I’ve been in Vilnius for 6 weeks now, fortunate enough to eat out on numerous occasions, and the food continues to inspire. The staples here are meat and potatoes, but beyond the traditional roundups, I’ve also enjoyed succulent fried fish (with the head on thank you!), sliced pig ears, rhubarb pastries, and who knows how many mouth-watering cepelinai (more on those below).
Naugarduko g. 36
My go-to place if I need a traditional Lithuanian fix, Senoji Trobelė is a bit of a walk from downtown but worth the journey. Their gira, a lightly fermented drink made from scraps of rye bread, is unique and delicate, served in a ceramic cup that adds something special.
Tymo Turgus, Aukštaičių g. / Maironio g.
Vilnius and Kaunas have both started an initiative of “Open Kitchen,” a collective of food trucks and food stalls every Friday from 11am onward til evening. The choices are eclectic, from boba drinks to tacos, but of course I zoned straight on for the Uzbeki steamed dumplings and pilaf.
Stiklių str. 8
Lokys (lt. for “Bear”) is on a little side street just off the Town Hall Square. Their theme is medieval, and they play this up with dishes like quail with sweet pear, rustic beaver stew, boar meat with lingonberries, and venison with boletus mushrooms and apples. I recommend dining in the cavernous gothic cellars, adorned with dried herbs and taxidermic heads.
Didžioji g. 11
The appropriately named Kitchen always serves up tasty morsels. During rush hour, however, the high ceilings guarantee acoustics that are somewhat akin to a Roman amphitheater’s. This was the best fish I’ve had in months, however–grilled in full skin with head on, just the way I love it.
Stiklių g. 4
The Pub Leičiai is just next door to Lokys, and they go for a cozy, traditional vibe. Hands down, the best cepelinai I’ve had in Vilnius so far. Cepelinai are cone-shaped potato dumplings stuffed with meat and topped with cream and bacon. Full of fat and deliciousness. I think it has something to do with the garlic. Cepelinai are named after the Zeppelin ships of old, which they resemble (I see it).
01204, Polocko g. 7A | . Šv. Stepono g. 8 | Šv. Mikalojaus g. 15
Who doesn’t love Šnekutis? It’s hard to say who this bar/restaurant caters to, as it seems to be made for old-timey farmers, nostalgic youngsters, and lost tourists. The atmosphere feels like a dive bar owner took over a themed restaurant and did up all the trappings. Hearty food designed to stick to your stomach. Just don’t eat the very tip of the vederai (potato-stuffed sausage)–I learned that the hard way.
Šv. Ignoto g. 16
Mint Vynetu is a cafe-cum-bookshop that somehow, even with the Paris maps and guitars and window nooks, avoids pretense. I’m not sure how it does it–maybe it’s the Russian bookshelves? Named after the fictional Native American hero Winnetou, it’s a great place to unwind with a pot of smoked black tea or chai latte. By the way, the romanticism of Native Americans is, unexpectedly, a thing here.
Vilniaus g. 21
Pinavija is famous for its pastries, crispy phyllo cylinders stuffed with sweet rhubarb or cheese or apple filling. Arrive before 2pm or risk the goods selling out.
To be continued…
I feel the need to recreate these delicious dishes at home in Stockholm, so picked up two books My Food Odyssey – Lithuanian Cooking, which features nine recipes, from cepelinai to koldūnai and The Best of Lithuanian Cooking, both of which are available for free with Kindle Unlimited. (Why I have Kindle Unlimited, I have no idea.) So you may see some cepelinai popping up on my Instagram feed before long.