Ai Karamba: (B-3) Pulkveza Brieza 2, a 10 minute walk from the old city, by the International Trade Center; tel. 6733-4672. Open: 08-24. A very pleasant, nostalgic restaurant with the feel of a 1950s American diner: glass-bottled Heinz ketchup, the kind you have to pound at the bottom to pour, red bar stools and plastic placemats doubling as menus. Good omelettes and a range of real-beef burgers. Nice breakfasts. They recently opened a section on the second floor with a more industrial feel.
El Charlitos: (C-4) Blaumana 38/40, tel. 6777-0586. Open: 11-24; Fri., Sat. 11-01; Sun. 12-24. The widely celebrated Charlestonshas a lovely Tex-Mex wing, it's in a sturdy tent in their courtyard (for details see Charlestons under INTERNATIONAL.)Steiku Haoss: Audeju 2, tel. 67225699. Open: Mon-Fri 10-01, Sat-Sun 12-01. Meistaru 25, tel. 67222419. Open: Mon-Fri 11-01, Sat-Sun 12-01. Terbatas 41/43, tel. 67272707. Open: Mo, Tue, Wend 10-00, Thu, Fri 10-01, Sat 11-01, Sun 11-00
Steiku Haoss restaurants are designed in a western style letting the customers enjoy an unforgettable trip through the Wild West â€“ enjoy steaks prepared right in front of you, a glass of mellow wine or a refreshing cocktail, as well as an appetizing desert. When the horse is hitched up and you have enjoyed a good meal, it's time to stretch your legs to the rhythm of a line dance together with our waitresses and the best Latvian country music groups. If you want to blow away the cobwebs, enjoy your meal in fresh air on our summer terrace. www.steikuhaoss.lv
T.G.I. Friday's: (I-2) Kalku 6, tel. 6722-9070; TGIFridays@rostikrestaurants.lv. Open:12-01. Say what you will about American restaurant chains, but this one will fill the bill for diners looking for a hamburger fix in Europe. In addition to real beefâ€”not the shoe leather that often passes for beef in the Balticâ€”they offer American-style service, which means you'll be lavished with attention (too much, some argue) when you step in the door.
Aragats: (B-5) Miera 15, tel. 6737-3445. Open: 13-22; closed Mon. An Armenian restaurant with traditional food, including Armenian breads, cooked up fresh in-house. Friendly service, with management that will even sit down and chat.
Kert: (A-5) Hospitalu 21, entrance from Zirnu tel. 6736-2230. Open: 10-till last guest. Good Armenian food outside of the city center, across the street from a Statoil gas station on Valdemara. They have a standard interior restaurant inside, but it's the series of private wooden huts outside that distinguish this place. The huts can seat up to 10 people, but are just as good for two. Someone on their own would feel silly here. Live Russian-style techno at night.
Uratu: (B-3) Alberta 13; tel. 6703-9213. Open: 12-23. Of all the Caucasian restaurants in Riga, this one has arguably the best interior, set in the basement of one of Riga's most beautiful Jugendstil complexes; the neighborhood is virtually a museum of the architectural style which so dominates Riga. This spacious restaurant is perfect for a formal night out.
Hanoja: (B-6) Kr. Barona 93 (entrance from Tallinas), 10 minutes from the center; tel. 6727-2324. Open: 11-23. Reasonably priced. Delivers.
Sanghaija: (J-2) Grecinieku 26, tel. 6722-8462. Open: 12-22. Service here is this restaurant's strongest point. The ventilation could be better, which you discover when you walk home smelling like chow mein.
Soho: Lacplesa 41, tel. 6724-0250. Open: 12-23. Very good Japanese sushi and maki, as well as Chinese food. The chef reportedly cooked for the Chinese president when he was in Riga, so you know it can't be bad. Soho is hidden in a small office complex and it is not the classiest venue in town. But the food is arguably good enough to be a draw in its own right. Also delivers.
Nataraja: (H-3) Smilsu 17, tel. 6722-6662. Open: 11-23. A new Indian-owned and run restaurant. A long menu, representing foods from different regions of India. Pleasant atmosphere, in a vaulted pink-walled basement and lots of Hindu statues and artifacts; a little too brightly lit. All and all, delicious. (Live Indian music and dancing Fri./Sat. nights.)
Sue's Indian Raja: (I-3) Vecpilsetas 3, tel. 6722-1617. Open: 12-23. Raj Chaudhary, a former wing commander in the Indian air force, is responsible for this excellent Indian restaurant. Nestled in a quiet corner of Riga's gorgeous Hanseatic old city, this basement-level restaurant is a maze of hideaway rooms and cavernous halls, with several private dining areas tucked discreetly into cozy, candle-lit corners. Gentle crooning Indian music, the faint smell of incense and assorted artifacts from the subcontinent make the atmosphere just right. The food, cooked by chefs brought in straight from India, is showstopping: the extensive menu includes spicy Indian soups, garlic Naan, plus a whole variety of curry and fish entreÃ©s. The spicy Vindaloochicken is particularly good; for an appetizer, try the chicken tikka, a kebab-like meat cooked in a tandoor oven. For dessert, sample the wonderful KulfiIndian ice cream. Sue's Indian Raja also features attentive, friendly service.
Bellevue: (E-1) Slokas 1, across the river, in the excellent Maritim Park Hotel; tel. 6706-9000. Open: 18-23. A very good, high-end restaurant with spectacular views of Riga from its 11th floor perch. Some mark this down as one of the finest restaurants of them all in the Latvian capital. Try the Park Restaurant downstairs, too. www.maritim.lv
Charlestons: (C-4) Blaumana 38/40, tel. 6777-0573. Open: 12-24. An exceptional restaurant. Charlestons is classy and warm, with admirable attention to detail, down to the wrought-iron coat hangers. As you'd expect at a place named Charlestons, jazz and blues is the background music of choice. Food quality is very, very good. The pancakes with salmon and Caesar salad were great, and the carrot- and orange-cream soup show-stopping. Charlestons offers a delightful range of flavored coffee, espresso and cappuccino. They have a new Tex-Mex wing El Charlitos.
Columbine: (I-4) Aspazijas blv. 36/38, Located in the Hotel Metropole, tel. 6722-5411. Columbine serves fine European and Scandinavian cuisine and caps it off with an extensive wine list, though you may find what you like best is its location a few minutes from the National Opera. Expats rave about the wine list, especially the Burgundies. Good lunch specials, too.
Desiderata: Kalku 3a, Old Town Riga, located in the Royal Square Hotel & Suites, tel. 67214555, open daily 12 - 24:00. Latin, meaning â€žobjects of desire," Desiderata is also the name of the newest fine-dining venue in the Old Town. Original interior design â€“ the walls sport white painted branches behind glass cabinets, a part of the floor reveals a 16th century well and old city walls enclose a private VIP niche. The menu offers international cuisine including 70 meals and a good range of wines. Desiderata is a special place to mark a momentous occasion, or easily impress any client or guest.
Dome Steak House: (H-2) Smilsu 2, tel. 6732-0037. Open: 11:30-23. This restaurant, recently called Valby, has redone the interior with more pleasant, earthy colors; it now feels more Scandinavian than anything else. The Swedish cook adds to that perception, no doubt. This place offers some of the best-prepared steaks in town prepared by a Swedish chef.
Esplanade: (C-4) Elizabetes 55, tel. 6777-2222. Open: 06:30-10:30; 12-23; Sat., Sun. 07-11; 12-23. This is Reval Hotel Latvija's main restaurant, on the ground floor. This is a vast, breezy hotel restaurant that achieves a very high standard. All the big things are right (i.e. the food), as are all the small things (i.e. the fresh flowers on the tables, candle light). The menu includes fish to Mexican with a buffet option that's almost always available. They offer a reasonably priced menu for children tooâ€”a rarity in Riga. www.revalhotels.com
Fabrikas Restorans: (B-2) Balasta dambis 70, tel. 6787-3804. On the vanguard of the gentrification of Kipsala Island in the Daugava is this restaurant. Great views of Riga's old city. Block them with your car, though, and the staff will very diplomatically ask you to park elsewhere. Excellent service and food. Prices reasonable for Rigaâ€”which means higher than the other Baltic cities.
Hedonia 55: (C-4) Dzirnavu 55, not far from the Reval Hotel Latvija; tel. 6724-2855. Open: 12-24; Fri., Sat. 10-04. Hedoniatakes the novel approach of appearing to do everything humanly possible to keep you from ever getting through the door. One of their slogans is: 'Try to get in!' But this marketing ploy and effort at establishing an air of exclusivity belies this good-humor, service-friendly restaurant/club. The restaurant offers an array of food styles, often changing by the week; recently they featured Mexican dishes. The whole place transforms into a disco on weekendsâ€”sometimes spinning Latino music, sometimes jungle or house, sometimes plain old pop.
Juffin's 12: (H-2) Aldaru 10, tel. 6722-4271. Open: 11-23. A neat little cafÃ© on one of Old Riga's most quiet and beautiful streets. They do good value lunch specials like steak sandwiches for 2.50 Ls, and their international menu of meat, fish and pasta gets good reviews.
Hotel Bergs Restaurant: (C-4) Elizabetes 83/85, tel. 6777-0900. Open: 12-24. A classy restaurant in the breathtaking Hotel Bergs. The chef comes from the excellent Vincents restaurant, so the food and the atmosphere are a sure thing. www.hotelbergs.lv
Kalku varti: (H-3) Kalku 11a, tel. 721-2575. Open:12-24. A popular place with purposely dark windows that allow you to people watch undetected.
Kapteina Enriko Pulkstenis: (B-3) Antonijas 13, tel. 733-8973. Open: 11-24. That translates as Captain Enrico's Watch. Go here for excellent burritos (this is no awful Santa Maria-spiced fake joint) and good pasta. The music is often a little loud which always makes an older diner wonder if he's cool enough to be in a place. The Captain's is also known around town for its good business lunch. Recommended.
Kiploku Krogs:(H-2) Jekaba 3/5, tel. 6721-1451. Open: 11-23. A self-describedgarlic restaurant. Garlic in, on and around everything-including your breath for at least several days after eating here. But it's worth it, mostly.
Lidojosa Varde (The Flying Frog): (B-3) Elizabetes 31a, about a 10-minute walk from the old city; tel. 6732-1184. Open: 10-24. This is a place where you can look at frogs hanging from the walls and flying off the bar. This restaurant/bar shows good taste all around, including lovely Art Nouveau windows. Like so many other places in Riga, The Flying Frog gets the mix of colors, lighting and music just right. Much of the food on the menu is standard, but they do frog legsâ€”six dollars a shot, or leg, or whatever. For dessert, try the rye-bread cake with cranberry sauce.
Man-Tess: (I-3) Teatra 6; tel. 6721-6056. Open: 12-23. A very cozy restaurant with a select menu and high quality food. Fanciful interior; birds singing in surrounding cages.
Mauricius: (C-3) Alunana 2, tel. 6703-5773. Open: 10-24; Fri. 10-04; Sat., Sun.12-24. This is most definitely a theme restaurant, it's just not clear which theme. Could be a Mayan-temple theme or maybe an African-mud-hut theme; there is salsa music, South African jimbo drums hanging from the ceiling, chili-pepper lampshades and what could be Indian love carvings near the toiletsâ€”none of which settles the question. A waiter said it's an African place, which the international menu belies. Mauriciusis comfortable and has a respectable upmarket feel; prices aren't too exorbitant, either. Transforms into a nightclub on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Melnie Muki (Black Monks): (I-3) Jana 1, in a former medieval cloister in the old city; tel. 6721-5006. Open: 12-02. This old city restaurant feels more like a family's living roomâ€”in the very best sense of the word. There is a warmer, more intimate feel to the place than at many other Riga restaurants. If such things as lighting are important to you (and maybe they're not) the lighting here is exemplary: well-thought-out, indirect light supplemented by table candles. On a recent evening, the live acoustic guitar music added to the soothing ambiance. The menu seems a tad unfocused and/or eclectic, however you choose to see it: pumpkin and almond soup, Turkish kebabs and quail with fettuccine; for dessert, try the brownies or white-chocolate truffles.
Nostalgija: (H-3) Kalku 22, tel. 6722-2338. Open: 10-02; Thu.-Sat. 10-05. In an intentionally overdone, opulent style once in vogue in the U.S.S.R.; you can picture Lenin having a real ball in this kind of place. Pleasant and unique.
Osiris: (C-4) Barona 31, about a 10-minute walk from the old city; tel. 6724-3002. Open: 08-24; Sat., Sun. 10-24. How many ways can you say class? However you say it, this place has it. Everything from the food to the general atmosphere to the background music meets a very high standard. Osiris, which is a favorite hangout of artistically-inclined locals, isn't located in the flashiest-looking building in Riga. But the whole place breathes class, and the wonderfully eclectic menu makes Osirisperfect for any time of the day.
Otto Schwarz: (H-3) Kalku 28, on the top floor of the HoÂtel de Rome; tel. 6708-7623. Open: 07-23. On the 7th floor of theHotel de Rome, Otto Schwarz offers a seasonal menu using fresh, local ingredients. The background music, service, decor, not to mention the food, are very good. Note what are possibly the coolest salt and pepper shakers in the hemisphere. Otto Schwarz is expensive by regional standards, but it's worth it.
Palete: (I-3) Gleznotaju 12/14, tel. 6721-6037. Open: 12-24. The restaurant is shaped like a palette, with a small garden at the entrance. Cajun to lasagna; even ostrich from time to time.
Panorama: (D-2) in the Radisson Hotelacross the river, Kugu 24, tel. 6706-1281. Open: 07-23. A first-class restaurant with tall windows framing picture-perfect views of the old city.
Piramida: (F-4) Reimersa 1, facing the Esplanade park; tel. 6732-4433. Open: 07-23. Located inside the spectacularly goodPark Hotel Ridzene, this pyramid-shaped restaurant has caused a stir in Riga restaurateur circlesâ€”pegged by some as one of the best high-end restaurants around. A forewarning is that a full meal here is expensive: escaping with a bill under 50 dollars is a feat. To splurge on three or four guests, count on spending 150 or 200 dollars, easy. But the ambiance here is class, class, class: soft lighting, live piano music, and the waiters wearing black bow ties. The atmosphereâ€”particularly if you're an adherent of pyramid powerâ€”is hard to beat. The excellent menu includes great soups and salads, and the likes of pepper-backed salmon, carpaccio of deer, and elk with grape sauce. On weekdays they serve an excellent lunch buffet for about 12 lats, and Saturdays and Sundays they have a brunch for 9 lats.
RozengrÃ¢ls: (I-1) Rozena 1; tel. 6722-4748. Open: 12-24. Riga's first medieval restaurant has a fantastic atmosphere. The premises were used as a wine cellar back in 1293, and the candle-lit interior includes fragments of 13th century city fortifications. The food is also authentic, but very expensive.
Sarkans (Red): (B-4) Stabu 10, tel. 6727-2286. Open: 10-24; Fri. 12-04. Another trendy new bar/restaurant in Riga. Sarkanshas become a favorite of area professionals with more refined tastes. The downstairs bar is drenched in fashionable neon lights. The upstairs is a comfortable Ã la carte restaurant with a creative menu: yogurt marinated beef, Hot Bloody Mary soup, glazed trout and also a range of breakfast food. www.sarkans.lv
Seasons/Orangerie: (H-1) Pils 12, tel. 6704-4000. Orangerie is open 07-15; Seasons is open 19-23, Sun. closed. Fine restaurants in one of the Baltics' highest class hotels, the Grand Palace, which is considered a monument of good taste in the Baltics. At Orangerie, dine in a greenhouse-like atrium that even on the grayest of days in Latvia is flooded with natural light. Especially good for lunch, with reasonably priced specials. Dinner restaurant Seasons is consistent with Grand Palace's deserved reputation and offers a top international menu and refined service to match for dinner. www.schlossle-hotels.com
Steiku Haoss: (H-3) Meistaru 25, tel. 6722-2428. Open: 12-01. The Middle Ages meet Texas in this fun-filled steakhouse in a two-tiered medieval building. Wait-staff dons cowboy clothes, there are saddles on bar stools and animal skins on the walls. Mouth-watering smells smack you in the nostrils as you enter; steaks sizzle on a grill before your eyes. It's carnivore heaven!
Tower Scandinavian Restaurant: (H-2) Smilsu 7, old city; tel. 6721-6155. Open from 11 till last guest. An old-time favorite has gone in for a major image change, evolving from something of an English pub into a high-class, highly refined Scandinavian restaurant that, if it were picked up and dropped into the Swedish capital, would not seem out of place among better Stockholm establishments. Tower has retained its laid-back, welcoming feel: soft light, tasteful background music and enlarged windows that face the cobblestone street front. The diverse menu recently included tacos, pickled herring, snails, reindeer, chocolate parfait and Finnish blueberry pie. This place is a sure thing if ever there was one in Riga.
Vairak Saules (More Sun): (C-4) Dzirnavu 60, tel. 6728-2878. Open: 12-02; Fri., Sat. 12-04. This simple and casual restaurant/bar offers Italian-inspired dishes at reasonable prices. Well suited for families with kids. Also at Audeju 8, tel. 781-4960. Open:09-24.
Vincents: (B-3) Elizabetes 19, tel. 6733-2830. Open: 11-24. Vincents, as in Vincent van Gogh, has been a CITY PAPER favorite for many yearsâ€”but it only gets better and classier year after year. The interior was recently changed to give the place a lighter, more cutting-edge feel, but it remains eminently inviting. While there is no longer the dearth of fine restaurants there was when Vincents first opened right after Latvia regained independence, this place remains one of the standards for upscale restaurants in the whole of the Baltics. The service is spectacularly attentive and inventive; top opera singers are a fixture in the evening and break into song when least expected. The food is shockingly good and one has to search far and wide for other Baltic restaurants that can even come close. The likes of Prince Charles, Elton John, Montserrat CaballÃ© and B.B. King have all discovered this for themselves, having been among the clients. Vincentsuses organic products when possible and has a wonderfully eclectic menu that changes regularly. Over the years, they have served the likes of goat cheese and thyme soufflÃ©, avocado and shrimp salad, roasted rabbit and lamb in herb crust; but the menu changes frequently. All the dishes are artistically presented with a loving touch. Most dishes are refreshingly light and don't leave you feeling like you just ate a horse.
1739: (I-3) Skarnu iela 6, in the old city; tel. 6721-1398. Open: 12-23. Located in one of the quaintest buildings in Riga. This restaurant offers good Italian food..
Bella Italia: (I-3) Vagnera 16, old city; tel. 6722-3587. Open: 12-24. This new restaurant is just a stone's throw from the Italian embassy in Riga, which may (or may not) account for the fine Italian food. Bella Italia is split into two, with a pizzeria in one half of the building and a more formal restaurant in the other half. The atmosphere is good enough, if not anything to write home to Naples about. But it does have the mark of authenticity when it comes to the food, including pizzas that are done up in a wood-burning oven. Friendly staff, too.
Da Sergio: (B-5) Terbatas 65, a few minutes' walk away from the old city; tel. 6731-2777. Open: 11-23. Another of the ever- increasing Italian options in Riga. The atmosphere here is very warm and cozyâ€”very, well, Italian. The pizza and other Italian delicacies are very good; admirably, the bread is cooked up fresh in the restaurant.
Fellini: (D-4) Marijas 13, tel. 6728-4801. Open: 12-24. An excellent Italian restaurant in the posh Berga Bazars shopping area with, surprise surprise, a Federico Fellini/movie director theme. This light and breezy upscale Italian-owned restaurant, is decked out with directors' chairsâ€”with Fellini written on the backâ€”is very well-suited for formal occasions. Great food. Their pasta, made in-house, melts in your mouth like butter. Many ingredients are imported straight from Italy. They also have an excellent wine list and a vinotheque in the front. Impeccable service. Live Italian guitar music some nights.
Il Patio: (H-3) Kalku 6, old city; tel. 6722-0755. Open: 12-24. Another restaurant at Stacijas laukums 2, in the Origoshopping center, (D-4); tel.707-3907. This place is owned by the same people who do the excellent TGI Friday, so quality here is a given. Patio Pizza is in a charming cavernous basement, and there's a true Italian feel blended into the red-bricks of the vaulted cellar. The pizza's simply terrific, made in a real wood-burning oven as Italians meant it to be. There's also a menu of other traditional Italian dishes. Take-out, too. www.restorani.lv
Monterosso: (H-3) Valnu 9, in the old city; tel. 6722-2071. Open: 10-24. It's like something out of a Godfather movie and verges on gaudy. But Monterosso, by most accounts, serves some of the finest Italian food in Riga.
Pomodoro: (J-3) Vecpilsetas 8a, tel. 6721-1044. Open: 11-24. This spacious pizzeria/trattoria is located in a quaint medieval warehouse, with a good mix of medieval and new interior design. Pizza, pasta and other Italian specialties at very reasonable prices. Italian-owned.
Roma: (B-3) Pulkveza Brieza 6, tel. 6733-4170. Open: 11-22; Sun.11:30-21. An Italian restaurant, with the feel of a neighborhood establishment in, well, a Rome suburb. The Italian owner does most of the cooking, so how could you go wrong? Pizzas taste like the real thing and are pegged by some as the best in Riga. Friendly wait staff, too.
Talavera: (D-2) in the fine Radisson SAS Daugava Hotel across the river, Kugu 24, tel. 6706-1111. Open: 18-23; Sun., Mon. closed. Some of the finest Mediterranean food in Riga. They offer a wide selection of Italian dishes, plus a very good array of wines.
Tiramisu: (C-4) Gertrudes 32, tel. 6731-2218. Open: 08-23; Sat. 11-23; Sun. 12-24. This small restaurant feels very Italian and it offers a wide range of tasty Italian dishes, pizza and pastries all prepared by an Italian chef. There's also a good wine list. Run by the same group who does the good-quality Sir Pizza.
Un Momento: (C-5) Caka 58, tel. 6727-8870. Open: 09-22, Fri. 09-24, Sat.11-24, Sun.11-22. A casual Italian-owned pizzeria/trattoria; suited for breakfast and lunch. Good pizza and pasta. Everything is reasonably priced.
Kabuki: (C-5) Terbatas 46; entrance from Martas, tel. 6784-2728; open: 12-22:30; also at (D-4) Barona 14, entrance from Elizabetes; tel. 728-2052. Open:12-24. A place for sushi at a reasonable price. They also do fusion cookingâ€”like Italian sushi. Strange, but it works. Minimalist Japanese-style interior. Owned by the same people who do the excellent Sumo restaurant in the old city.
Sumo: (J-3) Kungu 8, in the old city tel. 6750-3244. Open: 12-24. Riga's first Japanese restaurant. In a fashionable, brightly-lit old town buildingâ€”with the feel more of New World Japan than Old. The food is very nice, and has tended to get the big thumbs up from most clientele. Sumo is certainly a welcome change of pace in the Latvian capital. If your heart's set on coming here, you should probably make a reservation in advance.
Planet Sushi: (H-2) Skunu 6. Open: 12-24. Sushi, what else? By the same people who do the excellent TGI Friday. This place has become the hottest sushi stop in town, hands down. They also serve Japanese whiskey and beer. Spacious, with big windows facing old town streets and pleasant indirect lighting; pictures of cherry trees on the walls and tasteful wooden separators; tables and also comfortable couches with pillows. Exemplary service by waitresses wearing kimonos. To top it all off, surprisingly affordable prices.
CafÃ© Lechaim: (C-4) Skolas 6, entrance from Dzirnavu, tel. 6728-0235. Open: 10-22, Sat. closed. A tiny, no-frills cafeteria in a corner basement of the main Jewish community center in Riga. The food is simple and completely unadorned, but it is one of the only public places for meticulously kosher food. On the menu: falafel, stuffed fish, whipped egg with matzoth,schnitzels, fish balls and more. The food, to boot, is extremely cheap by Riga standards.
Shalom: (B-5) A. Briana 10, about a five minute drive to the northeast of the old city; tel. 6736-4911. Open: 12-23. This is Riga's only Jewish restaurant, which recently moved from its more hectic location on Brivibas street. The newer version is more fashionable and distinctive, beginning with the blue neon stars of David in the street-front windows. Light blue is also the dominant color inside this cottage-sized restaurant, which faces a 19th century factory across the road; there's occasional live music. There are no kosher dishes on the otherwise varied menu, which does include a nice stuffed mushroom, carp fillet, red borch and eggplant, plus honey cake boiled in honey and a Jewish baklava for dessert.
Soraksans: (H-1) Miesnieku 12, in the old city; tel. 6722-9068. Open: 12-24. An extremely pleasant Korean restaurant with a bright-wood interior and charming oriental decorations. It's a comfortable place to unwind and enjoy authentic-tasting cuisine prepared by Korean chefs. Try the distinctly Korean specialties, like the fiery-hot Kimchi, cabbage heads seasoned with ginger, garlic and red pepper. As far as spices go, be sure to ask the multi-lingual waitresses what's hot and what's not. Unlike at other Asian restaurants in Riga, you can dine here without significantly lightening your wallet: no main course costs more than five dollars. On weekdays there's good self-service buffet until 17:00.
Alus Seta (Lido Group): (I-2) Tirgonu 6, just off Dome Square, in the old city; tel. 6722-2431. Open: 11-01. This homey, exquisitely designed Latvian beer hall now cooks Latvian dishes, ribs and shish kebabs on open grills, giving it an American-barbecue feelâ€”though far classier.
Dzirnavas (Lido Group): (C-4) Dzirnavu 76, tel. 6728-6204. Open: 08-23. A wonderfully vast kingdom of a restaurant, something between an old Latvia theme park and a Swedish smorgasbord. The food, mostly Latvian country specialties, is all pre-prepared and you go through a cafeteria-style line. The food is hardly high class, but that's obviously not the main point of this fun-loving place. It all feels like the inside of an old Latvian farmhouse; there's a stream running through the middle of the restaurant, and Latvian folk music um-pah-pahs in the background. The place is very popular and always bustling.
Lauku Pagrabs: (B-3) Antonijas 9, tel. 6733-4176. Open: 11-23. A sprawling basement restaurant that has a Latvian farm-house feel. Latvian specialties at reasonable prices.
Lido Recreation Center: Krasta 76, a 10-minute drive southeast of the old city; tel. 6750-4420. Open: 10-23. A cross between Disneyland and a Latvian country inn. Everything, from the cottage knick-knacks to the beams seem to be two or three times real scale, giving the place the feel of a roadside inn on steroids. Traditional Latvian food is served here cafeteria-style; you take a tray and wander around wanting to grab almost everything. There's a wide variety of pork, chicken, pancake dishes and desserts, including wonderful waffles smothered in honey. Outside the massive stone building is a park with huge glass displays with animated animals and toys, clearly targeting the kids. Also rides and assorted outdoor fairs and concerts in the summer, and skating rink in winter which in summer is used for in-line skating.
Salmu Krogs (Thatch Pub): (D-4) Dzirnavu 107, tel. 6728-5238. Open: 10-23; Sun. 11-22. Not so different from the Lido chain, Salmu Krogs offers the same fare at approximately the same price. They have restaurants at the Spice shopping center and a thatched restaurant on the way to the airport.
Staburags (Lido Group): (C-5) A. Caka 55, tel. 6729-9787. Open: 12-24. A popular labyrinth of a restaurant with a genuine Latvian feel. It is made to look like a village with rooms divided into little farmhouses. Waitresses in national dress. They do the food like it's done down on the farm.
Arbat: (H-3) Vagnera 3, tel. 6721-4056. Open: 12-24. This richly-decorated restaurant has an upscale, bojar house feel. A long menu of high-class Russian dishes.
Peterburgs: (C-4) Dzirnavu 31, tel. 6733-1465. Open: 12-23. An elaborately decorated upscale Russian restaurant. Live music on weekends.
Russkij Dvor: Kengaraga 3, off Maskavas street; tel. 6713-4930. Open: 10-23; Sun. 11-23. A Russian place with the feel of a theme park imagined by Walt Disney; it's actually a homegrown establishment, done by the same savvy entrepreneurs who do the similarly fun-filled Latvian-food restaurant Lido. All and all, Russkij Dvor is excellent, highly distinctive and probably a must visit for tourists. It's built as a vast, idealized version of a Russian village, with bright-red paintings of fairy-tale figures along the inside walls. The traditional Russian food, from blini to pancakes to pork and solyanka soup, is served cafeteria style, so, if you need to, you can get in and out fast. There's a playground for the kids and frequent live Russian music. Perfect for family outings.
Slavu: (C-4) Blaumana 9, a short walk east of the old city; tel. 6728-3974. Open: 12-23. Slavu seems to be shooting for a mid-range clientele, possibly locals and tourists looking for more affordable Russian food. The interior has just a hint of a Russian inn, with a few samovars scattered here and there, and a few wooden beams; the waiters and waitresses also wear something resembling a potato sack with a hole cut through the top. The menu has pretty much what you'd expect from a Russian restaurant: borsch, bliny, solyanka, etc. The food is good, though maybe not as good as it is at Traktieris.
Traktieris: (B-4) Antonijas 8, tel. 6733-2455, in a Jugendstil neighborhood. Open: 11-23. With its oak-paneled floors, samovars and carved wooden bears, Traktieris has the pleasant air of a Russian country inn, far from the tacky feel of most other so-called Russian restaurants in the Baltics. For background music, they play real Russian folk, not the cheap, tin-can techno preferred by many other Russian-run venues. The food here is well-priced by Riga standards, less than 15 dollars for a meal for two. They recently opened a buffet for faster lunch service. Food quality here is quite high; everything tastes home-made, from the borsch to an array of bliny. A favorite spot for Russian diplomats who walk from their embassy just around the corner.
Divi Lasi (Two Salmon): (I-2) Tirgonu 8, in the old city; tel. 6721-3470. Open: 11-01. A seafood joint with a self-service smorgasbord of fish dishes, plus salads and soups. This is not a high-class seafood restaurant; it's not meant to be. But Two Salmonserves its purpose: it gives fish lovers a place to go when their hands start to shake and they have to have it NOW!
Zivju Restorans: (H-3) R. Vagnera 4, in the old city; tel. 6721-6713. Open: 12-24. Riga's best seafood place; a favorite of local businessmen. It's one of the few places in the Baltics where you can get lobster plucked live out of glass tanks. Managers have worked hard in recent years on improving the interior and, in general, improving standards of the food and service.
El Primero: (H-2) Smilsu 6 (entrance from Aldaru), the old city, tel. 6732-3664. Open: 11-23. A new Spanish restaurant a hop, skip and a jump from the Latvian parliament. Classy if a streamlined, no-nonsense interior, with heavy black oak chairs, candlelight and posters of bull fighters on. Good Spanish wine selection (surprise, surprise) and lots of heavy meat dishes.
Alpenrose: (I-2) Jauniela 16, tel. 6722-0402. Open: 11-23. In a lovely medieval-era house that's been imbued with Swiss ambiance, though with heavy, lovely doses of modern Latvian design. There's a country-inn feel to the place with the requisite cow bells and Swiss-German music; it's very classy but also very cozy. The mouthwatering menu includes the likes of meat-filled hot apples, pickled veal and, most delightfully of all, a range of fondues, from classic Swiss-cheese fondue to sweet-pepper fondue. For dessert, try the beer dough fried with cinnamon and served with ice cream.
Lavanda: Vienibas 78, tel. 6728-2097. Open: 10-22, Sun.:10-19. Good food at very reasonable prices.
Spotikatcs: (I-2) Antonijas 12, tel. 6750-5955. Open: 11-23. Ukrainian food doesn't get frequent mention by the likes of CondÃ© Nast Traveler's magazine or other notable culinary class. This alone is probably good enough reason to come to this new proudly self-described Ukrainian restaurant. Fine service, fine food, fine atmosphere.
Kamala: (I-2) Jauniela 14, in the old city; tel. 6721-1332, email@example.com. Open: 12-23; Sun. 12-22. This cozy, tight-fitting den is easily the most comfortable of the vegetarian restaurants in the Baltic states. It's scattered with Indian-design pillows, there's a depiction of the wife of Vishnu on one wall, and the place is permeated with the lovely smell of incense. For a vegetarian restaurant, the food (and the prices) are more upper scale than other similar establishments; a meal for two will run you about 30 dollars. Try the brushcetta with goat's cheese, the red lentil zucchini soup, tofu curry or vegetable ragout with couscous; desserts feature apple rice, carrot paste and lemon pie with a cinnamon filling.
Rama: (C-5) K. Barona 56, tel. 6727-2490. Open: 09-21. A 10-minute walk from the old city. Atmospheric, with pictures of Hindu gods on the walls, incense and tambourine music. Serves vegetarian dishes and oriental sweets in what is primarily a Hare Krishna center. It's relaxed here and nobody tries to convert you as you delve into your rice and lentils. Meals seem to be sold at cost: cheap, cheap, cheap. Also duck into the cellar shop for Krishna jewelry and clothing.
Churchill Club: (H-2) Aldaru 2/4 tel. 6722-1784. Open: 11-24. Riga's first genuine cigar lounge is named after the world's best known cigar smoker. What Churchill would have made of communist revolutionary Che Guevara's photo hanging prominently on one wall is open to question. Offers cigars from all over the Caribbean.
La Casa Del Habano: (I-4) Valnu 19 (entrance from Gleznotaju), open 12-24, weekends till 3. "La Casa," as it's known to regulars, is a franchise of the exclusive distributor for Habanos SA in the Baltic - so here you'll find only Habanos brought directly from Cuba. In a world that often seems like never-ending bling, entering La Casa always seems like coming home.