VEGAN IS LEGAL. 10+ Hottest Riga's spots for plant-based food lovers. UPDATED 21.03.2023

It only took a couple of years for Riga to become a new rising star among vegan food destinations no one talks about. If a decade ago there was a small selection of eateries to provide proper, non-lettuce-only vegetarian menu, then now a food place without at least few decent fully meat-free meals is considered buffer. Many places turn vegan-only too. Today a traveller will need to take a couple of city-breaks to cover all vegan-friendly places popping up in Riga.

If there was AVOTI suburb for subculture lovers CAPITAL R once created, then here is an article about the VEGAN QUARTERS on the opposite side of central Riga. A short read on 10+ great vegan-friendly places that, turns out, are accidentally concentrated in one particular area for your finger-licking sin-free meals and purchases.

water melon, summer, vegan, hot, food,

VE-GENESIS

Up to 20 yet basically 15 years ago, vegetarians were the first to become more visible. Needless to say, they were still considered to be fancy-pancy "artist", poor hippie or mad far-leftist/folklorist/punk hitch-hiker (dead weight combination) type of people. Or, at least, that's what many thought. Most likely vegetarians were the ones, who have "been" in Berlin or London, or "seen things" in the West.

Meanwhile, when speaking about vegans, even a decade ago the most popular alt-celebrities could barely count a handful of people they knew, who were kinda close to semi-practising something similar to a vegan diet (includes "I still eat meat when drunk"). Therefore, it is very difficult and fragmentary to discuss much about whether being cruelty-free was a diet, kitsch, or lifestyle.

The whole history would be slightly distorted and hard to recall through a lens of our presentalism saying that those people were such cool early adopters. Like already mentioned, it turns out many, who leaned to being vegetarians two to one decade ago, were doing it mostly for the sake of themselves - protesting something Post-Soviet or parental.

Many then eventually turned back to being omnivores in a couple of years anyway. It is also important to mention that even today many medical professionals in Latvia consider meat the only main source of iron and no other source of B12 than that. At least we have surpassed the "where do you get your protein from" question.

THE TURNIP-TABLES HAVE FLIPPED

In the last five years, on the contrary, many consider themselves practising vegan lifestyle more than ever. Truly. And lifestyle is different from diet because of being more inclusive. The combination of thinking about environment, commodities, animal rights, of course, meals we eat for our own sake, and all of that. Some though don't much follow the contents of their cosmetics, footwear, even furniture still, however there is some progress in that too. Many vegans are also identifying themselves with zero waste movement; for sure, it's not much different to many other countries.

Now the tables have flipped. When most vegetarians and vegans those years ago were mostly people who had been abroad, today most of influencers and life changers of other locals are Latvians themselves. There are also more and more people popping up, who say they have despised the taste and smell of meat since childhood. Eventually, the WWW can bring ideas and inspiration anywhere in Latvia, because, well, some say we might indeed have one of the fastest net speed globally.

Today the number of various versions of cruelty-free practitioners has grown so rapidly, Riga is more than kicking in creating its own ecosystem of fauna-aware-eaters. Every grocery store now considers it mandatory to have several types of plant-based milk on their shelves. Europe's largest covered Riga Central market has a whole pavilion dedicated to as-much-as-feasible local fruit and veg PLUS it has a huge Night Market, where one can ONLY buy fruit and veg. Even the famous Dome square Christmas market had a handful of vegan friendly vendors last holiday, which is a handful of more than last year!

nakts tirgus, rīga, centrāltirgus, central market, fruits, vegetables, roots, sakņu tirgus,
Night Market in Riga, 2018.

Nowadays one does not need to be a fancy-pancy "artist", a poor hippie or a mad far-leftist backpacker any more. The most active Facebook community "Vegan Latvia" has a solid number of 9300+ followers (growing a thousand per half a year), PETA-like activist group "Animal Freedom" has 21k-and-growing number of supporters. Their illuminating, yet peaceful activities in some fur machineries in 2018 resulted in up to -27% loss to their profit.

In 2017 "Animal Freedom" organized mass-protest and media activities prohibiting wild animals being used in Circus performances; it resulted to Latvian Parliament fully approving by law to do so. Finally, the second Veganfestival organized at the Botanical Garden in 2018 was, no doubt, the most visited (7000-odd strong crowd), most hyped, as well as the most diverse and tastiest street food event in the history of Riga's and the Baltic's street-food fests. Period.

For six consecutive years in January, the "Neapēd Zemeslodi" (Don't eat up the Earth) campaign has been launched, serving as a national event under the Veganuary label. Its global organisers gathered a record 250,000 participants by the end of month in 2019 and more than 400,000 in 2020. Latvian statistics instead showed that in 2019 the number grew past 3800 participants, which is almost 400% more than the first year. In 2020, it was doubled. In 2017 a super majority of members of campaign (85 %) for various plant-based diets were aged between 15 - 35 and roughly 90 % female1. What a surprise.

PLANT-BASED FUTURE

Keep in mind, we still are generally speaking about Riga here. The rest of the country... rests. However, the city has now reached a new vegan-friendly level when starting to offer products made locally last year. Avenei, a local craft ice cream manufacturers started to produce plant-only based frozen treats.

Ice cream, in general, has been a turning point for Latvians, proving that, despite being Nordic, it is the most essential dessert in the country that must be veganized!

For example, 3 years ago SIA BIKI started to produce the first vegan gelato in Latvia, while Mū & NeMū sold their plant-based icecream arount beaches in Carnikava in 2018, and are now available at "Dabas Stacija".

Then, one of the largest dairy factories "Tukuma piens" created their vegan friendly cottage-soy desserts. Investors in Jelgava town announced their plans on building a 7'000'000 € factory to mass-produce plant-based products in a couple of years2.

Somehow it seems just logical that a country with 50 % percent of forests (plus great areas of protected nature plus deep roots and mass practice of horticulture) has future in plant-based industries. Sadly, according to the parliamentary attitude, this country is quite stuck in the "best" Post-Soviet traditions of diets, breeding, and "caring" about that nature. If a state does not have its own automated container-deposit recycling system, what "green" nation can we really be talking about.

VEGAN QUARTERS

So, inspired by this fast and important context, CAPITAL R wanted to answer a question by many - where to eat vegan food in Riga? By putting all places on the map, it was hard not to notice that most of them concentrate in one particular area of the Central district. Accidentally or on purpose most of the places are also the biggest players in redesigning and developing cruelty-free agenda in the city.

SO!
Here we open the list of Riga's VEGAN QUARTERS:

BHAJAN CAFE (temporarily closed)
Initiated as a vegetarian then Hindu-influenced restaurant, now the café offers vegan menu of a continental, eclectic character (check for updates).

BIG BAD BAGELS
This is a top place for Erasmus kids and also serves a bunch of democratic vegan bagel options and is open all days!

DABAS STACIJA
Literally, the best grocery station for bio and vegan-only food and ingredients. One can find a very wide selection of production that is also delivered to many restaurants. Keep in mind - it's closed on Saturdays.

DAMN GOOD COFFEE
One of few places in Riga that serves hot drinks with plant-based milk WITHOUT extra fee (we believe this should be a common practice). Also offers some tasty titbits.
 
DERBRUDER
Opened quietly in the wake of covid, Derbruder became the first to offer a solid menu of vegan sushi, including the fingerlicking tempura ones! NB. Preorders only, no walk-ins available for now.

FOODBOX
Technically not a very vegan friendly place, yet this one of the very first in town to offer something vegan on daily basis - their Turkish falafel. Still around since 2008, therefore - still good!

L'ACQUERELLO (temporarily closed)
One of the toughest-to-remember names in the city offers the toughest-to-forget vegan pizzas that, many agree, do taste like in Italy. Whatever it might mean today (check for updates).

MAZĀ TERAPIJA
Some say - this is the fastly growing and sweater child of one of the first vegan places Terapija (originally located in AVOTI neighbourhood). Visit Mazā Terapija for the best vegan cakes, great business menu, evening and breakfast courses, as well as for vegan sausage in dough!

MIIT COFFEE
Another place that drifted from being a cyclist bar, then vegetarian place, then vegan-friendly place with specialty coffee, then changing owners. Eventually has kept selling one of the best coffees in town as well as fantastic pancake brunches on weekends and vegan daily offer. Ironically, MIIT is a homophone of "to pedal a bicycle" in Latvian rather than "flesh" in English!

MOCHI
Although their first place is located on Barona street, this is also a fine spot if you want to try out these famous Japanese sweets. They offer a vast selection of vegan mochi and moon cakes here, and they are tasty as hell.

MOLTTO CAFE
Clean looking cafeteria, offering plenty of crazy sweet and juice vegan deserts, cakes and titbits. Apart from coffee, there are other hot and cold beverages. 

MR. FOX
Although this place represents themselves as a healthy food restaurant by also serving animal-origin food, they have a solid menu for vegans with Peanut sauce noodles our most favourite.

NIRVANA
Opened by one of the first popular practitioners of raw diet, Nirvana also offers vegan daily menus and breathtaking, plant based cakes and desserts.

STOCKPOT XL
The largest child of Stock Pot that was the very first world cuisine buffet starting to offer vegan soups+mains on daily basis along the traditionals. They looove spicy food and big portions. Stockpot XL were once also famous with their vegan-only Fridays, hope they return.

UNAGI INU
This Japanese bistro is one of the rare contemporary urban spaces to get a few Japanese vegan meals on daily basis!


WHERE ELSE?

As for an extra shortlist we have a few more suggestions outside the VEGAN QUARTERS (in purple). Places, that offer GREAT VEGAN-FRIENDLY menus for your perfect execution of Veganuary or any other day in Rīga, too:

  • 2eat - authentic Israeli and Mediterranean street food with great taste, great portions and great, possibly the best falafel in town; almost all is vegan;
  • Aqua Luna (temporarily closed) - restaurant with a solid vegan menu for your high-class stomach and a nice river view (double check the latest menu);
  • Avocado Sushi (temporarily closed) - you must be in love with their vegan tempura and specialty sushi!;
  • Balts - Japanese influenced health food with superb vegan options - miso, tofu salad, sushi and other;
  • Big Bad Bagels Spīķeri - first Big Bad Bagels embassy next to Riga Central Market;
  • Burzma - The best food court in town with great vegan-friendly or vegan-only places;
  • Čau Rīga (temporarily closed) -  Another suburban pizza and wrap space with their own specialty ingredients and localized taste. Multiple vegan options available, and Ziedoņdārzs park just around the corner;
  • Divi Raiņi (temporarily closed) - a long awaited vegan-only sandwich, salad and bowl solace at the National Library of Latvia ;
  • Foxy's Bake Shop - tiny and lovely French-inspired almost-vegan bakery for early birds (open from 8:00);
  • Gardā Pupa - "The tasty bean" canteen offers great democratic business lunch perfectly suitable for vegans and is one of the most important solaces across the river;
  • Green Pumpkin  (temporarily closed) - once the only vegan restaurant in Old Town has now moved to be the first in their new neighbourhood, hopefully bringing great cakes and brunches along;
  • Innocent Cafe (temporarily non-vegan)- regular café with few vegan options and amazing pizzas, including the vegan-Camembert one!;
  • KATKEVICH - best sour bread in town + great breakfast/gift boxes for vegan breakfast;
  • Kozy Eats - most recent, all vegan cafeteria with super size daily and evening meals for democratic prices;
  • Krastmalas Nirvana - (temporarily closed) for now, the only vegan place in old town. A brainchild of the already mentioned Nirvana;
  • Lazy Cat - falafel in various sizes and wrappings accompanied by vegan sweets and deserts. They have a sexist meal sizing though;
  • Mochi workshop Barona - first place in Riga the famous Japanese sweets could be purchased. They offer a vast selection of vegan mochi and moon cakes as well;
  • Nata Cafe - (temporarily closed) suburban cafeteria, offering vegan business menu in style of Post-Soviet influenced cuisine, including their amazing soyshlik;
  • Ramen Riga - great vegan ramen;
  • Rāma - although they haven't been able to change their canteen-style menu for a trillion years, this is considered the first vegetarian only eatery in the present day Riga. With many vegan-friendly options;
  • Runa - a very, very down-tempo tearoom with optimal oriental meal, snack and dessert selection;
  • Stirna&Avokado - every Friday to Sunday this place, moved from the country to Riga, offers great takeaway alternatives of traditional staple foods like rasols or dressed herring;
  • The Beginnings - (temporarily closed) the sexier-looking child of the very first vegan and raw food restaurant in Riga. Also offers a great selection of their own micro-produced health food of "The Beginnings" brand and superb raw sweets, as well as regular meals;
  • Turku kārums - a little Turkish shop with great options of the nation's vegan friendly production (among many non-vegan products as well);
  • Wok'n'Curry - super tasty, very affordable and very vegan-friendly Indian, Thai and Chinese food with vegan business lunch on Tue and Thu;
  • Oh my, oh hell yes, and there's extra for more subcultural, low-key options like Spināti un Sviests, Loja Cafe and others. You name it.
Find: You can look up for more vegan-friendly meals by following an Instagram page @augidraugi, where new pictures with plant-based meals are posted from around Rīga. Even if you don't dig Latvian, you can simply click on the location and find out more. Tasty and cruelty-free food speaks all taste-bud tongues.


1 Izaicinājuma "Neapēd Zemeslodi" rezultāti. 2017
2In Jelgava a vegan food factory is being built in the region of 7 million euros. 2018

Comments

  1. nakts tirgus nu gan nav vegānu vieta. tur normāli visēdāji pārsvarā iepērkas!

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    Replies
    1. Sveiki! Pateicamies par komentāru! Nav gan īsti skaidrs, ko domājat ar "normāliem" visēdājiem, taču nekur netika teikts, ka nakts tirgus ir vegānu vieta. Taču nenoliegsiet, ka tā ir ļoti draudzīga vegāniem, kā to bijām rakstījuši! Lai top!

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