In the Baltic states there seems to be a dearth of fine cafes. This, for some reason, is
especially true in Vilnius. The best coffee and pastries are often found in restaurants
and even bars. There's hope that the cafe scene will improve. It can't get much worse.
Cafe is kavine in Lithuanian.
Bar Italia: (G-2) Gedimino 3a, tel. 268-5824. Open:07:30-23; Sat., Sun. 10-23. A dinky little snack stop close to the cathedral and run by Italians, ensuring a high standard of sandwiches and pastries as well as some of the best coffee in the area.
G-lounge: (J-3) Didþioji 11, tel. 260-9430. Open:11:30-24. Thankfully the number of swanky places for hip young things is growing because quite honestly the G in G-lounge may well stand for ghastly. You can taste the arrogance in the food (when it finally arrives and if you can find it on your plate) from a menu that hasn’t changed since opening. The good news is that the locals are at last waking up to this kind of thing, and accordingly the place isn’t as full as it once was.
Mano Guru: (C-4) Vilniaus 22/1, tel. 212-0126. Open:08-20; Sat., Sun. 09-18. No less than 46 salads that turn out to be main dishes on a Lithuanian-only menu confirm this strange minimalist affair with all its soft furnishings, bare walls and whispering staff to be, not as a glimpse through the vast windows would lead you to believe a classy Lower Manhattan import, but rather a magnet for local lunching women on above-average salaries. The espressos are perfect nevertheless.
Mano Kavinë: (I-3) Bokðto 7, tel. 215-3000. Open:11-23. This is just what continental Europe was invented for. A wonderful place that turns into a busy bar in the evenings, complete with scatter cushions, pretty young things and best of all, table football out the back.
Pauzë: (D-5) Auðros Vartø 5/1, tel. 212-2113. Open:08-20; Mon. 08-19; Sat. 10-20; Sun. 11-20. Next to the city’s finest concert venue and aiming to reach out to that sort of crowd, this compact, Vienna-inspired café serves as a thoroughly adequate temporary stop but little else. Check out the fabulous car-size lampshade covering the chandelier.
Poniø laimë: (I-2) Stikliø 14/1, tel. 264-9581. Open:09-2; Sat. 10-20; Sun. 11-18. A much needed addition to the scratched record of bars, bars and more bars in Old Town, this is a wonderful place to fill your face on pastries and buns and cakes and coffee in chocolate-box surroundings, especially with a Sunday morning hangover and a copy of the Financial Times pinched from the Radisson not far around the corner. Lovely.
Skanaus: (D-5) Auðros Vartø 9, tel. 231-3705. Open:08-21; Sat, Sun. 10-21. Fresh, flaky pastries and warm buns abound in a bright and busy boulangerie beside the Basilian Gates. Perfectly located, this friendly new café run by the Vilnius Bread Company is a winner for visitors and locals alike.
Sole Luna: (H-2) Universiteto 4, tel. 212-0925. Open:10-24; Thu. 10-03; Fri. 10-04; Sat. 12-04; Sun. 12-23. A perfectly understated affair run by Italians, full of lots of bright colors and hard light. The menu is all right, very reasonably priced, and features what may well be the only toasties in the southern Baltics as well as a rather splendid Bruchetta Classica. Excellent for a light snack or a quick coffee stop.
Uþupio Kavinë: (I-4) Uþupio 2, tel. 212-2138. Open:10-23. A cozy neighborhood place on the edge of the crumbling arty area of Uþupis. It is the place in the warmer months, when its twin outdoor decks overlooking the winding, wooded Vilnia river are full the whole day. Sitting outside in the sun, you won’t really give a hoot whether the food’s any good.
Zaza: (I-1) Vilniaus 19/6. Open:07:30-24. The fabulous Zaza comes complete with lots of mirrors, fancy lighting, Fashion TV and a battalion of plastic menus offering everything from pigs’ ears to a Classic Martini. Frequented by a younger and altogether more happy crowd, DJs turn up on Friday and Saturday nights at eight to give you things like Sofa Jazz and other funky treats. The service is nice, the espressos aren’t, and if you really don’t like the place try taking a five-minute walk to their other address at Jogailos 19, which you’ll discover is just a different door on a different street that leads to exactly same venue.