). The dishes in the short, to-the-point menu are ever changing and eclectic. Dorian Gray sets an intellectual and magical atmosphere in the vein of some of Europe’s most bohemian artistic cafés. It hosts film screenings on Sunday mornings, DJs and bands on weekends, and fashion shows in summer.
One of Riga’s classic dining spots, Charleston combines two spaces: a cozy tearoom furnished with mahogany touches; and a grand, bright yellow dining hall. Since 1999, it has been known for its classy, warm ambience, Riga’s finest service and high-quality ingredients. Charleston’s claim to fame is its Italian menu, reinvented by head chef Haralds MekÅ¡s, and recomposed using natural Latvian products. In addition to the bresaola served with fresh mozzarella and sweet strawberries, or the caramelized beet salad with cheese and sun-dried tomatoes, also on offer is Riga’s widest choice of BBQ dishes. Marinated from four to 14 hours over alder wood, and topped with several splashes of Charleston’s home-made sauces, these fish and meat delicacies are as succulent as they are delicate.
Brown Sugar, nestled in a conveniently central location near the Radisson Blu hotel, is a paradise for all locals and tourists with a sweet tooth. Its mouth-watering, exquisitely decorated tarts, cakes and pastries are prepared with the freshest products and traditional recipes. Brown Sugar’s sweet treats are best enjoyed over a cup of coffee or tea from the cafe’s carefully composed selection. Upstairs on the first floor, you will find Brown Sugar’s restaurant, Aquarius, decorated in a rich boutique style and serving various European dishes like prawns and calamari, risotto and carpaccio. Don’t miss out on their delicious éclairs and creamy soups.
This high-class Italian club and restaurant acts as an advocate for the dolce vita lifestyle in the best traditions of Italian cinematography. Live piano music at the end of the week, photographs of Fellini gazing at the patrons from the walls, and the elegant romantic interior promise a slow, tasteful dinner or lunch accompanied by a glass of good wine. The menu is bursting with luscious Italian delicacies such as the risotto with porcini mushrooms in a basket of parmigiano cheese, or the Fellini beef tenderloin with brie and pear in a bitter chocolate sauce. The wine list bears a Latvian excellence stamp, and waiters are experts in the art of choosing the right bottle.
Named after Luis Buñuel’s famous surrealist film Un Chien Andalou and housed in a former polygraph workshop, Andaluzijas Suns gives the impression of being a cozy continental wine and beer pub. It’s the perfect place to watch a football game over succulent burgers, Tex-Mex plates or Latvian-style chops. Keep in mind, however, that the generous servings make the dishes hard to finish. The friendly, English-speaking staff also offer a wide range of beers, shots and wines. In the summertime, this lively spot blooms with a terrace next to a fancy surrealist fountain in Berga.
Exquisite masterpieces of Latvian cuisine served in a refined, historical environment, are a staple at Benjamins, a fine-dining establishment located close to Latvia’s national university. The restaurant borrows its name from the previous inhabitants of the building, one of the wealthiest families in Latvia, and provides an impressive example of architectural renaissance. Here, dinner can be enjoyed under what the owners promise to be the only Venetian crystal chandelier in the Baltic States, or in one of the other dining halls decorated with detailed stucco, stunning mirrors and restored antiques. The menu presents classic Latvian cuisine with a gentle touch of creativity.
Uzbekistana is the perfect example of a proper Uzbek cuisine, dedicated to presenting Uzbek culture through a variety of honored traditions. Within walking distance from the city center, Uzbekistana is always filled with businessmen and local families. Its universal popularity is down to the food and ambience. Uzbekistana offers filling meals of meat, grilled vegetables, honey pastries or the king of eastern dishes, pilaf, prepared according to the strictest traditional Uzbek recipes and served in the middle of the table by the chef himself. The table settings, décor, prices and service are all great examples of eastern ambience and hospitality.