Even though we believe that Vilnius is a true Baltic diamond, majority of travellers choose to fully wring their holidays out and visit three sister-counties at once. If you are one of those and Riga is on your to-do list, make sure to add folk club Ala as one of the ‘must’ places as well.
Situated in Riga’s Old Town, it is the place to try national Latvian cuisine and even more importantly – local beers. Ala, meaning ‘cave’ in Latvian, is a shrine to local cultural heritage, filled with ancient symbols (the chandelier in the main hall depicts sun and has nothing to do with nazis), massive wooden furniture and even a stage for live contemporary folk music performances.
Well-mixed menu suggests possibility to try dishes ranging from soup served in a carved bread loaf to Ala-famous 1kg pork hock. Lithuanian and Latvian food share common ethnicity as well as same greasiness and heaviness, and for some foreign stomachs may become a real challenge. Dishes come with very reasonable price tags, so don’t be surprised to find yourself surrounded by vigorous students.
One of the greatest things about Ala – largest selection of local beers in Riga’s Old Town. 25 beer types and 25 tempting discoveries are served in this authentic basement. Vast majority of beer is delivered from small breweries, and each carries the unique taste of its own recipe. Even beer-hating ladies will be glad to find some local berry-tasting beer drinks. Just be sure to leave early enough to get back to your hotel using own feet.
By the way, while you eat and taste beer, Ala boasts live music evenings from Wednesday to Sunday. Underground Latvian music bands are usuals there, but bar invites some good mix of visiting performers from all around the world.
Most of the staff is fluent in English what is not that common talking about other visitors. Nevertheless, they might be tiresomely friendly. Be pleasant, but do not go into friendships too seriously as you might find yourself drinking ‘bruderschafts’ with a shaved-head local at 4am in the morning.
MENIU: Latvian national cuisine
PRICES: very reasonable
ALCOHOL: big variety of local beers and other strong drinks, cocktails – not so common
SERVICE: friendly English-speaking staff
LOCATION: Peldu 19, Old Town Riga (basement)
BALANCED FOR: open-minded ethnic-experience lovers