Eating out is an experience that visitors to Lithuania will not want to miss. Lithuanian cuisine features many ingredients which are suited to its cool and moist climate, such as barley, potatoes, rye, greens and mushrooms. Lithuanian cuisine has a lot in common with other Eastern European countries, mainly because it shares its climate and agricultural practices with them. It has however got its own individual features, which have been formed by a variety of influences.
Because of their old alliance, Lithuania and Poland share many dishes. There are similar Polish and Lithuanian versions of dumplings, known as pierogi or koldūnai; while pączki or spurgos (doughnuts) and bliny or blynai (crepes) also feature. German traditions have also influenced Lithuanian cuisine. Pork and potato dishes are very popular in the country, especially kugelis (potato pudding) and vėdarai (potato sausages).
Other national specialties include skilandis, which is a smoked meat dish, salti barsciai, which is a type of cold soup and cepelinai that is a popular kind of mince and potato pie with smoked eel. The nation’s special mild white curd cheese is also popular with visitors and is great when eaten with honey.
The Soviet occupation had an extremely negative effect on Lithuanian cuisine. National specialties were not permitted to be developed, apart from their own small plot of land, most local Lithuanians were banned from growing any of their own products. After the declaration of independence in 1990, traditional cuisine became one of the ways to celebrate the newfound Lithuanian identity.
There are numerous local restaurants located all across the country which are well worth visiting, as the Lithuanians are incredibly proud of their cuisine. These restaurants are exceptionally good value and offer excellent service. There are also many international restaurants popping up across the country, especially in the larger towns and cities. Most restaurants offer waiter service, but there are a few self-service bistros and snack bars, which are becoming increasingly popular, especially for those on a budget.