As Russia’s westernmost territory, and with a history of being a German city not so long ago, it’s little surprise that the foodie trends which have swept Western Europe in recent years, from vegan cafes to local produce, have made their way to this charming exclave. So kick back and relax at these cafes, bars and restauants for some of the most delicious and surprising fare in the city.
A vegetarian micro cafe where the micro really means micro, opened by a Kaliningrad photographer and his girlfriend. The vegan menu, homemade dairy-free milkshakes and healthy desserts all live up to a promise of natural, environmentally friendly food. If you suffer from claustrophobia (and the weather isn’t terrible) order in advance, collect your food and have a water picnic – you’re only a five minute walk from pedalo rentals on the Upper Pond.
What to try: the vegan cakes are the pride of the cafe. Try the date and banana cheesecake, the cherry pie with a yoghurty texture, the banana chocolate tart or the classic vegan tiramisu.
15 Proletarskaya Street
Craft beer. The patter of balls on rackets. A chillout zone, like in the films from the heroin chic era. This is Ping Ponger. It’s located on the site of the Kvarts electronics factory, famous for its developments in laser technology, the space industry and fuels of the future. Come to imbibe another kind of future fuel, but make sure to plan your route as getting here without a GPS or any help isn’t easy. If you want to lap up the essence of the Kaliningrad underground, the parties and live concerts here are unmissable.
What to try: there’s an item on the blackboard called Secret Shot. We’ll let you in on the secret: this distillate is the favourite drink of the grandfather of one of the bartenders. If you want to really sharpen your senses, this is the one.
Unit 5, 10 Musorgskogo Street
Kaliningrad is home to three restaurants by this name. The first is a real draw thanks to its portside location, with a stylish veranda that overlooks the river and the loading terminals. The second, which is located in the Plaza shopping centre, has a view of the House of Soviets and, for the duration of the World Cup, the fan zone. The small selection of dishes on the Italian-leaning menu are executed to near perfection.
Try: the squid ink, salmon and mozzarella ravioli, which is served in an arrabbiata sauce (or any of the other ravioli).
The family of the first President of Russia know about this place. Soon after its opening in 2015, lawyers representing the interests of Naina Yeltsina contacted the craft beer bar’s team and politely but firmly requested that they change the name. The reason for the potential conflict was that it was not clear from a distance what intent lay behind the use of Boris Yeltsin’s name. In the end, after direct communication with the Yeltsin family, an explanation of the good intentions and the fact that here the historical figure is treated not only with reverence but with favour, the family’s blessing was given. At the entrance to Yeltsin is a granite tablet with a quote from the Constitution of Russia. Craft beer? Check. No-nonsense food? Check. Good customer service? Check. A pleasant clientele? Check.
What to try: the beer on tap is changed every few days, so ask for some advice from the other side of the bar. For a snack try the Fischbrötchen (a type of fish sandwich).
2a Garazhnaya Street
MAY is the latest addition to a cafe culture where being vegetarian friendly is a given and everybody, including their dogs, is welcome. The minimalist surroundings, Soviet furniture, old public transport signs and posters from Moscow’s Enthusiast bar help to create a comfortable and homely atmosphere. Best of all, MAY’s team keeps the menu simple: the potato pancakes are a perfect pairing with the excellent coffee. And don’t forget about the desserts!
108 Karl Marx Street
The Markt Halle sign that greets guests from one of the cafe walls is original. It once hung from the entrance to a closed market inside the Königsberg Tiergarten. The current establishment has a direct line to this history through its association with farming and nature, and the interior is full of plants and wooden features. One panoramic window opens up onto the park creek, and another has views of the raccoon enclosure. The menu revolves around baking and dough, and is heavy on pizza, pelmeni and desserts, but the cafe also does a roaring trade in draniki (potato pancakes) and salads.
What to try: the assorted pelmeni (traditional Russian dumplings) served with a selection of sauces are exquisite. Filled with salmon, chicken and prawns and even served in black and yellow varieties, the standard portion will still be a challenge if you share this between two people.
26 Prospekt Mira
Prachechnaya is the second project of a coffee fraternity with an ambitious-sounding name: Coffee Revolution. Two of the others – Kofeinya na Galitskogo and N3 – are serious contenders, but it’s Prachechnaya which takes first prize, not least because it’s the workplace of Nastya Savlovksaya, Russia’s Aeropress coffee brewing champion and World AeroPress Championship competitor. The star brewer isn’t the only selling point, however, with a fantastic choice of snacks available to eat with your coffee. If you like baked treats and interesting ways of serving coffee, this is the place for you.
What to try: start with the damn fine coffee, but be careful not to ask the baristas too many questions, as you could end up listening to them for hours. After your coffee try some of the sweet delicacies, or if you'd rather fill up on breakfast, walk the few hundred metres down Prospekt Mira to sister cafe N3 for a bowl of porridge.
76 Prospekt Mira