While meat or fish and potatoes remain the bedrock of Latvian cuisine, Rīga has something to suit every palate, with a lot of good international cuisine and vegetarian options. Eating out, particularly in the capital’s classier joints, is fairly expensive, but there are plenty of self-service fast-food places, offering filling meals for around 4Ls. Numerous supermarkets and markets make self-catering a viable option too.
Restaurants tend to be open from noon to midnight, with bars keeping similar hours (although some are open past 2am). Cafés typically open at 9 or 10am.
Popular national starters include cabbage soup (kāpostu zupa), sprats with onions (sprotes ar sīpoliem) and pelēkie zirņi (mushy peas in pork fat). Slabs of pork garnished with potatoes and sauerkraut constitute the typical main course, although freshwater fish (zivs) is common too. Rasols (cubes of potato, ham and gherkin drenched in cream) is the staple salad. Pelmeni (Russian ravioli) are ubiquitous – you’ll find them on most menus.
Rīga has excellent bars, though some are expensive. Imported beer (alus) is widely available, but the local brews are fine and also cheaper – the most common brands are Aldaris and Cēsu. Worth trying once is Rīga Melnais Balzāms (Rīga Black Balsam), a kind of bitter liqueur (45 percent) made from a secret recipe of roots and herbs and supposed to cure all ailments.
Coffee (kafija) and tea (tēja) are usually served black – ask for milk (piens) and/or sugar (cukurs).