There’s some helpful writing on eating out in Lithuania’s genteel and charming capital, Vilnius. Even so, I really struggled to collate the data around the best places to eat with kids, so I thought that I’d come up with my own.
This traditional folk restaurant , especially the 8 Vokiečių gatvė outlet, reeks of tourist trap, but since when has that put small kids off? With live chickens, rickety farm equipment, fairy lights and MTV everywhere, the engaging din masks even the brattiest noise levels. The food menu is good fun, too, with ultra-palatable introductions to Lithuanian cuisine lite, as well as kiddie catnip like bubble gum flavoured Sprite cocktails. We all guzzled the kepta duona: fried bread with cheese and garlic. Points deducted for the service, though. It was surprisingly great the first time, including the procuring of the best value cab we ever took in Lithuania at the end of our meal. On a repeat visit however, the surliness, commitment to failing to make eye contact and glacial pace meant we walked out. A pity, because when it hits its *affable chaos*, rather than *substandard rubbish* stride, Cili Kaimas is very engaging.
The cafeteria-style dining here reminded me of the old Movenpick restaurant I used to frequent after work with my dad near Victoria. There are different cooking stations, where you can commission your own pizza and pasta, or whatever else, and watch them being made. There’s outside dining but also the genius existence of a whole indoor kids’ play area, with soft mats, toy boxes and plenty of seating nearby to kick back while keeping a vigilant eye. Admittedly a slightly generic choice, but almost unbeatable for toddlers on a day of thunderstorms and showers.
Užupis, in case you didn’t know, is a deeply eccentric and rather loveable breakaway hippy republic on the “other side of the river” in Vilnius. An artists’ haven with its own constitution, the waterside cafe just over the “national border” is picturesque, housing a stately interior, classic slapdash Vilnius service, and normally something peculiar going on, whether it be newlyweds fitting a padlock to the bridge, or a roving caricaturist or musician. There were multiple wedding parties wandering in and out of our sightline during lunch. All Lithuanians seem to be beautiful, so my girls gasped “there’s a princess getting married…and another one” ten times over during the meal. The final stunning bride that we spotted launched paper boats into the river next to us. A magical little moment as we all watched them bob hopefully upstream.
I got plenty of Facebook likes when I featured a picture from the frankly insane children’s menu at this pizza joint, part of a small chain. There’s page after page of psychedelic food follies, including trucks made of chicken nuggets and mash and a ham pizza shaped in, erm, the face of a pig. There’s plenty of LOLs available from the witty adult menu too: pears and crisps on pizza, anyone? In a country where whole dried fish is a snack food craze, mixing it up in the kitchen big time should come as no real surprise. My relatively conservative choice of seafood calzone didn’t disappoint. The boudoir-style décor feeds into the previously unheard of but wonderful “decadence for tweenies” vibe.
Dione Ice Cream
Oh boy. Located on the main thoroughfare of the Old Town, Pilies Street, my advice might seem counter-intuitive given how delicious the ice cream is, but DON’T order two scoops. We went for one each and were still masterfully chomping twenty five minutes later: to say the portions are generous is…well, I don’t like desserts and I was loosening my belt freely. Try the popcorn or mint choc chip flavours and check out the love it bought from my children:
Kabuki Sushi, Akropolis
This place scores points for all kinds of reasons. The outside booths directly adjoin the Akropolis Mall’s ice rink, and you feel *very* close to the action as skater and hockey players bomb past you and occasionally smash into the barrier, much to my seven year old’s delight and my three year old’s chagrin. Akropolis is a vast and useful shopping mall with an excellent bowling alley where we’d worked up an appetite. Kabuki is attractively designed, and also overlooks a pretty Chinese pagoda diner next door. Most gratifyingly, the food is superb; fresh, light, innovative, and, to a London sushi addict, comically good value. Asahi-and-sake bombs were a bonus.
McDonalds in Lithuania also gets an honourable mention just for the astonishing friendliness of the staff, both in the Akropolis branch and in the central franchise on Gediminas Avenue. Not to mention the best Happy Meal gifts I’ve ever seen - all miniature greenhouses, bird hideouts and eyewear to let you see the vision of different insects – educational and fun with no evident tacky movie tie-in.
Number one has to be this bucolic riverside complex in a national park on the outskirts of Vilnius. My expectations on arrival were high, and when the taxi dropped us and sped off my heart sank as I realised that we’d stumbled into a huge wedding party. Wandering beyond the first area booked out for the private event and wondering how I could feed my children, I soon discovered another huge outside restaurant and beer garden.
After I’d mopped my brow with relief over that, I took in the sizeable waterfall, highly quirky adventure playground, complete with spinning log cabin, and fascinating fauna, from frogs to black swans. The food is much better than you’d expect and lounging romantically around the low bridges and follies is perfect. Totally worth the 15 minute trip out.