Mainstays of Estonian cuisine include soup (supp), dark bread (leib) and herring (heeringas), culinary legacies of the country’s largely peasant past. A typical national dish is verevorst and mulgikapsad (blood sausage and sauerkraut); various kinds of smoked fish, particularly eel (angerjas), perch (ahven) and pike (haug), are popular too, as are Russian dishes such as pelmeenid (ravioli with meat or mushrooms). Both Tallinn and Tartu also boast an impressive choice of ethnic restaurants. Outside these two cities, vegetarians will find their choice to be more limited.
When eating out, it’s cheaper to head for bars and cafés, many of which serve snacks like pancakes (pannkoogid) and salads (salatid). A modest meal in a café costs €7–9, while in a typical restaurant two courses and a drink comes to around €27. Self-catering poses no major problems, as supermarkets and fresh produce markets are plentiful.
Restaurant opening hours tend to be between noon to midnight; cafés are open from 9am to 10pm or later.
Estonians are enthusiastic drinkers, with beer (õlu) being the most popular tipple. The principal local brands are Saku and A. Le Coq, both of which are lager-style brews, although both companies also produce stronger, dark beers. Some great local craft beers have emerged in the last few years – Lehe, Põhjala, Õllenaut and Pühaste are among the names to look out for. In bars a lot of people favour vodka (viin) with mixers while local alcoholic specialities include hõõgvein (mulled wine) and Vana Tallinn, a pungent dark liqueur which some suicidal souls mix with vodka. Pubs and bars – most of which imitate Irish or American models – are taking over, especially in Tallinn. If you’re not boozing, head for a kohvik (café); coffee (kohvi) is usually of the filter variety, and tea (teed) is served without milk (piima) or sugar (suhkur) – ask for both if necessary. Bars are usually open from noon until 2 or 4am at weekends.