Riga, the enchanting capital of Latvia, is a city I recently had the pleasure of exploring. It is not only known for its picturesque Old Town and rich history but also for its diverse and thriving culinary scene. As an Estonian blogger, I fell in love with the unique flavors and inviting atmospheres of the restaurants I visited. In this article, I share my personal experiences at eight must-try restaurants in Riga, along with my honest opinions and a touch of constructive criticism to help fellow food enthusiasts decide where to dine during their visit.
- 3 Chef’s Restaurant – A True Culinary Delight
I was instantly charmed by the open-plan kitchen at 3 Chef’s Restaurant (3 Pavāru Restorāns). The passion and dedication of the founding chefs, Mārtiņš Sirmais and Ēriks Dreibants, and Executive Chef Pāvels Skopa, were evident in their commitment to working closely with local farmers and providing top-notch service.
My experience: The nearly 5-star rating of this restaurant is well-deserved. Its delightful atmosphere, whether dining indoors or outdoors, left a lasting impression on me. Although the starters could use some improvement, the main courses were simply divine. The wine list could benefit from more expertise, but overall, I can’t wait to return.
- Stage 22 – Elevated Baltic Cuisine with a View
The breathtaking view from the top floor of the Grand Kempinski Hotel was just the beginning of my unforgettable experience at Stage 22. This restaurant offered a sophisticated twist on Baltic cuisine, made from locally sourced, seasonal ingredients.
My visit: I was truly impressed by the interesting and rare drinks on offer, along with the luxurious interior and rooftop terrace. However, I noticed room for improvement in the cocktail presentation and glassware, as well as the attentiveness of the service. Despite these minor issues, I would consider visiting again in the future.
- Entresol – A French Affair in Riga
Upon entering Entresol, I was instantly transported to France, the birthplace of fine dining. Expert chef Raimonds Zommers successfully balanced classical style with the latest trends in his culinary creations.
My time there: The innovative dishes and cozy atmosphere made for a memorable experience. However, the music selection did not quite match the restaurant’s vibe and could use an update. With a more fitting playlist, Entresol would undoubtedly deserve five stars.
- Kaļķu Vārti – A Modern Taste of Latvia
I was drawn to Kaļķu Vārti by its rich history and reputation as one of Riga’s best restaurants. Chef Inga Cīrule’s seasonal menu showcased the best of Latvia’s countryside, forests, and waters in a modern and innovative way.
My thoughts: I had a great time at Kaļķu Vārti, thanks to its lively atmosphere and central location. The drinks were reasonably priced, and the staff was friendly and accommodating. I would highly recommend this spot for a fun night out with friends.
- Chef’s Corner – A Trendy Spot for Steak Lovers
The trendy and gilded Chef’s Corner, led by chef Reinis Strazdins, offered a wide range of creative appetizers and a tempting selection of steaks. The inventive vegetarian and seafood dishes also added to the restaurant’s appeal.
My take: The food was generally delicious, although I found the prices to be slightly high. I also wasn’t a fan of the truffle-heavy menu or the unclear pricing for the steaks. Despite these minor drawbacks,
I enjoyed my visit and would consider returning for a special occasion.
- Bibliotēka No. 1 – A Haven for Bookworms and Foodies
Nestled in the heart of Riga’s Old Town, Bibliotēka No. 1 is a cozy restaurant that marries literature and fine dining. Chef Maris Astičs’ menu showcases seasonal and locally sourced ingredients, paying homage to traditional Latvian cuisine with a modern twist.
My experience: The warm ambiance and literary theme made for a charming visit. The dishes were beautifully presented and full of flavor, although the portion sizes were a bit small for the price. A more extensive dessert menu would also be a welcome addition. Overall, I would recommend Bibliotēka No. 1 for a romantic dinner or a relaxing evening with friends.
- Locale – A Taste of Italy in Riga
I was pleasantly surprised by Locale’s authentic Italian menu and warm, inviting atmosphere. Led by Chef Riccardo Melfi, the restaurant offers a variety of classic Italian dishes, including homemade pasta and wood-fired pizzas.
My thoughts: The quality of the ingredients and the skill of the chef shone through in the dishes I tried. However, the service was a bit slow, and the outdoor seating area could use more comfortable chairs. I would still recommend Locale for anyone craving a slice of Italy in Riga.
- Vincents – A Culinary Gem in the City
Vincents, an award-winning restaurant led by Chef Mārtiņš Rītiņš, offers a seasonal menu inspired by global flavors and local ingredients. The stylish interiors and impeccable service make it a go-to spot for special occasions and fine dining experiences.
My opinion: I was truly impressed by the creativity and presentation of the dishes at Vincents. The only drawback was the limited vegetarian options on the menu. However, the attentive staff was able to accommodate my dietary preferences with a customized dish. Despite the high price point, Vincents is a must-visit for a truly unforgettable dining experience.
9. The Dining Experience at Max Cekot Kitchen: A Nordic Culinary Adventure
Max Cekot Kitchen stands out in Riga as an unrivaled destination for those seeking high-end Nordic cuisine. This exceptional restaurant is dedicated to showcasing the finest Latvian flavors and food traditions, elevating them to an art form.
Upon entering Max Cekot Kitchen, I was immediately impressed by the stunning interior and the fantastic choice of music, which I consider to be one of the best I’ve encountered in a high-end restaurant. The attentive and personalized service added to the overall experience. The chef took the time to explain each dish, allowing me to ask questions or even take a peek at the open kitchen to witness the culinary magic happening behind the scenes.
However, there was one aspect of Max Cekot Kitchen that I believe could be improved: the wine offerings. The caliber of the food demands a more interesting selection of wines to complement it. I expected natural and biodynamic wines, given the restaurant’s focus on all-natural ingredients. Unfortunately, the wine pairings were somewhat weak, with local craft beer being the most intriguing option. The remaining wine choices were average at best, more suitable for a typical old town restaurant than a high-end establishment like Max Cekot Kitchen.
What surprised me was the absence of a wine list, and according to the staff, there are no plans to introduce one. While I understand that Max Cekot Kitchen is a new establishment and may not need a 300-page wine list, offering 10-15 selections, an alternative natural wine pairing for wine enthusiasts, or a corkage fee could be a great solution. This would undoubtedly attract Riga’s wine lovers, as no other restaurant in the city can currently compete with this chef’s culinary expertise.
Despite the wine situation, Max Cekot Kitchen remains an extraordinary dining experience in Riga, thanks to its innovative approach to Nordic cuisine and the impeccable execution of its concept in every other aspect.
10. Discovering Nordic Flavors at Barents Restaurant
Barents Restaurant takes pride in its Northern roots, welcoming each guest to savor the rich flavors of the Nordic region. The restaurant sources the freshest, highest-quality local produce, featuring delectable cold-water seafood and seasonal ingredients from small-scale farmers and independent fishermen.
Upon visiting Barents, I was impressed by their dedication to freshness, evident in the lobsters, langoustines, sea urchins, oysters, and other marine delicacies on offer. Under the guidance of Head Chef Ivans Šmigarevs and Creative Chef Dzintars Kristovskis, Barents’ internationally acclaimed kitchen team skillfully crafts dishes that excite all five senses, highlighting the pure flavors of each ingredient.
I had the pleasure of celebrating a friend’s birthday at Barents, and the intimate, cozy atmosphere was perfect for the occasion. With just 3-4 tables and a bar, the limited space actually added to the overall experience. I was particularly impressed by the quality of their oysters, which I consider to be the best in town. The wine selection was equally outstanding, perfectly complementing the menu.
The staff at Barents truly set the restaurant apart. They were well-educated, respectful, and knowledgeable, providing thoughtful recommendations and thorough explanations of the menu items. Barents Restaurant is a must-visit for anyone seeking a memorable dining experience that showcases the unique flavors of the Nordic region.
My culinary adventure in Riga was nothing short of incredible. These eight must-try restaurants each offer their unique flavors and atmospheres, giving you a taste of the city’s diverse culinary scene. While there’s always room for improvement, I believe these establishments have earned their place on my list. I can’t wait to return to Riga and discover even more culinary gems!
Here are some answers for the most common questions about Riga restoraunts. I hope it might help you.
Q: What are the must-try traditional Latvian dishes in Riga?
A: When in Riga, you should definitely try dishes like grey peas with bacon, cold beet soup, rye bread, and smoked fish. Don’t forget to taste Riga Black Balsam, a local herbal liqueur.
Q: Which street in Riga has the highest concentration of great restaurants?
A: The Old Town of Riga is known for its high concentration of fantastic restaurants. Streets like Jomas Street, Jauniela, and Kalku iela are popular for their diverse dining options.
Q: Which restaurant in Riga is known for its innovative take on Latvian cuisine?
A: Kaļķu Vārti is one of the best restaurants in Riga known for its innovative approach to modern Latvian cuisine, incorporating local and seasonal ingredients into their dishes.
Q: Is dining out in Riga generally affordable?
A: Dining out in Riga can be quite affordable compared to other European cities. However, prices can vary depending on the restaurant, with some upscale establishments having higher price points.
Q: What is the tipping culture like in Riga’s restaurants?
A: Tipping is not mandatory in Riga, but it’s common to tip around 10% of the bill if you’re satisfied with the service at a restaurant.
Q: Can you recommend a restaurant in Riga with a great view?
A: Stage 22, located on the top floor of the Grand Kempinski Hotel, offers a beautiful view of the Opera House and its park, along with a sophisticated take on Baltic cuisine.
Q: How does the dining scene in Riga compare to that of Tallinn?
A: Both Riga and Tallinn have thriving dining scenes, with each city offering a mix of traditional and modern cuisines. Riga tends to have a more diverse selection of restaurants, while Tallinn is known for its well-preserved medieval charm.
Q: Are there any food-related events or festivals in Riga worth checking out?
A: Riga hosts a variety of food-related events and festivals throughout the year, such as Riga Restaurant Week, Riga Wine & Champagne, and Riga Street Food Festival. These events are a great way to explore the local food scene and try new dishes.
Riga offers a delightful gastronomic experience that embraces both its Baltic heritage and contemporary culinary trends. The restaurants I’ve explored in this article provide a glimpse into the city’s diverse dining scene, showcasing everything from traditional Latvian dishes to inventive international cuisine. I hope my recommendations have inspired you to embark on your own culinary adventure in Riga, and I encourage you to explore beyond this list to uncover even more hidden gems in this captivating city. Don’t forget to check out the FAQ section for more insights into Riga’s food culture and best practices when dining out in this beautiful Baltic capital. Bon appétit!