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Photo by: Krõõt Tarkmeel

Photo by: Lauri Laan

Photo by: Lauri Laan

Photo by: Lauri Laan

Photo by: Lauri Laan

TOP places to eat in Tallinn

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By Kadri Kroon  •  15.03.2018

Tallinn is absolutely underrated as a foodie destination. Millions of tourists come here for the medieval Old Town and find a vibrant food scene as a pleasant bonus. New restaurants are popping up every month; their level will please even the most serious gourmand. Summertime, with the famed white nights, is the most recommended time to visit, but fall has an abundance of fresh produce from gardens and forests. Chilly winter charms with heaps of white snow and hearty meat dishes.  
 
Restaurant opening hours are quite universal. There is usually no break between lunch and dinner service. Estonians are generally early eaters, so for people who are used to eating late, like the Spanish and Portuguese, it might be hard to find a decent bite after 10 pm. It goes without saying that you should try to avoid tourist traps and do your homework on restaurants beforehand. 
 
The price level in restaurants tends to be less expensive than in most Western European cities. Main courses will cost you around 20 euros. The best bargains can be found while eating daily lunch offers during weekdays, costing from 4 to 8 euros, but do not expect the same level of quality as at dinner time. 

The Old Town

Long-time favorites

Pegasus excels with friendly, American-style service. The second floor offers a lovely view to Niguliste Church and Toompea Hill. A permanent glass-covered terrace is ideal for catching the first spring rays of sun during a lazy weekend brunch. Vegans and vegetarians have a wide selection to choose from here. The semolina mousse from the dessert menu is an absolute must – one of my childhood staples.   
 
Leib Resto is located in an idyllic courtyard garden. In summer, sit outside enjoying impeccably grilled local fish or meat. Everything on the menu is seasonal. The produce comes straight from farmers and is mostly organic. The main focus here is on wine though. The wine list is by far the best in town. The owner Kristjan Peäske was previously a competing sommelier and the staff is very knowledgeable about wine. They offer a constantly changing selection of rare and mature wines served by Coravin.
 
Italian restaurant Controvento is the oldest continually running restaurant in town, housed in Katariina käik (St. Catherine’s Passage), the medieval passageway that gets photographed by almost every visitor. Controvento has devoted families as regulars. They come here for vitello tonnato, beef carpaccio, spaghetti alla diavolo and beef fillet with gorgonzola sauce or porcini mushrooms. 

Nearby La Bottega serves very tasty squid stuffed with prawns and porcini. The chef Nicolo Tanda is famous for his whole fish preparations that let the pure taste of the fresh fish shine.

New and trendy

The young chef running the kitchen at Ore is Silver Saa, formerly of Fabrik. The nibbles are really creative there. If you like to venture beyond ordinary, then you find brains, sweetbreads, oxtail and other wonderfully executed rare delicacies on offer.

The Nautilus is the place for seafood.This oyster bar and grill was crafted by an Irish pub design company. It has an international feel, and is therefore full on Old Town residents, most of whom happen to be foreigners. They slurp down fresh oysters, enjoy seafood platters and wash them down with bubbles or white wine.  

Tabac represents the new age of brasserie food and cocktail culture. Chef Tõnis Saar has created an all-day nibble menu. The beef tartar with truffle cream and mushrooms is Tabac’s signature dish. Main courses change all the time and always feature something for vegetarians. After the meal, you can stay on, enjoying cocktails and the excellent music vibes of local DJs.

If you're a sucker for expertly crafted seasonal cocktails and perfectly sized aspirational tapas fare, then Parrot Mini Bar is right up your alley. The food focuses on delicate flavor combinations. I do recommend ordering at least one full size portion too, so that you do not feel hungry after a full flight of tapas. You’ll find delight in the tropical themed, creative interior as well. The cloakroom is more than a place to hang your coat; it also serves as a secret entrance to the speakeasy style cellar bar. Live piano music, combined with divinely balanced cocktails, immediately transports you to Prohibition-era New York. 

Secret Dinners

How to get into Tallinn’s most secretive restaurants? Email, call or message them via Facebook to score a seat or reserve the whole place for your party. These three hidden gems attract in-the-know diners who have experienced a lot and are curious to try something new. 

Alexander Chef’s Table, on Toompea Hill, functions as the winter residence of the awarded Pädaste Manor and their German head chef Matthias Diether. They serve a special Muhu Island tasting menu inspired by locally sourced ingredients. The communal table accommodates approximately 20 guests. Any given evening offers an opportunity to enjoy the company of food-minded strangers from all over the world and exchange your recent food experiences with them. 

Nano (sometimes referred to as Mull) is the home of a very artsy couple. Beatrice Fenice has a background in modelling, and her husband is a true artist. You will be amazed by the bohemian atmosphere, brightly-colored craziness of the interior and their eccentric hospitality. Expect a lot of bubbles and genuine Russian home cooking. 

Roog, a single-table home restaurant that seats just 12 guests, happens to be run by the former first lady of Estonia, who after her divorce from the president, decided to reinvent herself as a restaurateur. In summer, Roog opened its doors on the island of Hiiumaa. After the season was over, they relocated to Pikk Street in the Old Town. Expect Estonian dishes with a twist. If you are really lucky, the evening will turn into an impromptu etno music concert. 

For the sweet tooth

Ice cream at Cortile is as good as it gets at the best places in Italy. A graduate of the Italian Ice Cream Academy runs this place with true passion. This shows in the balanced flavors of his ever-changing selection. Their mango and nocciola flavors are real hits, and lemon sorbet is favoured by people who like more acidic tastes. 
 
Rukis probably has the best breakfast menu in town, and you can’t take your eyes off from their vast cake and tart display. Everything is freshly made and they use a lot of local berries in their cakes.  
 
Chocolaterie is a must because of its idyllic location. That is the most Instagrammed courtyard in the Old Town. Enjoy a rich hot chocolate in wintertime, or boost yourself with a handmade truffle in summer. 

Telliskivi and Kalamaja

In summertime, Telliskivi has street food fairs, second-hand markets, hosts street performers and shows movies in the open air. F-hoone, which was the first of many to open in Telliskivi, is buzzing with energy, partly because the pricing policy is really wallet friendly. I would recommend the place for drinks, small snacks and people watching. 
 
Bueno Gourmet food truck, run by a Chilean-Estonian couple, has been voted the best cheap eat in Tallinn. They serve popular North- and South-American sandwiches like Philly cheesesteaks, burritos and tacos. Bueno Gourmet stays open late and is usually parked in front of Pudel Bar. 
 
One of the hubs in Hipsterville Kalamaja is the recently renovated Balti Jaama Market, with lots of fresh produce and specialty food shops. The street food aisle boasts Baojaam – the one and only bao station in town. All the baos are good, but if you were to pick one, opt for the traditional pork belly bao. 
 
Burger hunters’ best options would be Uulits stall at the market, or Burger Box right beside the market. Try the Burger Box spicy pulled pork or vegetarian falafel burger. 
 
Kaja Pizza Köök has a lot of devoted fans. After working in London, the two chefs came back and changed the local pizza game. Approximately 200 Neapolitan style pizzas are baked daily in their wood-fired oven. Homemade sourdough base, San Marzano tomatoes grown in volcanic soil and constantly changing toppings are a real treat with a bargain price. When they sell out, the show is over. Therefore, check the Facebook page Kaja Pizza Köök for updates and opening hours.  

Moon feels like a home restaurant, small and cozy. The professional team has fine dining background. They do Russian cuisine with a personal touch. Moon has the best homemade Siberian pelmeni, pierogi made by resident babushkas, excellent borscht and fish soups. Classical blinis with whitefish roe and beef tartar should also be tried. Not to mention, this is the place to drink famous Estonian vodka. 
 
The spacious, open kitchen is the main feature of Korsten. The restaurant is part of culture hub Kultuurikatel, housed in a former power station with really impressive industrial spaces. At Korsten, you should try their calf’s liver with green beans. A Filipino sous-chef is responsible for a juicy glazed pork dish, where she uses spices from the Philippines, bok choy and sugar snap peas. The pork comes accompanied by sweet potato fries.  
 
The best sweet treats of Kalamaja wait for you at Levier. The place belongs to Estonian macaron queen Angeelika Kang. The array of fresh macarons easily competes with the French macaron specialist Ladurée. Let me mention just a few of the favorites: salty caramel, passion fruit, rhubarb, lime and basil.  

Rotermann Quarter and Port of Tallinn

RØST refers to two roasted things – bread and coffee. They bake all day long, and the place smells absolutely amazing. The people behind the tiny bakery quit their day jobs and decided to bring the sourdough revolution to Tallinn. It has turned out to be a great success. You can buy a whole loaf to take home or enjoy sandwiches with different fillings. Their cardamom and cinnamon buns are to die for. In addition to that, they take great care of their freshly brewed coffee.
 
The cool, industrial interior is the combined home base of a wine importer with an abundant selection and a modern restaurant named R14. Apart from their everyday buzz, they organize popular wine dinners and tastings. 
 
Flamm is the embassy of Alsatian Flammkuchen in Tallinn. Traditionally a form of thin crusted pizza made with sour cream, onions and lardons, Flamm adds all kinds of creative toppings like chorizo, gorgonzola, Parma ham, etc. Share your flammkuchen with friends and order a bottle of wine for a perfect social gathering. 

Washoku Story, in the recently developed port area, teleports you straight to Japan. They even have a Japanese toilet with all the electric functions. The chef Hide Hirakata does not compromise. He tries to bring you the most authentic ramen experience in town, making stock for days and using only the best kombu, katsuobushi and noodles brought from Japan. Definitely try the tonkotsu ramen at Washoku.  
 
Pavlova Cake makes wonderfully executed namesake cakes. Two Russian ladies are running this small cakery, putting their heart and soul into the sweets. Pavlova is the star here, but sample the marshmallowy zefir and Russian style pastries too. 

Lebanese Papa Joe’s Falafel has been around since 1990s, and in recent years at Sadama market in the old Ferry Port Terminal.  That’s the place to satisfy all your hummus and falafel cravings. Ask for an extra topping of their superbly smoky baba ganoush or magic Muhammara sauce made with grilled paprika and walnuts.

Kadriorg, Pirita and Viimsi

NOP is on a mission to make the world a better place to live in. The ever-changing, organic menu focuses on healthy eating and brings the newest ecotrends to the neighborhood hangout. People make their pilgrimage here for avocado sandwich, shakshuka or the daily dose of quinoa and kale. 
 
The homey local spot Salt puts the emphasis on seafood, including but not limited to octopus, scallops and tiger prawns. The energetic restaurateur Tiina Treumann gathers food ideas from her trips to food capitals and remote holiday destinations. The young chefs execute them, producing an eclectic weekly mix of fusion.  
 
La Prima Pizza on Gonsiori street uses only the best ingredients delivered fresh from Italy. The crust is delightfully crispy and thin. Tartufata pizza with artichokes, prosciutto crudo and porcini mushrooms is highly recommended. 
 
Villa Thai has been around for a long time, but still delivers consistent quality as far as Thai and Indian cuisine are concerned. The highly trained chefs come from Nepal. They are famous for their Tom Yam soup, tandoori dishes and curries. 

Noa combines the best food and interior with a stunning view of the Old Town silhouette. You can opt for a more casual dining experience, or choose the accoladed chef’s hall tasting menu. Here, the kitchen is run by two famous chefs: proficient Tõnis Siigur and his young disciple Orm Oja. All cooking is done on open fire. The whole evening will be a well-orchestrated feast for all senses.  

Oko in Viimsi, right at Haabneeme Beach, was created for families in mind. Everybody finds something from their casual menu, be it pizza from a wood-burning oven, an artisan burger or a simple pasta dish. The glass-walled, three-story house lets you marvel at the waves and sunsets. In summer, sit on the terrace and let the cool sea breeze relax your mind while enjoying a chilled glass of wine.

Suburbs

Annön is operating in Lasnamäe, Tallinn’s largest Soviet-style suburb. The modest eatery is operated by a Korean family who came to Estonia, leaving their lives in Uzbekistan behind. The spicy food is a mix of Korean and Uzbek dishes. Be prepared for an authentic ethnic meal in a true Soviet Union atmosphere.

Pirosmani, in the woods of Nõmme, is a Georgian hangout run by a family who fled the war in Georgia. In winter, you may come here after cross-country skiing and enjoy a heart-warming tomato based Kharcho soup or Khinkali dumplings. In summer, combine the grilled shashlik meal with a round of disc golf.

Sõõrikukohvik aka donut café, near Nõmme railway station is a good, honest example of a simple lunchtime canteen. Be prepared to stand in line together with construction workers or policemen, and make sure you order a plateful of freshly baked, greasy donuts dusted with powdered sugar for dessert. 

22 Family Resto in Haabersti is an honest, everyday casual restaurant run by Russians. The menu is huge and features all kinds of fish and meat dishes, including foie gras and Tomahawk steak. They even import 60 different Belgian beers.  

Argo Bar has regular customers who come out here for some hardcore Caucasian cooking. The place in Kristiine looks unbelievably kitschy, but serves some of the best lamb kebabs, cheesy khachapuri and dolmas. Use your phone for menu translation and point with your fingers at the items you desire to try. 

Kohalik functions as a corner place for many young families living in the Uue-Maailma district. The simple wooden townhouse is full of life throughout the whole day. They start in the morning with pancakes, omelettes and porridge. Lunchtime gets extremely busy, offering a really good price to quality ratio. Kohalik aims to serve fresh, local fish and the chef is always hunting for local ingredients straight from the farmers.  

Bon appetit!

These top restaurant picks were suggested to you by food and wine writer Kadri Kroon, who has worked as a restaurateur and sommelier both in Tallinn and New York.