Latvia Food and Drink
Influenced by food from surrounding countries, Latvian cuisine is largely based upon meat and locally available crops. Dishes tend to be hearty and filling – which helps when the thermometer plummets. Red meat is a mainstay on menus, and it comes served as mouth-watering patties, fried in breadcrumbs or in warming stews.
Along the coast, fish forms a bigger part of the diet – smoked fish is a speciality. Herring is often pickled and served cold. Potatoes (particularly potato salad), sauerkraut and other vegetables are traditional accompaniments. There are a number of very tasty, distinctive soups. Many of the ingredients are seasonal – with mushrooms, berries, nettles and the like being picked at certain times of the year.
International restaurants abound in Riga. Every May, the city hosts a Spring Restaurant Week that offers plenty of opportunities to try Latvian cuisine. Meals are typically filling and often washed down with Latvian beer or strong liquor. There are also some wonderful fruit juices made from wild berries. One of the best places to get an appreciation of local ingredients is the massive and colourful central market in Riga, housed in several former zeppelin hangers.
• Kotletes (meat patties).
• Zupa (soup) – try beet soup or sorrel soup (Skābeņu zupa).
• Alexander Torte (raspberry or cranberry-filled pastry strips).
• Pīrāgi (pastry filled with bacon and onions).
• Rupjmaize (dark rye bread).
• Rasols (potato salad with eggs, gherkins, and perhaps bacon, sausage and other ingredients).
• Jāņu siers (cheese with caraway seeds, traditionally served at midsummer solstice celebrations).
• Karbonāde (breaded pork chops).
• Sauerkraut (Latvian version of this well-known dish).
• Kartupeļu pankūkas (potato pancakes).
Things to know
Drinking (or possessing an open bottle/can of alcohol) in streets, parks and other public places is forbidden in Riga and carries a hefty fine. Nightclubs allow ages 18 and older to enter, and the same age restriction applies to alcohol consumption.
Restaurant bills usually include a tip. It is customary to give a little extra for good service.
• Riga's Black Balsam is a thick, black alcoholic herbal drink that has been produced since 1700. The exact recipe is a closely guarded secret, but some of the ingredients include ginger, oak bark, bitter orange peel and cognac. It is drunk either with coffee, vodka or on its own.
• There are several good local beers, including Cēsu, Aldaris, Uzavas, Bauskas Tumšais and Gaišais.
• Kvass (made from grains in the early stages of fermentation) is a refreshing summer drink.
• Fruit juices made from wild berries are popular.