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Five Offbeat Eateries. Recommended by Gatis Mūrnieks.

BalmalpCorner HouseRestaurant on Nes StreetStory DeliMuklājs« BACK « TO BEGINNING


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Connoisseur's Guide · Europe · latvia · Riga · Five Offbeat Eateries. Recommended by Gatis Mūrnieks.


Author: Gatis Mūrnieks0 COMMENTS


One of the most famous video rental shops in the Riga of the 1980s - 1990s was, without the shadow of a doubt, Muklājs on Tallinas Street - first and foremost for the reason that said establishment, run by Visvaldis Dreiska, was always so much more than just another storage of video tapes. A special selection of interesting and rare films and books were passed on from hand to hand, transforming the video shop into a kind of cultural centre. After an interval of two years, Muklājs has finally been reborn in a new incarnation as a cafe/restaurant that seems to be equally faithful to the vivid nature of the owner and demonstrates the man's profoundly personal approach to his business ventures. Mr Dreiska has always championed the idea of content over form; it is no coincidence, therefore, that you will not find any superfluous fluff at the tiny basement on Baznīcas Street - nothing that could be perceived as a nod to the current moment or to mass culture in general: grey low-key walls, dark wooden tables and a very special soundtrack personally selected by the owner. The place is a bit like an Umberto Eco novel - jam-packed with information and layers upon layers of hidden treasures. Take, for instance, the photographs on the wall: no more than an interesting element of decor to an outsider. A more observant guest, however, will see the pictures for what they are: a selection of 1970s-1980s masterpieces by Gvido Kajons. Perhaps he or she will even know that Kajons is one of the most discreet and, to a point, even unappreciated Latvian talents. Incidentally, the owner of the place is keen to point out that the picture to the left from the counter is best viewed from the table in the farthest corner of the room, which, according to him, is, ambience-wise, the most enjoyable spot in the cafe.
The element that makes Muklājs truly special, however, is its „added value": the unique and absolutely individual treatment of each and every guest by Visvaldis Dreiska. The owner and kitchen guru of Muklājs visits his pet project almost daily; he must have compiled a personal file on each of us, quip the regular patrons. It is a unique opportunity to attract new people at a time when places of public entertainment and catering elsewhere in the city are losing their clients every day. Meanwhile, Muklājs (which translates from Latvian as Quagmire) keeps drawing people in, making them come back for more. They return to sit around, browse a magazine or two from the wicker basket on the counter and simply enjoy feeling at home.
You feel free and relaxed here; neither the crowd overwhelms the place, nor the cafe itself imposes any strict rules or standards - perhaps due to the fact that a humble cardboard sign adorns the entrance to Muklājs. It is the people in the know who find their way to Muklājs, including many locally well-known people: musicians, writers, architects - in other words, those who appreciate original values that have been around for quite some time. Besides, Visvaldis Dreiska has stayed true to his original idea that any newcomer to Muklājs has to earn the right to be considered an integral element of the establishment in his/her own way. You will feel like a child eagerly anticipating a holiday: waiting is the most exciting thing about the whole process. You keep returning to Muklājs - once, twice; you observe the comings and goings without getting involved - until you have learned to really understand the place for what it is.
As for the gastronomy, forget about bog-standard menus and coca-cola: you will not find any. Look for the day's offer on the blackboard; however, make sure you do sample the pie with avocado and prawn sauce after a recipe by the Leimanis family from Stockholm, cheesecake and the owner's special ginger beverage with lemon and honey.
The so-called „grim Mondays" are also worth investigating - at least six hours' worth of tucking in braised lamb's head. Where else in Riga would you see anything quite like that? On Wednesdays Muklājs transforms into a venue of a variety of film and art events; for more detailed information, however, you have to visit the cafe.

37 Baznīcas iela Street, Riga
Opening hours 12 pm - 11 pm (closed on Sundays)

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