I thought I’d roll these two destinations into one today because chances are you might visit both of them in one trip, or really close together like I did.
Latvia and Lithuania haven’t always been known for their veg-friendliness especially as the traditional food in each of these countries is pretty meat-heavy. In fact, for that reason I haven’t actually been able to try many local specialties. The good news, though, is that it’s 2018 and more and more options are starting to pop up for us meat refuseniks. If you like to travel and to eat awesome plant based foods, then read on.
For some reason it seemed to me that most of the vegan places in Vilnus were clustered together around a fairly small area. I was only there for a short visit, but I can happily recommend the following:
Vegafe is a pretty popular vegetarian cafe/restaurant located at 2/13 Augustijonu g. It’s sort of a very chilled out restaurant in a cafe style, but with table service and menus printed in Lithuanian or English.
They seemed to have a pretty good range of both vegetarian and vegan dishes, with quite a lot of vegetarian options which can be veganised if you ask. The menu boasts lots of different smoothies, juices and similar healthy drinks, desserts and simple vegetarian meals.
I ordered a tomato, aubergine and tofu dish which came with rice and some cucumbers. Tasty and pretty affordable. My impression was that this place is on the healthier end of the scale (but yummy healthy, not raw-salads-only healthy), and also a good option for anyone who thinks a totally vegan place is too hippie-ish.
There also seemed to be another vegetarian place right next door, which I didn’t have time to try, but I’m sure it’s also worth a look.
Chaika (Tororiu g. 7) isn’t a totally vegan place (I don’t think), but they do a pretty mindblowing range of vegan cakes. Maybe you’re one of those people who thinks vegan cake is a misnomer and that without butter or eggs a cake is going to taste rubbish. Well, if that’s the case, you need to get yourself down to Chaika and try some cake for your own good. It’s amazing! I was going to share a cake with my partner but he had the great suggestion that we should get one each, so we did and I could not be more glad.
We had this blueberry cupcake which had a banana-bread-like taste and texture but with decadent coconut whipped cream and berries on top. The other cake you can see is a peanut butter cheesecake which was made from chickpeas of all things, so it’s actually pretty healthy (for a cake!). Even my decidedly non-vegan partner was contemplating leaving me for this cake, so I can definitely say it was a hit. The chickpeas are mild and give it a smooth texture and a very slightly nutty taste. It was also not dry at all. Add an almond-milk latte and you’re good to go. Vegan or not, you need to check Chaika out if you go to Vilnius.
Riga, like Vilnius, doesn’t have countless vegetarian spots, but the ones it does have are absolutely great. I went back to Fat Pumpkin and Terapija at least three times each, just to check that everything on the menu was delicious. Spoiler: it was.
Fat Pumpkin (Grecinieku Iela 30/25) is your best choice if you’re in Riga’s old town and hungry for veggie food. The portions here will not disappoint, along with the choice of food.
They have a large burger menu which I believe is all vegan, although you have the choice to add ‘real’ cheese if you like. The rest of the menu offers a mix of vegan and vegetarian dishes, most of which seem pretty healthy although there are junk-food options too. They seem to do a ‘20% off burgers’ deal on the regular, so watch out for that on the blackboard outside. The prices are not mega cheap (10-20 euro for a main), but with the 20% discount you can easily eat and drink for about 12 euro.
I tried the ‘Comfort Food’ (a veg and potato hash with vegan sour cream and tofu) and two different burgers (one ‘Fishless’ made with chickpeas and one spicy bean burger). Everything I ate there was awesome. The burgers are piled high with salad, avo, sauce and more, and will definitely satisfy any fast food cravings you may have. The staff are also very kind and speak English perfectly.
Terra (Blaumani Iela 9) is a short walk out of the centre, and is basically an upmarket, healthy fast food place. It’s not just for vegetarians, but it’s very easy to choose a vegetarian option here. Basically it offers a choice of a soup, a salad or a hot dish ‘box’, whereby you can choose your salad ingredients, toppings etc and put them all in a box to take out, or on a plate to eat in. They also do combo offers such as a wrap and a soup or salad. The prices are very affordable (you should be able to eat for about 6 euro), and it’s a nice quick stop for lunch, with a much more pleasant interior than you might expect from the counter-service style place that it is.
Definitely a top choice for budget travellers or anyone wanting a very casual option, such as if you’re eating alone as I was.
Terapjia (Bruninieku Iela 69) is located around 20 minutes outside the centre (close to where I was staying) and is one of my favourite vegan places I’ve ever found while travelling. 100% worth heading out of the city centre for if you’re vegan.
They do a huge selection of vegan mains, starters, cakes and drinks. It’s a casual, cafe-style eatery where you pick up a menu, choose then order at the counter. It’s also very cheap. I’ve never spent more than about 9 euro here, for a meal and a drink, which is amazing given the quality of the food.
I tried a soya burger, a falafel plate and a vegan cake and iced coffee here (not all at the same time, I hasten to add), and all of it was totally amazing. Really, you could probably go for breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack and still have more food you want to try. They also serve the drinks with reusable metal straws, which appeals very much to my eco-friendly side. What more could you possibly want?
Anyone who’s ever been to Latvia probably already knows Lido, and if you don’t yet, you’ll soon find out. I’m just dropping it in here because they do offer some decent vegetarian or vegan dishes alongside the usual meat-based stuff.
If you don’t know what Lido is, it’s a self-service chain that’s all over Latvia, but I’ve also spotted it in Minsk, Belarus too. You grab a tray and help yourself to small dishes like salads, then go to the counter and order what you want from a range of traditional stuff including potatoes, grechka (buckwheat), vegetables and more. If you know Puzata Hata in Ukraine, it’s a very similar concept. They also have nice desserts although I don’t think any are vegan, and serve drinks including local beer.
I honestly don’t think a visit to Latvia is complete without at least one quick stop at Lido. You’ll definitely come away with change from a 10 euro note, so if you want to eat traditional food without any hassle and on a budget, it’s definitely your friend.
This isn’t a restaurant, nor a completely vegan place, but an excellent organic/health food shop located at Krisjana Barona 34. I actually struggled to find any vegan or vegetarian groceries in Riga’s supermarkets, other than vegetables, fruit and wholegrains of course. And whilst eating whole plant foods is definitely the way to go, sometimes I also want some tofu, nut butter or a vegan snack or sweet treat. This shop is amazingly well stocked with organic, healthy, vegan and gluten free products of all kinds. I came away laden with tofu, sausages, protein bars and even an incredible raw chocolate bar. If you want to buy any specialist groceries here, this is your place.
That’s about it for my Balkans veggie discoveries. Do you know any other good places in Vilnius or Riga? Feel free to recommend them below! And let me know which is your favourite city to eat as a vegan or vegetarian.