Discovering new places can make one hungry. Tallinn is steadily becoming a foodie destination with more restaurants, gastro pubs, and cafés than sometimes seem possible. Ranging from high-end Nordic cuisine to cheap, local favourites, the Old Town has it all. Indeed, it even has the historic.
The thing with the following restaurants is that you will probably not see many locals in them, especially in the summer. This is not because we don’t like them or haven’t tried them. We do and we have. It’s just that eating out in the Old Town is usually reserved for special occasions like anniversaries, birthdays, hot dates, or the company’s Christmas party. Here, for once, there is no potato in sight and various local wildlife from wild boar to bear is featured. The unusual flavours are novel but really good, and the unique experience makes for a treasured memory.
You can start by testing the waters, or more accurately the tastes, in the Town Hall which houses a little place called III Draakon. In the tradition of cheap eateries, the prices for food are incredibly low for the Old Town, (1 to 3,5€), and for this money you can try elk meat soup, different pies, sausages, and pickles (for free if you know where they are). This is the kind of a place where you get a little feel for medieval life. No one cleans your dishes up except for you, and if you fail, the landlady might have something to say to you. There are no spoons for the soup because your money doesn’t cover such luxuries, so bring your own or chug and hope for the best like the rest of us. If you don’t find enough room to sit, then feel free to invade someone else’s table if there is space.
Similar to III Draakon, but way more elaborate and fancy, is Olde Hansa around the corner. Set up in a historic warehouse building, you can try medieval cooking where cinnamon flavours the meat and honey sweetens the beer. The staff talks a little funny and calls your credit card ‘black magic’, but it is magic that they are happy to accept. Across the road is Peppersack, a place of good, sturdy Estonian-style food and nightly sword fights. Here too, people adorn costumes with feathered hats and pointy shoes to keep up appearances.
If committing to a whole meal seems too much, find the historic Town Hall Pharmacy – Raeapteek – which has been selling medicine since 1422, making it the oldest working pharmacy in Europe. Concepts of what is medicinal, though, have changed over time. For instance, a little bite of marzipan can go a long way in helping your mood improve and a shot of claret, red wine mixed with more spices you can name, will cure nearly everything. These things are still available along with clinically tested painkillers.