The two P's of cheap eateries in Riga

  • 2009-01-28
  • By Monika Hanley

THE UGLY DUMPLING: The food may not look good, but it is surprisingly tasty and cheap.

RIGA - In these difficult economic times, it's a relief to know that there are still some things that can comfort you and get you through the rough patch. Namely food. Cheap food. Fast food.
No not McDonalds, Kebab Fix or Hesburger, but a classic mix of traditional and fulfilling cuisine. I'm talking about the two vital P's 's pancakes and pelmeni. I'm talking about two well established restaurants, Pelmeni XL and Sefpavars Vilhelms Pancakes, which are incidentally two of the most interesting (and cheap) restaurants in Riga's Old Town.

The unique thing about Pelmeni XL is that it's open late, until 4 a.m. Even if you're not out being rowdy on the town, and just want a late night tasty snack, Pelmeni XL is there cooking up fresh batches of dumplings for you about every five minutes. Oddly enough, the restaurant seems to be busiest at around 2 a.m.

Sefpavars Vilhelms, while not open that late 's until 22:00 's serves up some of the cheapest and most satisfying lunches you'll have in Riga. Right when you walk in, you're practically smacked in the face with a delicious, succulent assortment of pancakes. While not the most traditional selection 's with banana, cheese, cottage cheese and meat making up most of the array 's there are the cheap and tasty potato pancakes as well as plain, mushroom and apple.

The cost is the best part. The potato pancakes are .40 lats, and the more filling ones are .40-.60 lats. The toppings are also top notch. There is pretty much every type of jam you could desire, with currant-apple, strawberry, apricot, raspberry, marmalade, the list goes on. 

I'm continuously surprised by the amount of acquaintances and friends who have never been to these two purveyors of fine carbo-loaded tastiness. The most common excuse is "I wouldn't know what to do."
Well, fear no more. The process is simple. For Pelmeni XL, march in, take a tray and a small white bowl and start scooping the little dumplings into your bowl. Yes, you can mix and match and yes, you can pile on as many condiments and toppings as you want. However it's all weighed at the end of the line on the little silver scale, so be careful not to load up on too much sour cream and mayonnaise and focus more on the delicious lightweight deep fried cheese pelmeni for a better value.

All of the choices are tasty, although I'm more partial to the meat choices of chicken, lamb, smoked meat and beef as opposed to the ominous looking green vegetable dumplings. And of course the deep fried cheese pelmeni are perfect to cap off a night out or accompany an Aldaris, or Tervetes beer. For 200 grams of whatever combination of pelmeni you want its only .84 lats, with the condiments adding .42 lats per 100 grams.

The decor is the most interesting feature of the Kalku iela Pelmeni XL, located right on the main drag of the Old Town. It seems to evoke an art deco feel with no corners, and curvy psychedelic mosaics spiraling up the chunky bent columns.  Sefpavars Vilhelms pancake house's decor is slightly lumpy, like pancake batter, but very woodsy and dimly lit.

Pelmeni XL
7 Kalku Street

Sefpavars Vilhelms
6 Skunu Street