NOTE that I'll be updating this post during the summer, as I get to frequent places again myself. I'll put a handy link to the right hand side of this blog, so you can find the post easily.
I've received numerous emails during the last few months asking for café and restaurant recommendations in Tallinn and elsewhere in Estonia. I've outlined my favourites before - Tallinn: Culinary City Snapshot - was published on my friend Johanna's blog back in February 2007. I also did an eGullet foodblog in September that year that included lots of restaurant suggestions. But things have changed since then, so it's definitely time for an updated review. However, instead of replying individually to each of you, I've put together a list of suggestions, explaining what and where alongside. Hope at least some of you will find it useful. If you do have any further questions, please leave it in a comment section and I'll reply as soon as possible.
Note that I gave birth to a gorgeous baby girl in January 2009 and as you can imagine, I've had to reduce the occasions of eating out over the last six months considerably. However, I've still been out and about, especially in cafés, so it's not totally out of date :)
If you are looking for a special gourmet night out in Tallinn, then my two top recommendations are the award-winning Ö (Chef Roman Zaštšerinski, Mere pst 6E, +372-6616150; Mon-Thu 12noon-11pm, Fri-Sat 12noon-midnight, Sun 1pm-10pm) and STENHUS (Chef Tõnis Siigur; Pühavaimu 13/15, Tel +372-6997780; Open for lunch and dinner, Courtyard Garden open during the summer months). I've written about Stenhus twice before, in October 2007 and February 2007, but I've been there on numerous occasions since then, most recently in November and December 2008.
Being a vegetarian AND eating out is not easy in Estonia. Although most restaurants and cafés would have something on the menu to suit your diet, the choice is often limited and much less creative and interesting than the non-vegetarian menu. However, there's a restaurant in the Old Town, called AED ('garden'; Rataskaevu 8, tel 6269088, Open Mon-Sat 11am-10pm, Sun 11am-6pm) that's taken its vegetarian menu seriously (they also highlight gluten-free and lactose-free dishes on their menu).
There is also a new vegetarian diner Maitsev ja Tervislik ('tasty and healthy; Narva mnt 6; Open 10am-9pm), but I must admit I haven't had a chance to check this place out yet. It seems to be the only place in Tallinn serving vegan food, for example.
There are several places I can recommend for a quick lunch.
Bestseller & Boulangerie (Viru Keskus, 3rd & 4th floor) are part of the Imre Kose Emporium. Nice salads and pastries, special offers during lunchtime, and as both cafés (with slightly different menus) are part of a bookstore, then I've had lunch there often. Ask for sea-buchthorn juice!!
Bonaparte Bistro has recently opened in the Foorum Keskus (Narva mnt 5), and the food is excellent.
Vertigo (Chef Imre Kose, Rävala pst 4, 9th floor) is known as one of the more expensive restaurants in Tallinn, but their lunch deals are good value. My partner K. heartily recommends them, and as he works in the adjacent building, he knows what he's talking about.
Vapiano (Hobujaama 10) serves Italian food (pizzas, pastas, salads - I like their pizzas more than their pastas).
If it's a good cup of coffee and a slice of cake that you're after, then in the Old Town try any of these cafés:
Matilda (Lühike jalg, Open Mon-Sat 9am-7pm, Sun 9am-6pm; their Pavlova is great)
Bonaparte (Pikk tn 45, Open Mon-Fri 8am-10pm, Sat 9am-10pm, Sun 10am-6pm; they also run the Tristan & Isolde Café under Raekoda aka Town Hall)
Anneli Viik (Pikk tn 30, Open Mon-Sat 11am-11pm, Sun 11am-7pm).
Chocolats de Pierre (above) has a great courtyard, good choice of cakes and hand-made truffles (Vene tn 6, Open daily; see my previous post).
Kehrwieder is a chain of cafés dotted across the city centre. They're coffee is of varying quality, but the venues themselves are rather nice.
Kadriorg is a beautiful park area within walking distance from the Old Town (or take Tram no 1). It's definitely worth a visit because of the new National Art Gallery, KUMU. While in Kadriorg, there are several places where you could stop for a pastry or lunch. Here are some of my favourites:
NOP (Köleri 1, Open 8am-8pm) is a great place for breakfast or lunch, and they've also got a small deli shop next to the café, where you can buy a range of organic and/or local food items. Before having the baby, I visited them several times a week. (Oh, they've got a children's area as well).
Park Café (above, Weizenbergi st 22, Open Tue-Sun 10am-8pm) has a German-trained baker on premise, making their cakes slightly different from the usual offerings in Tallinn. I love their outdoor seating area (below) just next to the lake in the Kadrioru Park. Another good place to visit when you've got kids.
TIGU seafood bistro (Vilmsi 45, Open Tue-Fri 12 noon-10 pm) is a cosy seafood-oriented and French bistro style establishment in the outskirts of Kadriorg. They're small and popular with local and loyal customers, so make sure to book a table in advance if you want to have dinner (+372-56668493). However, they've got a summer terrace where you can quickly order lunch and don't need to book in advance, so you may want to try that.
KUMU kohvik (Weizenbergi 34; Open Mon-Sat 11am-8pm, Sun 11am-6pm) is located on the ground floor of the KUMU Art Museum. You can enjoy your coffee outdoors if the weather is nice.
Creperie Kristjan & Kristiine (Vase 14, +372-6448462; Open Mon-Sat 12 noon-10pm, Sun 12noon-6pm, currently closed until early August) is a small restaurant specialising in salads, crepes and pancakes with sweet and savory fillings.
This is actually trickier than you think. There are some restaurants that heavily advertise themselves as Estonian, but neither I or my friends have really enjoyed the food. So I skip that bit. However, there are couple worth trying in Tallinn:
VANAEMA JUURES ('At grandma's place'; Rataskaevu 10/12, +372-6269080; Open Mon-Sat 12noon-10pm, Sun 12noon-6pm) serves unpretentious, but really tasty food.
KULDSE NOTSU KÕRTS (Dunkri tn 8, +372 628 6567; Open daily from 12noon-midnight) also serves Estonian food, including famous items like sült (headcheese/meat jelly/brawn), Estonian pea soup and Kama, of course.
KOLU KÕRTS (Kolu Tavern) is slightly out of town, at the Open Air Museum (Vabaõhumuuseum; Bus nr 21). They serve old peasant dishes, including kama (again :)), soups, mushroom salads. The menu is limited, but it's a beautiful open air museum, so if you're going on a (half)day trip, there's no need to bring your own sandwich.
If you're keen to try some Russian food, then there are quite a few restaurants in Tallinn.
Troika (Raekoja plats 15, +372-6276245) - I like their pelmeny dumplings, cold soups and pickles, honey and sour cream starter. They've got two outdoor seating areas on the Town Hall Square.
Nevskij is a slightly more upmarket Russian restaurant on the ground floor of Hotel St Petersbourg (Rataskaevu 7, +372-6286560, Open Tue-Sat 12 noon-11pm)
Sunday Brunch is a concept only now becoming a feature in local restaurants. The only two places I know of (and although I've eaten there, I haven't tried their brunch yet) are:
MUSEUM (Chef Nikita Tšunihhin, Vana-Viru 14). Brunch is served on Sundays from noon till 4pm, a la carte menu (incl. bagels, Eggs Benedict etc).
VERTIGO (Chef Imre Kose, Rävala pst 4, 9th floor). Brunch is served on Sundays from 11am-4pm; 350 EEK per person, 150 EEK for childen aged 3-15, toddlers free)
Viimsi is a suburb just outside Tallinn, about a scenic 20-minute drive pass the Song Festival Square and Pirita monastery. It also the place that Yours Truly happens to live :) In the unlikely place you've ended up in Viimsi (perhaps on a way to visit me? Or you're staying at Viimsi SPA like many Finnish visitors), there are few places to fill up your stomach. If it's just a coffee and pastry you're after, try Delicato deli at the Viimsi Keskus (Randvere tee 6; drinks and pastries are a very reasonable 15-25 EEK, cakes more expensive). Harmoonikum (Pargi tee 8, open Mon - Sat 12-20) is a lovely organic café and day spa that serves simple and organic fare, including soups, cakes, herb infusions. For pub food and a pint of beer, there's Scotland Yard (Randvere tee 6, Viimsi). And if it's the view, but not food, you're after, then there's Paat, a pub with a lovely outdoor seating area and a gorgeous view of the Tallinn skyline (but the food is unfortunately a letdown).