Vegan in Tallinn

Picture this: It’s 4:45 in the morning and you’re at the Tallinn airport, having gotten up at an ungodly hour and walked there from your airport hotel in a cold, dark, drizzly fog to catch your flight back to the United States. You’re looking forward to getting home and petting your pups, but you’re also sad to leave the city that’s captured your heart. You wander through the small but charming airport, smiling at the thoughtful touches — a small lending library, the free-to-use gym equipment, the sweet kids’ play area — and feel a little cheered. You walk past one of those ubiquitous airport food stalls, the kind with plastic cups of yogurt parfaits and crinkle-wrapped ham and cheese sandwiches. But something catches your eye: the word VEGAN, sprayed across a label on a croissant breakfast sandwich. You double back. You can’t believe it. Whereas you’re hard-pressed to find ready-made vegan snacks and meals at many U.S. airports, this tiny airport in Tallinn — with just 18 gates! — has a vegan croissant breakfast sandwich.

You can never eat breakfast this early. You buy the croissant anyway. You smile. You are completely infatuated with Tallinn. You can’t wait to return.

I think this experience is quite an apt encapsulation of my time in Tallinn. I found myself charmed and delighted by so many things: the architecture, the prices, the pedestrian-friendliness… and the vegan freakin’ food. After reading Amey’s paean to Tallinn last year, I knew I was in for a treat in this small city, but I still found myself surprised by how incredibly vegan-friendly it is! Heck, I even found three flavors of vegan ice cream cones in a tiny gelato stall in a mall by the airport! So of course I have to share. Read on for tips on where to find vegan food in Tallinn, Estonia. But maybe pause and grab a coffee or a beer or something first, because… I got wordy with this one. #sorrynotsorry

Vegan Inspiratsioon // Tallinn

Vegan Inspiratsioon

After checking in to my cute little Old Town hotel on my first night in Estonia, I was hungry. It had been a long day of traveling and I hadn’t had a solid meal in nearly 24 hours. (Though I secretly love airplane food, it doesn’t quite count.) After perusing the handy Google map I’d loaded up with attractions, sites, and vegan restaurants in Tallinn, I decided to head just up the street to Vegan Inspiratsioon for dinner. And when I say “just up the street,” I mean it: It was a straight shot from my hotel, barely a five-minute walk. This, I’d find, would define my time in Tallinn: Everything was close and vegan food was everywhere.

Vegan Inspiratsioon doesn’t look like much from the street; there’s a sign and not much else. You’ll need to walk through a darkened vestibule before you enter the restaurant proper, but when you do, you’ll be greeted with utter charm: stone walls, an assortment of cozy booths and tables, fairy lights strung everywhere, soft indie music, tea lights on the tables… and all authentic, not like it’s trying too hard to be Instagram-chic. Sit yourself at a table, grab a menu, and wait for someone to take your order. Service might be a little slow, but all the better to enjoy a long, lazy meal.

When I arrived close to 7 p.m. on my first night, the restaurant was pretty empty. Gradually, over the course of my dinner, small groups arrived and filled in. But it remained quiet, and I felt utterly comfortable taking my time over dinner.

Vegan Inspiratsioon // Tallinn

Unable to choose among all the tasty-sounding dishes (and feeling a tiny bit of post-travel queasiness), I decided to hedge my bets and go for the Inspa Special Bowl, a hodgepodge of healthy-sounding menu items thrown into one well-packed dish.

The bowl included two decently sized beetroot-lentil-buckwheat cutlets, a generous portion of sweet potato fries, zucchini noodles, tofu egg salad, sauerkraut, traditional creamy Estonian potato salad, roasted chickpeas, hummus, dill-parsley ranch sauce, and a big pile o’ sprouts. All this for under €10, too!

I really loved those beetroot cutlets; they provided a nice flavor and texture to anchor the dish agains the lighter elements. I found the tofu egg salad almost shockingly tangy — I’m not sure what was in it, but it had quite a kick! I didn’t actually care for the potato salad, though; it was just way too creamy for me. (I’d almost ordered a full bowl of it along with soup — glad I didn’t!) The sauerkraut was excellent, and the hummus had a nice rich flavor. I found the sweet potato fries a bit oily and soft, unfortunately.

I also ordered a peppermint-ginger lemonade to settle my stomach, but alas — I tasted very little ginger and very little peppermint; it was quite sweet instead. Skip that one! The post-dinner herbal tea I ordered was much more to my liking. (According to the tour guide on my day trip to Lahemaa National Park a few days later, Estonians love herbal teas and will make them with just about any root, shoot, or leaf they can pick!)

On that first visit to Vegan Inspiratsioon, I somehow resisted the siren call of the dessert case. I was so full from that scrumptious bowl! But I made sure to leave room on my second visit (!) a few days later. On that night, ravenous from a day of walking my tootsies off all over Tallinn, I opted for the I’m Quite Special Burger, another beetroot-based patty. This one also featured lentils and buckwheat, and was served with tomato, fried zucchini, that tangy tofu egg salad, dill-parsley sauce, and some pickle relish on classic Estonian black bread. Boy, do I love black bread! This was a tactical and practical order on my part: I’ve learned my lesson about those massive Euro-style burgers served on brick-like buns; you’re pretty much required to dislocate your jaw to take a bite, and I always end up with a TMJ flare-up when I order one! So the black bread was much more manageable.

I adored this burger. Every little bit tasted delicious (except the tomato, which was frankly unnecessary!) and came together to form the perfect burger bite. The pickle relish was lovely, the patty was delicious, and the bread did not hurt my delicate mouth. The burger comes with coleslaw on the side, but it was unlike any coleslaw I’ve tried, almost curry-like in flavor and quite sweet. Tasty, though! I ordered an Estonian brown ale, and it was practically a second side dish: toasty, malty, and satisfying.

Somehow, even after all that, I had room for dessert. I opted for the raw raspberry caramel cake and was glad I did. I suspect it was nut-based with a date crust, but it somehow avoided becoming too heavy and rich like many raw cakes are. I didn’t quite taste caramel, but the raspberry was bright and the slice was nice and big: No measly, overpriced treat here.

All in all, I’d say Vegan Inspiratsioon should definitely make the list of vegan restaurants to visit in Tallinn. It’s relatively inexpensive, cozy, and situated right in Old Town… yet not close to the town square, which can get a bit rowdy. Save it for a night when you want to be left alone to eat your meal at a slow pace.

Vegan Restoran V // Tallinn

Vegan Restoran V

Okay, so, you know how I said that Vegan Inspiratsioon was barely five minutes from my hotel? Well. There was another 100% vegan restaurant also just five minutes from my hotel, but in the opposite direction. I WAS SURROUNDED BY VEGAN FOOD. This second spot — Vegan Restoran V — turned out to be my absolutely favorite eatery in Tallinn. And actually, I think it qualifies as one of my top-five vegan restos of all time. I’m not sure I can express how smitten I became with this tiny, cozy, super sweet spot, but I’ll try.

On my solo trips, I’m always seeking out spots where I can enjoy a long, lingering dinner and not feel conspicuous. I have no qualms about eating alone as a rule, but there are definitely some eateries where I might feel uncomfortable or out of place sitting with a book or my Kindle, sipping a glass of wine or a mug of tea long after finishing my meal. To be honest, one big reason I like these long dinners is because they fill what can be a dull time. Don’t get me wrong; I rarely get lonely when I travel alone. I’m pretty solidly introverted, and I don’t crave companionship until I’ve been fully alone for quite a while. But even I don’t want to sit alone in a hotel room from dinner until bedtime! So I like to fill that awkward time with a long, late meal, often followed by a nighttime wander around the city to get a sense of what it’s like after dark. (I’m still working up the courage to go to a bar or pub by myself. That one’s a harder sell for me!)

Vegan Restoran V is the perfect spot for a long, indulgent meal. On my first visit, the place was pretty full. (In fact, they recommend making a reservation because it’s a small spot, with fewer than 10 tables.) I had no reservation, but luckily there was a table for two open in the middle of the restaurant. I didn’t love the spot, though; it felt very exposed and conspicuous. So when a couple finished their meal and vacated a more secluded table by a window, I asked to switch and the waitress graciously assented. From there, I settled in for arguably the best meal of my trip.

Vegan Restoran V // saladOn that first visit, I wasn’t terribly hungry, so I opted for a glass of wine and a salad. Now, I normally do not order salads at vegan restaurants; it just seems like a waste when there are other, more creative dishes on offer. But my stomach was a little unsettled, so I wanted something simple. And you know what? I made the perfect choice. Bright, crisp, fresh lettuce leaves formed the base, and they were topped with a plethora of goodies: pecans, grapefruit slices, strawberries, cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced radishes, sprouts, and pomegranate arils, all drizzled in an amazing strawberry vinaigrette. If you’re a longtime reader, you’ll know that I am not a fan of vinegar or vinaigrettes, so the fact that I loved this dressing speaks volumes. It was almost creamy, and just the right amount of sweet. So, so good. I savored that salad for a while as I read on my Kindle and surreptitiously people-watched. A couple seated near me ordered the snack platter as a starter, and it looked phenomenal: a gorgeously plated smorgasbord of nuts, veggies, housemade cheeses, and dippers.

Vegan Restoran V // mini pavlova

Afterward, I ordered a second glass of white wine (it was nothing special, but it was inexpensive!) while perusing the dessert menu. Vegan Restoran V offers two set desserts and a rotating selections of cakes, and I opted for a mainstay: a mini pavlova with avocado cream and strawberry sorbet. Oh. My. Goodness. The aquafaba-based pavlova was melt-in-your-mouth meringue perfection, with a beautifully rich avocado cream that managed to harness avocado’s creaminess without a too-strong flavor. And the strawberry sorbet was a delight as well, a nice cool, light dish wholly infused with strawberry flavor. Already a little in love with Vegan Restoran V, I was even more thrilled when the check arrived and it was just under €20 for what I considered a stellar meal and a perfect dining experience. To that latter point, the service was attentive without being overbearing, and I didn’t feel at all uncomfortable to be a single diner taking up a table. In fact, I even felt welcome.(There was one other single diner, and he seemed equally welcome.) I left dinner that night full but not uncomfortably so — the ideal state.

Thrilled with my first dining experience at Vegan Restoran V, I made a point to return again. This time I snagged a seat in the small area off the main dining room, and the servers graciously pulled apart a large table to give me my own. While this spot wasn’t quite as ideal in terms of people-watching, I loved how tucked away and cozy it made me feel. It was also quite toasty, so bear that in mind if you prefer a cooler dining experience! (My perpetually cold self found it perfect.)

Vegan Restoran V // tofu-potato casseroleTempted though I was to order the snack platter and enjoy it as my main meal, I wanted something a bit heartier after spending a full day tromping through Lahemaa National Park in the rain with Traveller Tours. I chose the week’s special, a potato-tofu casserole with pumpkin sauce (!), and a glass of local rhubarb sparkling wine. (I knew I was taking a risk with the latter; if it had been sweet and overly flavored, I would not have enjoyed it. Luckily it was quite subtle; I wouldn’t have marked it as rhubarb-flavored had I not known. ) Now, about that casserole… “layered pastry confection” might be a better descriptor! This dish featured flaky pastry layered with tofu, potatoes, zucchini, and other veg, topped with a mass of sprouts, pomegranate arils, and various other colorful leaves, all swimming in a pool of creamy pumpkin sauce. Rich, filling, and super satisfying, if a little salty for my tastes. I was actually a little surprised at how heavy this dish felt, but I guess my previous dinner point of comparison (a salad) was the exact opposite of casserole. I managed to finish and leave juuust enough room for dessert, however.

Vegan Restoran V // plum ice creamThis time around, I intended to order one of the daily specials. There was a chocolate-rum ball that looked quite intriguing, along with other raw and baked cakes and tarts. But then, at the last second, I chose the second regular dessert, described on the menu as plum ice cream with raspberry-marinated plum compote, topped with crispy oatmeal crumbs and a tuile pastry. Aaaaghhhh. What arrived was slightly different from the menu listing but equally amazing. I got a big scoop of fruity, almost buttery plum ice cream, along with marinated plum slices and a crumble that seemed to include freeze-dried raspberries (genius!). The whole thing was topped off with a crispy tuile wafer, adding just a little crunch. Amazing. And so rich. I practically rolled out of Vegan Restoran V. No regrets!

If I haven’t made it clear, I adored Vegan Restoran V. Everything about it hit all the right notes for me: the small but thoughtful menu, the ambiance, the service, the prices… and, of course, the food. It offers a slightly elevated dining experience that still remains low-key and cozy. Just perfect, really.

Psst… sorry these photos are so crap. The low light at Vegan Restoran V makes for an über cozy meal, but does not do much for food photos when you’re shooting on your phone!

Tokumaru

With locations in Tallinn and Tartu, this small Estonian chain is a super convenient place to get really yummy vegan Japanese food. While it’s not all vegan, the menu is very clearly labeled and there are lots of veg options available. On my first full day in Tallinn, I spent the morning doing a tour of the KGB’s old headquarters in the Hotel Viru, after which I was famished. Luckily the Solaris shopping center was just down the street, and I knew it housed a couple of veg-friendly eateries, including Tokumaru. Given the grey, chilly weather, I opted for a steaming hot bowl of tantan vegan ramen. When I placed my order, the waitress asked whether I wanted a small or large bowl. “Oh, large,” I said, as if it were the obvious choice.

Vegan ramen at Tokumaru // TallinnREADER. IT IS NOT THE OBVIOUS CHOICE. Do not order a large bowl of vegan tantan ramen at Tokumaru unless your stomach is prepared to hold perhaps a quart of super-rich, peanutty, miso broth, along with a goodly portion of noodles, mushrooms, tofu, bamboo shoots, and — oddly enough — greens. The dish might look average-sized in that photo, but I swear it was like the Tardis of ramen bowls. I could not finish my ramen, not by a long shot. Oh, the hubris. It hurt. (Literally. My stomach was bursting.) I mean, don’t get me wrong: This ramen was fantastic. So well-flavored, with lots of plump juicy mushrooms. But good god was this serving large. And salty. My mouth was so dry by the time I finally waved my proverbial white flag, put down my spoon and chopsticks, and declared myself defeated by the broth. It didn’t help that the communal water jug is far too small for the size of the restaurant, and the servers either ignored the fact that it was empty or just didn’t notice. By the time they refilled it, my mouth was a desert. I slunk away, ashamed at my failure to finish.

On my last night in Tallinn, I returned to the same Tokumaru location, mostly out of convenience. I’d just gotten off the ferry, back from a quick one-night stay in Helsinki, and the Solaris location was in the direction of my airport hotel — and conveniently located by a bus depot that would take me there quite quickly after dinner. I contemplated a couple dishes (vegan tempura?! sushi?!) but ultimately chose a starter of seaweed salad and vegan ankake yakisoba — featuring fried whole-wheat noodles,  mushrooms, carrot, napa cabbage, and greens — for the main. While the seaweed salad was nice (if large), I was a little disappointed with the yakisoba. I’m not totally sure what ankake sauce is, but I couldn’t discern much flavor in it. I regret not getting the tempura! Especially because I also couldn’t finish the yakisoba. This time I took the remains to go (…and then proceeded to leak the mysterious ankake sauce all over the bus, ooops) and ate a bit more as a late-night snack at my hotel that night, but it was even less tasty when cold. Sigh. So, if you do visit Tokumaru in Tallinn, I recommend skipping the yakisoba and trying one of the other vegan options. You can’t go wrong with the tantan ramen (…unless you’re allergic to peanuts). Just remember to order a small.

Veg Machine

Though Tallinn’s Old Town is undeniably picturesque and perfect for exploring, don’t spend all your time there! Walk a little north past the city walls and hit up Balti Jaama Turg, a massive three-level indoor/outdoor marketplace where you can easily idle away a few hours. Along with deceptively large and labyrinthine antique stores, tiny design-focused shops, and a grocery store (see below), you’ll find more traditional market vendors offering veggies, fruit, and plenty of non-vegan unmentionables. But the best part (in my opinion) is the first floor, which features nearly 20 street-food-style food vendors and stalls. It’s like a food truck park, but without the possibility of inclement weather! And with better seating! Yasss.

Pressed sandwich at VegMachine, TallinnFeeling peckish one afternoon, I headed to Balti Jaama Turg for a light lunch at one of the two (!) all-vegan stalls. I opted for VegMachine, lured by the inexpensive prices and the creative menu. These to-go dishes skew toward warm, healthy-ish comfort food, with burgers, sandwiches, wraps, and other mainly handheld delights. I chose the tofu croquette toastie, a pressed sandwich served piping hot. At just 4€, this was a steal! I appreciated the contrast between the soft filling and the slightly crispy bread. Although there were no real standout flavors, this was a wholly filling, warming, savory sandwich, perfect for my late (and light) lunch. I know it looks very yellow and (perhaps) unappealing in the photo, but I promise appearances were deceiving in this case!

Epic Coffee

Chilled through after a particularly drizzly, windy morning on my second full day in Tallinn, I sought comfort in caffeine. Down a side street off the Viru Gates I found Epic Coffee, a hipster-friendly coffeehouse serving locally roasted beans and offering plenty of non-dairy milks. I chose an oat milk latte, because I’ve got to get my Oatly fix when I’m in Europe.

Oat milk latte from Epic Coffee // Tallinn

The barista didn’t bat an eye when I asked him to fix my drink in my KeepCup, which was great. Even greater? My discovery of vegan goodies in the pastry case! Although a cookie was appealing, the slice of cake looked even better — especially after a disappointing breakfast at the hotel’s free buffet. (Fruit and rice cakes do not a nourishing breakfast make.) I got a slice to go and was surprised by how delicious it was — chewy and just a little dense, almost marzipan-y in flavor, and bursting with nuts. The perfect snack to tide me over during an extremely enjoyable few hours wandering through the Tallinn City Museum.

Bear Farm Chocolate, aka Karu talu šokolaad

Did I purposefully choose a hotel just three minutes’ walk from an all-vegan chocolate shop? Yes, yes I did. Did I have visions of stopping by every afternoon for a sugary, caffeinated pick-me-up? Also yes. Did I then only go once during my stay? Alas, yes.

Bear Farm Chocolate is, as mentioned, an all-vegan chocolate and pastry shop in the heart of Old Town. It is adorable, with an old-fashioned cash register, mounds of myriad flavored fudges and chocolate confections, and a small selection of pastries. It also has hours that were not conducive to multiple visits during my stay in Tallinn, opening late and closely early. I ended up stopping here just once, opting for an amaretto chocolate that was both inexpensive and far too large for consumption in one go. Yet I ate it all at once, while walking somewhere, becoming queasier and queasier as I went. Ugh, regrets. Honestly? It wasn’t that good. I expected dense, rich fudge, and instead I got a kind of dry-ish cross between fudge and a traditional chocolate bar, with a slightly sickening almond flavor and way too much decorative silver glitter that attached itself to my fingers and refused to leave. It turned me off from the shop just a bit, and I never made it back to try one of the pastries that were on offer. (I was also sad because their hot water machine was broken when I stopped by, foiling my plan to get a tea and a pastry for a more leisurely afternoon snack than my rushed gobbling of a less-than-stellar piece of chocolate.)

Don’t let my experience turn you off, though: Plenty of reviewers love this place, and I suspect I just chose poorly… and ate too much in one go. Plus, they are unashamedly vegan for the animals, which I just adore.

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Other vegan options in Tallinn

My trusty personalized Google map was totally filled up with vegan spots in Tallinn! Here are a few I didn’t get to try or weren’t worth writing about in more detail.

  • Biomarket. This small chain of health food stores carries a respectable selection of vegan products, including tons of non-dairy yogurts. Locations abound in Tallinn, including one in the aforementioned Balti Jaama Turg market hall and a smaller one in the aforementioned Solaris shopping center. Also a great place to find Estonian food products to bring home as souvenirs; I picked up some herbal teas.
  • Rataskaevu 16. This well-regarded Old Town eatery is not entirely vegan or vegetarian, but it does offer some creative-looking vegan options in what appears to be a really lovely setting. This would be a great choice for a mixed crowd of diners.
  • Reval Café. Alas, this was perhaps my biggest food-related disappointment of the trip. I’d read in many vegan-in-Tallinn roundups that Reval Café — a small chain of coffeehouses with light dishes — was great for vegans. Unfortunately, I didn’t find that to be the case. I stopped in to a few locations (there are 12 around Tallinn) and made a beeline for the pastry case, having heard that they typically offer at least one vegan option. Yet nothing was listed as vegan. At one location, I asked the lady behind the counter if any of the pastries were vegan, and she hesitated for a second before pointing to a chocolate cake and saying it was. Hmm. I was dubious. She may very well have been right, but it was not labeled as such, which seemed odd for vegan-positive Tallinn. I skipped it, opting for an oat milk latte and no accompanying pastry. In terms of savory options, the one consistent vegan choice was falafel. No offense, but snore. If you’re in a pinch or traveling with omnis, Reval Café might be a solid option (especially since there are locations everywhere), but given the abundance of top-notch vegan food on offer in Tallinn, I wouldn’t make it my top choice.
  • Rimi supermarkets. Every savvy vegan traveler knows that it’s more than respectable to stock up on veg products at the local supermarket if vegan food will be scarce. I thankfully didn’t need to do that much this trip, but I did stop in to a Rimi Express one morning, looking for snacks before heading out on a day trip. Alas, this small location didn’t have my trusty standby (Alpro soy yogurts), so I had to settle for some nuts and crackers. (Bizarrely, it did carry some barista-style plant milks.) But the larger locations should carry more vegan options.
  • Toormoor. Another vegan food stall in the Balti Jaama Turg market hall, Toormoor focuses on healthy, mostly raw dishes. You’ll find both savory and sweet items, along with coffee and tea, and there’s a cute indoor seating area that takes you out of the hustle and bustle of the surrounding market.
  • Vegan Italy. Pardon me while I shed a tear for not getting to visit this all-vegan Italian restaurant. Located about 2.5 kilometers outside the Old Town, Vegan Italy was just a little too out of the way every time I was deciding where to go for a meal. I intended to go on my last night, because it was close(ish) to my airport hotel, but when I realized the place closes at 7 p.m., I changed my plans in a fit of pique — it would’ve been cutting it close after a 5:30 p.m. ferry arrival, and I didn’t want to feel rushed. Plus, dinner isn’t the optimal meal to take at Vegan Italy: You’ll want to go for the 9€ VEGAN LUNCH BUFFET. I mean, really. Unlimited pasta! Arancini! Bruschetta! Etcetera! INCLUDING DESSERT! The more I think about not visiting this spot, the sadder I get. Moving on.

This is, as always, not an exhaustive list. I’d love to hear your favorite vegan restaurants in Tallinn, so do share!

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Vegan in Tallinn, Estonia // govegga.com

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6 thoughts on “Vegan in Tallinn

  1. I wish I had read this post before we went! I was just in Tallinn for a day (we stayed in Helsinki and took the ferry there and back) and we went on a national holiday (which we didn’t realize at the time…) and a lot of places were closed. And I had no idea it was so vegan friendly so I didn’t even look for a vegan restaurant!

    Next time I’m in Finland I’ll swing back to Tallinn to do it better justice =)

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  2. I was reading this trying to work out the last time I was in Tallinn, and it occurred to me I wasn’t even vegan then – so it must have been a very looooooong time ago! I don’t remember seeing so much good food then even as a veggie, so you’ve found some amazing places. Is it wrong that I’m now thinking I need to get myself back to Estonia?! I’ve been thinking about it for a while because I’d love to see flying squirrels in the wild. The fact they have so much amazing scran would just be a bonus!

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