This quarantine life has hit so many businesses in what seems like a blink of the eye. Restaurants have been hit especially hard, which is why I’m doing what I can to support local restaurants and businesses. It has actually been beautiful to see communities come together and support each other. No matter how small you think your part is, every little act of kindness make a difference. I’m truly hopeful that the entire world will come out of this as more social and compassionate human beings. 💖
For now, I thought I’d reminisce about my favorite food spots in Helsinki until we can meet again.
Lunch Culture 🍽
Before I dive into my favorite lunch spots in Helsinki, I thought I’d share a bit about the differences in lunch culture between here and LA.
- People actually go to lunch – The lunch culture in Helsinki is big. I never see people skip lunch and in fact, most people take their full lunch break, even if they decide to bring their own lunch to work. Back in LA, I would often skip lunch, or eat my lunch at my desk while I was working.
- Meet up friends for lunch – Since Helsinki is pretty small, if you work anywhere near the city center, then it’s doesn’t take long to meet up people for lunch. This makes it really easy to stay connected with friends or have business/networking lunch meetings. There have been weeks where I had lunch with a different person each day.
- Lunch card – Many businesses offer a lunch card benefit, which further encourages people to go out for lunch, especially with other colleagues. Your company basically pays 25% of your lunch up to €10.70. So basically free moneyyyy, why wouldn’t I take advantage?
- Buffets galore – Buffets and salad bars are really common during lunch. Tons of restaurants either have a limited lunch menu with an accompanying salad bar or a full on buffet. They’re usually around that €10.70 lunch card price point. This has been a tough thing for me to get used to, because I have such a hard time with portion control. 🤦🏽♀️I often joke that I’m a 300 lbs (90 kg) man living in a 115lbs (52 kg) woman.
- People don’t share food – When I started going to lunch with colleagues, I would ask if anyone wanted to share or split different dishes, and I got some weird looks. It’s not common for people to share food here. In Asian cuisine, we often eat family style, where we order several dishes and everyone shares. That’s how I grew up eating. Even in LA with my non-asian colleagues or friends, we often ordered different things and shared so that we could try several dishes. I’m just a lover of food, and I enjoy being able to try different things. Why order two of the same dish, when you can order two different ones?
Best Lunch Restaurants in Helsinki 🌮
Ok now that you how we do lunch in Helsinki, here’s where to go…
- Vibami – Favorite Vietnamese spot. My go to dish is the Bun Thit Nuong.
- Lie Mie – Vietnamese & Korean fusion. Shanghai Tacos are bomb diggity. Also, their lunch salad bar is 🔥.
- Taqueria Lopez y Lopez – Favorite Mexican spot. Al pastor tacos. Enough said.
- Xiao Mei Lin – Juicy soup dumplings and pan fried dumplings.
- Red Koi Thai – Where I get my Pad Thai, Pad See Ew, and Panang Curry on.
- Fat Ramen – Best ramen in Helsinki. This is in the Hietalahti Market Hall, which by the way you can’t go wrong at any of the restaurants in here. I’ve tried them all, and they all get my stamp of approval.
- Bali Brunch – Hip and delicious Indonesian spot. Rendang plate is my jam.
- Hoku – Hawaiian Japanese fusion restaurant. Everything is delicious, especially the chicken katsu and salmon teriyaki.
- Social Burger – My favorite burger joint in Helsinki.
- Kabuki – The closest I can get to good sushi and Japanese food.
- Sandro – Middle Eastern & African cuisine. This is one of the lunch buffet spots, but I’m into it. There’s always such a colorful spread with lots of great healthy options.
- Cargo – Really good vegetarian option. Their menu changes daily. I don’t know what they put in this yellow spread they have for their bread, but I just want to drink it.
Best Dinner Restaurants in Helsinki 🍝
- Farang – Asian fusion restaurant. A dinner spot to splurge and do the wine pairings. Everything was fantastic.
- The Bull & The Firm – Tapas style dishes that change seasonally and according to local ingredients available. They also have really good cocktails and natural wines.
- Pur Pur – My first time trying Georgian food, and it didn’t disappoint. Khachapuri, Pelmeni, beef shashlik, and some Georgian red wine, yes please!
- Shelter – I’ve been here twice now, and their food is quality, but really I’d just go there for their Finnish malt bread. Seriously, the best bread I’ve ever had, hands down! 🤩
- Juuri – So far my favorite Finnish restaurant.
- Via Tribunali – THE spot for Neapolitan pizza.
- Korea House – The closest I can get to some Korean BBQ.
Filipino Restaurants in Helsinki 🇵🇭
I never would have guessed that Helsinki would have a Filipino food scene, let alone five Filipino restaurants! I’ve tried almost all of them now, and even though most of them are more fusion or inspired, they’re all actually masarap (delicious)!
- Platito – This is a Spanish Filipino tapas restaurant. I recommend getting the Filipinas and España platters so you can try the best of both cuisines.
- Sentro – I was finally able to find my favorite Filipino dish here, sisig! Ugh, so good.
- Kamalig – The most authentic of all the Filipino restaurants I’ve tried. They’ve got the most traditional dishes like adobo and sinigang. Just like home.
- Pobre – If you’ve never tried Filipino food, this is the perfect place to try it out. Filipino inspired dishes that are approachable, and more importantly delicious!
- Paisano – From the same people who started Pobre. It’s Filipino food with a twist and tapas style so you can try a variety. I also have to mention that the cocktails are superb!
- Kainan – Ok so this is the one I haven’t tried yet. Also, it’s in Espoo not Helsinki. When I’ve asked other Filipinos here what they’re favorite Filipino restaurant is, I’ve been told Kainan is the place to go. I definitely need to make my way out here.
Best Desserts in Helsinki 🍦
To be honest I haven’t explored the dessert scene in Helsinki that much yet, but here are a few must try places that I have ran across. I do have to mention that my favorite dessert is ice cream, and for some reason the artisan ice cream scene hasn’t landed here yet. That’s surprising because Finland is 4th in the world for countries that eat the most ice cream per capita. I haven’t ran into any good ice cream shops, just ice cream stands with basic ice cream flavors. There are a few specialty brands that you can find at the grocery stores, but no freshly made ice cream with intricate flavors like Salt & Straw and Ginger’s Ice Cream in LA.
- Suklaakeisari – The best raw chocolate in all of Finland! Guilt-free and freaking delicious chocolate. They’re sold in several cafes around town, but you can order them directly online.
- Kanniston Leipomo – Great coffee, and even better pastries! They also bake their own bread. You’ve got to try some traditional Finnish pulla.
- Petiscaria – This is a Portuguese restaurant in the Hietalahti Market Hall, but I go there for their Pastel de Nata. My favorite pastry from Lisbon.
- Brooklyn Cafe & Bakery – Best cupcakes in town from two sisters from Brooklyn. Red Velvet and Carrot Cake, need I say more?
- Jätskiauto (Ice Cream Truck) – Yes, you’re reading that right. We have an ice cream truck that comes a couple times a month around our neighborhood, and they have these Toffeevene bars which are toffee flavored ice cream with a toffee sauce in a waffle boat. Bomb dot com.
Favorite Local Restaurants in Jätkäsaari 🏡
I live in the Jätkäsaari area of Helsinki, which is a pretty new area. There’s tons of construction going on, as it’s still being built out. Restaurants only started popping up in the last year or so. Since we’re in quarantine, and a lot of the restaurants in this area are quite new, I really want to do my part to help support the local restaurants and businesses. Since being in quarantine, I’ve been cooking dinners, but grabbing takeout or delivery lunches from the nearby restaurants. I’ve been trying a different one every day and so far these are my favorites.
- Urbine – I really dig the living room vibe of this restaurant. Really cool decor and cafe-style food is good too. The menu changes daily, and right now they’re doing free deliveries when you order 2 or more items.
- Malaga Bar – This was a great local bar that sometimes had live music. It’s also dog friendly, which is always a plus. Their pizettas are yummy!
- Vacco – The Diavolo and Vacco pizzas were 👍🏽
- Faro – I love going to this place during the summer because it’s along the canal and has a beautiful patio and view. Their portions are huge and the food is fresh. But, the real reason I go here is for Finnish pancakes on Thursdays. There’s a tradition in Finland that every Thursday, you have pea soup and pancakes. I’m not really a fan of the pea soup, but I can eat Finnish style pancakes all day. They’re much denser and sweeter than American pancakes, yum!
- Vessel Burger – My local burger joint. My favorite is the Gorgeous Goat. They also have a Bistro restaurant next door, but I haven’t had the chance to try it yet.
- Be My Guest – Cute little Vietnamese restaurant. The bread on their Banh Mi is legit.
- Ismet – Kebab spot, which is my go-to for hangover or cheat days.
So those are my favorite restaurants in Helsinki that I’ve been able to try so far. There are so many more on my list to try, so look out for an updated list in the future. Until we can get back into the restaurants, let’s all try to support them however we can. Thanks for reading!