Where is Riga's best kebab found and what will a shawarma cost you in Latvia's capital city?
All hail the the king of street food: kebab! Or is it kebap? Or kabob? Or is it really just a well disguised shawarma? But maybe nobody really cares about the names and origins as much as what's wrapped up in the lavash? Well, sometimes not even that, but for better or worse Donner kebab shops and the likes have taken over tourist walking streets and train station hole-in-the-wall kiosks from Lisbon to Vladivostok not bypassing Riga. So how much should you pay for one of these wraps when you've had enough of Latvian grey peas and kefir and where can you find the best that Riga has to offer?
Lower-end places that used to deliver meat to the shop in the back of their owners car might be a thing of the past, but there always will be "the cheapest option out there" as long as people use prices and there are folk with indestructible stomachs. So if you're on a tight travel budget and all you can spend on a meal is 3 eur tops you're still in luck - this would be just about enough for even a lunch offer "kebaba komplekts" if you're about during weekdays. Other than that 3 Euros will get you the bottom shelf, frozen meat "don't ask us how we do it" no thrills belly filler. Places like these can be found all over town, but more concentrated around the larger transport hubs and universities. Smell burnt oil? You're on the right path!
While there's plenty of room at the bottom and very little at the top most end up somewhere in the middle - in Riga's case it would be the spot around the 5 eur mark for a medium size/large at locally-favoured places like "Ausmena Kebabs" (a Latgalian franchise), "Rīgas Kebabs" (can be found in different parts of town), "Lazy Cats" (another new addition in the very center) or Riga's oldest kebab place "Food Box" where you also can help yourself to some free Turkish tea from the samovar and rub shoulders with random diplomats. The recently opened "Kingu" joint doubles up as a fried-chicken shop that puts coleslaw in their sandwiches; right on!
But what if you've decided to fork out some serious cash for what is elsewhere sold as street food and eat it while NOT walking? Riga's got you covered! Restaurants like "Space Falafel" sell pitas at 7 eur, wraps at around 10 eur and some of the plates for even over 17 eur! Prices do grow considerably when one uses fresh products and has to pay rent while located right next to most of the foreign embassies. While 10 eur kebabs might be standard some places north or west of Riga, that would be the very top price you could encounter in our city.
So in conclusion there won't be any big surprises - Riga, just like most cities east of Berlin still can feed you for around 3 Euros, the average will be closer to 5 Euros, but if you find yourself in the posh part of town you might even spend a tenner.
If by any mysteriously unexplainable chance you find yourself in the Bolderaja district in Riga's north-west you should pay a visit to the local institution "Gvatar" - a small kiosk by the main hub of this mini-town with a Russian-speaking majority. People drive (or walk on the abandoned railway for under 3 hours) up there only for the kebabs, fresh bread, hachapuri or other Central Asia inspired dishes.
While "Boar BBQ" is one of the most exiting BBQ/grill spots in town as the name might suggest, their falafel must be the best kept secret in Riga. Making all dishes from scratch and even baking their own Georgian-style bread (it's also a good enough reason to visit the place) these dudes are earning a reputation as serious as their home-made Louisiana sauce.