Next Stop: A Romantic Cafe in Riga 🇱🇻
Finding the sweet spot in Latvia.
I'm a food and travel writer from the shores of Lake Erie, now based in Berlin. I attempt to send out weekly essays on my latest mishaps and travels around the globe and in the kitchen. If you would like to support my work, please consider sharing this newsletter with a friend or acquaintance (I’m not picky).
Parunāsim kafe'teeka is on my Google Maps of Riga with a little green flag like so many other bars, restaurants, and cafés in the city. I’ve marked them because someone or some article recommended them and that’s about as much thought as I’ve given it.
I could’ve stumbled into any number of cafés I had saved for my four-ish day stay in Riga last week. But parunāsim kafe'teeka was near my hotel––and that was reason enough. The streets of Riga were painted with snow, the temperature was several degrees below freezing, and my body had yet to acclimate. Short distances were my friend.
Parunāsim kafe'teeka is in the city’s almost-too-picturesque old town, but isolated in a way thanks to its secluded location down a quite, cobblestone alley. A large sign reads “CAFE” at the entrance with tiny light bulbs within the letters like an old-school carnival. Inside, the lights are dim and there’s a jazzy soundtrack softly reverberating across the two floors of the café.
The first floor seems like an elegant elevation of the standard café. Nothing over the top. I spotted a couple of round wooden tables with chairs that would probably only be comfortable for a half hour or so. There was a rather plush couch, but no more intimate at first glance than the one imprinted with the butt cheeks of the cast from Friends.
I’m waiting at the front of the line for what seems like an inordinate amount of time even though I’m close enough to the baristas that they can purely hear me breathing. This is standard European fare. It’s not meant to be rude, but there’s no point in acknowledging my existence until they can take my order. A similar scene in the US might have the barista asking me how I’m doing and apologizing profusely that they can’t drop everything to take my order.
I notice something called a “Riga coffee” on the menu. It’s apparently a blend of coffee, hot wine, and balsam––ubiquitous liquor in Latvia. I’m ready to get it until I see that they lather it with whipped cream. Nothing against whipped cream, but I’d rather stuff myself on actual food. So I put in an order for a regular coffee and head upstairs.
This is when I discovered that parunāsim kafe'teeka is specifically a romantic café. This is where you take a date, not a notebook and a kindle. There are cozy couches and chairs you usually see in front of fireplaces in period films and the inviting glow of a handful of table-side lamps. I grab a seat in one of the chairs, perhaps the most comfortable I’ve ever experienced at a café. I could’ve let those cushions swallow me whole while the hours melted away and I got lost in my book.
The music occasionally pulls me away from the trance with its jazzy covers of American pop music. I’m talking Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and a number of Lady GaGa tunes sung by the backup Sinatra in Vegas.
But it doesn’t bother me. I’m in my sweet spot of travel––cozied up someplace new without the FOMO guilt pushing me to spend five hours walking around the city to cram everything in.
Sitting there, I feel like I could do nothing all day.
(If you know me, you know that’s a lie. But I thought it was a nice ending.)
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