Lithuanian cuisine is known for being meat heavy with generous dollops of sour cream, colorful sides of beetroot, steaming bowls of rich soups, and traditional salads flavored with mayonnaise and dill. When you visit Vilnius, it is almost obligatory that you try traditional Lithuanian cuisine, including cepilinai
, the doughy potato dumplings stuffed with meat, cottage cheese, or mushrooms.
The two Lithuanian food restaurants on Pilies Street in Old Town Vilnius. are the most convenient restaurants for tourists due to their location, but if you choose to seek elsewhere for Lithuanian food, no one will blame you. These two restaurants can be crowded and service can be slow at times.
One of the two restaurants on Pilies Street, Aula may have the benefit of better food and a less in-your-face interior than its across-the-street competitor, Forto Dvaras. Cepilinai here are of a generous size—order only one if you aren’t too hungry, otherwise you will be faced with two enormous dumplings nestled cozily in a dish with deliciously fatty sauce. Precede your meal with the local cold beetroot soup for the most authentic Lithuanian dining experience.
Forto Dvaras draws the attention of visitors with its large windows that allow passersby to peer into the folksy dining rooms with exposed wooden beams and rough-hewn tables. Service may be quicker than at Aula, but it isn’t always a good thing when your plate has obviously been pre-plated and sitting under a heat lamp for an indeterminate length of time. Nevertheless, once you choose of the menu with its helpful photographs of what’s on offer, you’ll be guaranteed to be treated to a filling meal at Forto Dvaras.
Berneliu Uzeiga, located in the Ballet and Opera Theater complex, is a treat almost hidden from view. Find it, however, and you’ll be seated with a menu in both Lithuanian and English with photography that tempts tastebuds rather than turns them off. Order meat and vegetable skewers, pork prepared in a variety of imaginative ways, game meat, or soup in rustic bread bowls. The food thoughtfully presented and the interior of the restaurant is folksy without being corny. The restaurant operates in several locations, including its most recent launch in London.
Cili Kaimas, a part of the chain which also includes Cili Pica (pizza) and Cili Kinija (Chinese), brings the Lithuanian village to the city with its over-the-top interior and budget national cuisine. If you’re looking for a religious dining experience, you won’t find it here, but it’s good for families, groups, and people on a budget. At the very least, experiment with Lithuanian food to see if it’s worth spending a little more at some place that focuses more on gustatory quality and less on visual distractions. Slurping bowl of saltibarsciai
paired with a plate of buttery potatoes or munching on pieces of herring (also accompanied by potatoes) are to enjoy an authentic-style snack in an atmosphere that is only authentic if you squint.
Other restaurants in Vilnius also serve up Lithuanian cuisine or modern variations of it. It’s almost impossible to escape from the nation’s favorite meat (pork), beetroot soup is an inevitable option on starter menus, and potatoes are favored over pasta almost every time. In fact, these choices are so ubiquitous, you might find yourself trying them due to repeated exposure. Even though you have heard all your life to avoid fatty foods, red meat, and too many potatoes, after you taste Lithuanian cuisine, you’ll begin to realize why the locals are determined to eat it: it’s tasty and filling and goes well with any of the domestically produced beer of which the nation is so proud.