Three things immediately sparked my love affair with Tallinn. First, its Old Town is beautiful and compact. Second, the social culture and generally friendly temperament of locals makes meeting people a great experience. Lastly, I was continually impressed by the quality and value of Tallinn’s food.
What to eat in Tallinn
Estonian food has evolved over many centuries, mostly influenced by the geography and proximity to neighbours such as Russia, Germany and Scandinavia. The humble potato, seafood from coastal Estonia, meat from further inland and rye bread are all staple foods to the Estonian palate. Some interesting foods to sample include elk meat, smoked fish, dark rye bread, quail meat, deer grill, wild boar and more. ‘Verivorst’ is a unique Estonian dish- a black pudding served with a stew of sauerkraut, known as ‘mulgikapsad’. Estonian chocolate, particularly the ‘Kalev’ brand is a nice souvenir to take home.
This is still a city that’s off the radar for many people and this means prices have remained affordable and there aren’t many tourists. For all these reasons, it remains one of my favorite cities in the world. I recommend going to Tallinn now before more people discover this relatively hidden gem. Hopefully the Cheap Eats Guide to Tallinn help to make a visit even more worthwhile.
Where to eat in Tallinn
1.Kompressor: Rataskaevu 3, 10123, Tallinn
€4-7 per person, Open from 11 a.m. until they decide to close
After talking to some local friends I was led to Kompressor. I continued to hear about this great spot from many more people during my stay. I ate here multiple times. The restaurant’s website describes them as a “Legendary pancake pub” near the Old Town Square.
Kompressor offers both sweet and savory options and the portions are sizable. The bacon with Gouda and the garlic options remain my favorites. The salmon with smoked cheese was also very good. The cheese in each pancake combined with the sour cream dip can be a bit rich but Estonians tend to love their dairy products.
Local garlic bread is also available as an appetizer. Their preparation style is to season and roast the black bread and serve it with garlic dipping sauce. I recommend giving it a try as well.
Kompressor is open seven days a week beginning at 11 a.m. They also offer a solid beer and wine selection. I quickly learned that drinking is very popular among locals, regardless of the meal.
2. Pegasus: Harju 1, 10146 Tallinn
€13-20 per person, Open noon-11 p.m. during the week or midnight on weekends
A seasonal menu, classy interior and great service make Pegasus a must-try. From the summer menu the traditional beetroot soup, served chilled with pumpkin seeds and a quail egg, is a great vegetarian option. The beef broth soup served with herbs and a quail egg is also nice for a heartier option. It’s served with carrot pirukad, a local bread stuffed with vegetables or sometimes meat. Each soup was around €4.
The server suggested the goat cheese and eggplant tart as lighter main course. Their interpretation was more as a crispy base. A rocket salad of mixed greens, eggplant, goat cheese, pumpkin seeds, tomatoes and a drizzle of vinaigrette dressing were built on top of the tart.
The combination of the dish were impressive. The flavorful eggplant and cheese were perfectly complemented by peppery greens, acidic tomatoes and the vinaigrette dressing. The texture of leafy greens and vegetables also went nicely with the crunch of the tart.
3. Rataskaevu 16: Rataskaevu 16 Kesklinna Linnaosa, Tallinn
€15-20 per person, Open noon-11 p.m. during the week or midnight on weekends
Although I was unaware at the time, Rataskaevu 16 is a sister restaurant to Pegasus. Its popularity among locals also means you’ll likely need a reservation. It took me a few day’s notice mid-summer.
To start, the server’s recommendation was what he considered a true Estonian salad. It was a medley of mixed greens, smoked white fish, radish and a cottage cheese dressing with a dash of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. It was fresh and light. The cottage cheese dressing and dill added a nice creamy touch with a pop of herbs.
For a main course, the server recommended another popular Estonian dish of braised elk with beet, carrot, herbs, black currant sauce and celery puree. The elk was very rich and flavorful and paired well with the currant. The beats and carrots provided an element of sweetness with a little cream from the puree and a final elegant pop of flavor from the sprouts and herbs. The elk was roasted a little more than I would have liked but still was very enjoyable.
4. III Draakon: Town Hall – Raekoja plats 1, Tallinn
€2-5 per person, Open 9 a.m. to midnight daily
Neary every local will recommend III Draakon for the elk meat soup. This rich and hearty €2 dish is a fast favorite for just about anyone, regardless of budget. The restaurant is also located in the Town Hall Square and is easily the best deal you’ll find in the area. They also offer the local favorite pirukad stuffed with a variety of vegetables or meat for €1-2. The ones stuffed with carrots were my favorite.
Be prepared for some humor and personality from the staff. They don’t give out spoons for the soup, meaning diners have to slurp from the bowl. They offer free homemade pickles from the barrel, as many as can be spooned out. Lastly, for anyone who is tired from too much soup, pirukad and pickles they rent a bunk bed in the back for €1 per hour. Good food on a budget and lots of personality. Highly recommended.
5. F-Hoone: Telliskivi 60a, 10412 Tallinn, Estonia
Mains: under 10 Euros, Open 9am to 12am everyday; Fri-Sat: 9am to 2am; Sun: 9am to 10pm
This is a great little spot in the funky neighbourhood of Kalamaja. If you are in this neck of the woods then don’t neglect to visit F-Hoone. The restaurant has a cool industrial vibe and a few times a month turns into a happening party spot! The speciality of the restaurant and the reason that it is so popular with the locals is that the prices of items on the menu are low but that doesn’t mean that there is any skimping on the quality of food. Be prepared for a long, relaxed brunch, lunch or meal – as service may be slow due to the great popularity of the place. Lofty ceilings, huge critical windows through which light floods through, comfortable seating at large wooden tables, the perfect lighting and a very long, elongated bar are what provide architectural beauty and interest to the design of F-Hoone. The 100 year old industrial building hosts many a delicious meal. A huge selection of cocktails and drinks, sandwiches, salads, soups and mains such as mutton dumplings, vegetable curry with basmati rice, pasta, duck fillet, grilled salmon with gnocchi – are all aimed to please. All mains are under 10 euros.
6. Boheem: Kopli 18, 10412 Tallinn, Estonia
Many items on menu under 10 euros; 9am to 11pm
This is a delightful, character-filled eatery which is friendly on the pocket. The restaurant has a bohemian flair, with wooden floors, old furniture and is the perfect place to drink many cups of cafe, accompanied to crepes, salads and mouthwatering desserts. Take your time whilst eating at Boheem. Brunch, lunch or a snack can turn into a lengthy affair in these welcoming surroundings. Conveniently located behind the Baltic Station Market and with its own pizzeria next door, we think that this place is a great crowd pleaser. Items on the menu include breakfast (fried potatoes, bacon and eggs), different tomato based soups, a variety of salads, shrimp, chicken or salmon pasta, wraps, casseroles, wraps, crepes, dumplings, pancakes and ice cream. Wraps, salads, pasta and most items on the menu come in under 10 euros.
7. Clayhills Gastropub: Pikk 13, 10123 Tallinn, Estonia
Mains: around 15 euros ; Hours: 12pm to 12 am except Fri&Sat : 12pm to 2am
Clayhills Gastropub located in the heart of Tallinn’s Old Town, is a relaxed pub serving up delicious, unpretentious, seasonal food from the organic farmers and markets of Tallinn. The Gastropub often features some sort of live music with which to enjoy your meal. Enjoy the most choice Estonian vegetables, meat and dairy, hand picked to please your tastebuds. Executive chef Bobby Chamunokara will serve you up delectable items like pulled pork Cuban sandwiches on sourdough bread, jalapeño croquettes, smoked duck, crispy beef, steaks, and sweet treats like lemon cheesecake, moist chocolate beetroot cake and warm apple pie. Most of the mains on the menu come in at around 15 euros.
- Dumplings are a very popular and tasty budget food served throughout Estonia. The cheapest in Tallinn can be found at EAT (€1.50-3, Vaike-Karja tn 3, Tallinn 10140) or purchased in a local supermarket for around €1 and cooked at home.
- Grilled meat & vegetable skewers can be found at many street events and public gatherings. While they aren’t the cheapest at around €6-7, they are delicious and worth a try. They’re generally served with spicy mustard and a side dish.
- The tipping recommendation for formal restaurants is generally 5-10% in Estonia.
Creative Commons License Attribution
“F-Hoone” (P1040899) photo was licensed under Creative Commons license courtesy of Brandungslucken.
“Clayhills Gastropub” photo was licensed under Creative Commons license courtesy of Bernt Rostad.