Trying traditional food is one of the best ways to understand a country. The history of Lithuania has been a hell of a ride and the constant rollercoaster of events has certainly had a major influence on our dinner tables. It’s very hard to say what exactly is “traditional Lithuanian food”; it means you have to try a lot of different dishes to solve the puzzle. We know just the right place to do that.
The company behind Bernelių užeiga has been operating in the field of Lithuanian cuisine for almost 3 decades now. The chain now consists of 4 branches in Kaunas, one in Vilnius and a couple in London. Two of the Kaunas restaurants are located in unique locations in the Centre and Old town that most definitely add to the great gastronomic experience. For a late Sunday lunch, we chose the restaurant on K. Donelaičio street, opposite from the Picture gallery and Kultūra cafe. The wooden house is right next to the Children literature museum and its charming little garden.
The house itself is almost 100 years old. The restaurant only opened its doors 16 years ago but its staff definitely works hard to keep the old-world charm in the air. It’s the balance of vintage interior details and clothing, delightful Lithuanian music from past decades and, of course, the comprehensive menu that includes both Lithuanian culinary heritage label certified dishes and various interpretations of Lithuanian cuisine that makes the place worth visiting of you want to discover the culinary section of our history.
The traditional dishes on the menu include a lot of game, pork, poultry, potatoes and herring. A new addition to the menu are ‘lighter’ dishes accompanied with healthy eating tips and tricks from a renowned dietician Vaida Kurpienė. Nevertheless, we went oldschool and started our little feast with a set of snacks that includes Skilandis, a Lithuanian sausage made of meat, fat, salt, pepper and garlic, that has protected status under European Union law, and a shot of homemade vodka also known as samanė or samagonas.
A cold beetroot soup is something you might have noticed while in Lithuania (at least for its colour!) but we opted for a radish version instead. The latter is lighter and even more refreshing on a sunny day!
Potato pancakes would be a very obvious choice for Lithuanians of all ages and statuses (we LOVE potato pancakes. You can even order them in a Mexican restaurant in Lithuania). The Lithuanian culinary heritage sign on the menu tempted us to order buckwheat pancakes that are served with warm beetroot salad. We loved the dish and its crunchy texture! Thank you, Dainava region, for this great invention.
Then came the interbellum-style rabbit stew served in a vintage bowl. A countryside potato mash and roasted beetroot were offered as garnish. Another dish from the particular era on the menu is sea pike in cream and vegetable sauce.
You absolutely must try the homemade authentic dark bread ice-cream for dessert. Or, maybe, the interbellum-style honey cake. Or the Napoleon cake. Or… Everything! A traditional and very refreshing apple and caraway drink will help you with that.
Bernelių užeiga is a great spot to try cepelinai, the extremely famous (while in fact not too historic) potato and meat (or curd) local dish. We suggest you do that on a Tuesday as this is when a generous 30% discount for cepelinai is offered. We must add that the prices in the restaurant are really very friendly even without any kind of discount.
Bernelių užeiga on K Donelaičio g. 11 is open daily from 11AM until 10PM (longer on weekends). We also recommend the restaurant on M. Valančiaus g. 9. Head to www.berneliuuzeiga.lt for more locations and full menu. The restaurants offer deliveries and private catering, too!
All photos by It's Kaunastic