There are many reasons to pile onto a plane for a meal in any of Riga’s restaurants. Yes, there are Latvian specialities to tempt foodies. And, there’s a whopping market to nibble your way around. There’s even a bountiful vegan selection for plant-based travellers. But the biggest reason? It has to be the quirky little cafes and restaurants doing things their way. Gone are the identikit, industrial chic, Instagram friendly joints we’re all so familiar with. In Riga, they’ll service your scooter while you watch through the window, sling dips directly onto your tablecloth or dress top-to-toe in national dress and bust out a tune on an accordion if you like. Marvellous.
Riga restaurants – and cafes, tread a different path than most. And Vespa Garazh is no exception. Pop in to hire a Vespa – or get your Vespa tuned and serviced, grab a more than decent coffee and/or sit down to a hearty brunch. Of course, there’s nothing to stop you doing all three. Or just swinging by for a slice of cake and a peer into the workshop while you plan your day in Riga. It’s easy enough to spot this quirky cafe on Valkas iela. There’s a row of shiny Vespas outside and the cafe walls are adorned with colourful motorcycle helmets and bike parts.
Orbzii tip: If you’re an early bird, Vespa Garazh might not be for you. They don’t open until 11am, but there’s always the option to nip in for lunch instead.
If the back to basics grease and engine oil vibes at Vespa Garazh leave you looking for something a little more sophisticated, La Kanna is for you. Though, we will warn you, they do list cottage cheese as a ‘breakfast classic’. Thankfully, it’s swiftly followed by bacon and omelettes. So there’s nothing to stop you joining them for brunch at the weekends. Mid–week, you’ll be looking down the barrel of their all day breakfast menu – but there’s not anything that comes close to a Full English – which is why you’ll love it. Pancakes, porridge and crepes are all easy winners. But the smashed avo on toast, with salmon, pickled onion and greens? That just has brunch written all over it. If the vegan version of that doesn’t woo you, we just have one final snippet that just might. They are also one of the best coffee shops in Riga.
How do you feel about having an ‘experience’ while you eat lunch? At Lido, the Riga experience comes in full costume, often accompanied by an accordion. Which can all be quite distracting while you’re browsing the buffet. Staff in national dress dole out the entertainment in Lido’s cafe-style eateries while you pick out your lunch of Latvian classics. Yes, it’s a schtick aimed at tourists, but the Lido brand is also hugely popular with locals. Meals are reasonably priced, there’s usually a play area for little ones and it’s all very convenient. Which, sometimes, is all you really want when you’ve been exploring the cobbles. Pop in, or grab a bite from their food trucks across Riga.
Riga Central Market
Bring a big appetite and some sturdy walking shoes to chomp your way around Europe’s largest marketplace. Five pavilions, 3,000 stalls and 70,000+ square metres of old Zeppelin hangars and historic buildings are quite the setting for your mid day meal. It’s not all food stalls and feasting at Riga Central Market, there’s a bounty of crafts, household items and flowers too. There is a food court, but it’s a little too touristy. Happily, the bulk of the action here is Latvian traders, selling Latvian wares to fellow Latvians. Some travel types would label it ‘immersive’. We’ll just say, browse, snack, browse some more and prepare to be joined the other 100,000 or so people that trot through the market every day.
Orbzii tip: If you prefer prodding exotic fruits after dark, there’s a night market – and an evening Farmer’s Market to scamper around too.
Bhajan Cafe Riga
This stylish little lunch spot sits behind the facade of one of the many, many, Art Nouveau buildings in Riga. And the inventive, all-vegan menu is worth investigating. The plates are just as chic as the architecture and the flavours really pop from the homemade recipes. Yes, there’s a plant-based burger up for grabs, but the Bhajan Cafe have much more to offer. On a chilly day in Riga, it’s hard to turn down their Cheeze chowder, and the all-plant Caesar strikes all the right notes in summer. Oh, and that burger we mentioned? You’ll be making an excuse to pop back for the Riga Christmas Markets, just so you can order another.
Orbzii tip: Got a sweet tooth? There’s some patisserie sorcery going on behind the scenes at Bhajan Cafe. Their Napolean Cake is a dairy-free miracle.
Ikos Olivia Restaurant
Fish restaurants in Riga really do make the most of their near coastal location. And none more so than the Ikos Olivia Restaurant. Their take on the region’s seafood? To mingle Mediterranean and Nordic flavours to make some spectacular dishes. The sea urchin with cloudberry gel combo is bound to get your inner foodie wondering whether to pair it with their king crab served in a blue cheese, fennel and sweet onion sauce. Intricate dishes packed with flavour and exquisite presentation are fabulous. But sometimes, you just want a few fresh oysters and some home baked bread. Naturally, Ikos Olivia Restaurant oblige. Refreshingly, they’ve also got vegetarians on their radar too. Even the most confirmed seafood lovers will find it hard to pass on the wild mushroom risotto here.
3 Pavaru Restorans
If they gave out Michelin stars in Riga, we’re certain 3 Pavaru Restorans would be in line for at least one. And, as with all Riga restaurants it seems, meals here can be a little bit… different. It has been known for chefs to appear and spoon sauces directly onto your pristine white (paper) table covering. This means of approaching a pre-appetiser snack is certainly novel. Thankfully, there’s bread on hand to help you mop up the dips. Drizzling of delicious temptation and carbs aside, everything else about the menu is pleasingly artful and delicate. Their seafood bouillabaisse is almost worth swerving the top fish restaurant in Riga for. And the only complaint about green and pleasant asparagus with wild garlic pesto is that, as a starter, you’ll want much, much more of it.