The restaurants framing Tallinn’s famed town square, Raekoja plats, seem to smack of mass tourism, especially with the brightly painted blue pint-sized Thomas the Train circling around, laden with lazy tourists—very similar menus, very similar patrons (all foreigners). Granted, the view from the outdoor seating at all of them is unbeatable: the handsome square that acts as the heart of the city, the beautiful pastel-colored buildings, the fantastic 600-year-old Town Hall (the oldest one in all of the Baltics and Scandinavia), and, unfortunately, a posse of some highly intoxicated British blokes on one heck of a stag bender. But I was looking for something more authentic within the walls of the Old Town, not the offerings of Mad Murphy’s Irish Pub & Grill, or the definitely not-Estonian-sounding mozzarella and tomato salad at the restaurant next door to it.
On a side street about a block from Town Hall, the outdoor seating along the cobblestones at Kuldse Notsu Kõrts (which translates as “Golden Piglet Inn”) caught my attention. The restaurant accommodated the incline of the street by placing one table and two benches on each of a dozen covered platforms, each a couple of inches higher than the one below it. The customers already seated—only a few with telltale signs of being tourists—seemed to be seriously enjoying their meals. Proud to be “using recipes that have been passed down from our grandmothers and our grandmothers’ grandmothers,” Kuldse Notsu Kõrts boasted a menu that was pure Estonian from start to finish, and it turned out to be the best meal I had during my stay in this Baltic nation.
Try This: When I inquired about any locally brewed beers (does Estonia have any?), my waitress happily recommended the country’s most popular, an A. Le Coq Premium, from Estonia’s oldest brewery—and an excellent recommendation it was: fresh, thirst-quenching, not too bitter. I started with some savory homemade cheese spiced with cumin and accompanied by sweet lingonberry jam. I followed that with a wild boar stew cooked in a creamy juniper-berry sauce and served with oven-baked potatoes and honey-dipped root vegetables. For dessert, I couldn’t resist the tuuliko “kama,” a traditional Estonian dessert made from a loose yogurt mixed with rye, oat, barley, and pea flour, topped with berries, and served in a mug.