In Finland, full-fledged restaurants are called ravintola. Inexpensive lunches are available at places called kahvila and baari. A baari serves light food and perhaps a mild beer, although coffee is more common. All well-known alcoholic beverages are available throughout Finland in fully licensed restaurants and bars.
Potatoes, meat, fish, milk, butter, and rye bread are the mainstays of the Finnish diet. Soups are popular, especially pea soup and rich meat soups.
Every Finn looks forward to the crayfish season between July 20 and September. Finns take special care in eating crayfish, sucking out every morsel of flavor. After devouring half a dozen, they down a glass of schnapps. Called rapu, the crayfish is usually boiled in salted water and seasoned with dill.
The icy-cold waters of Finland produce very fine fish, some of which are unknown elsewhere in the world. A cousin to the salmon, the 2-inch-long muikku fritti is found in Finland's inland waters. This fish is highly praised by gastronomes, and its roe is a delicacy. The most common fish, however, is silakka (Baltic herring), which is consumed in vast quantities. Rarely larger than sardines, the herring is not only pickled, but fried or grilled. Sometimes it's baked between layers of potatoes with milk, cheese, and egg. The fish is usually spiced with dill.
Finland's version of the Swedish smörgåsbord is called voileipäpöytä (which means "bread and butter table"). Expect not only bread and butter, but an array of dishes, including many varieties of fish (for example, pickled salt herring and fresh salted salmon) and several cold meat dishes, including smoked reindeer -- all at a fixed price.
Along with elk, bear, and reindeer tongue, Finns like the sharp taste of puolukka, a lingonberry. The Arctic cloudberry is a rare delicacy.
Fresh vegetables are plentiful in the summer. Boiled new potatoes, the most common vegetable, are typically served with sprays of fresh dill. In elegant restaurants and homes, you may be served a convoluted morel known as "the black truffle of the north."
Some Finnish hors d'oeuvres are especially good, particularly vorschmack. Herring is ground very fine, then blended with garlic, onions, and lamb; the mixture is then cooked in butter over a low flame for a long time, often several hours. One of the best-known regional specialties comes from the province of Savo. Kalakukko is a mixture of a whitefish variety known only in Finland and pork baked in rye dough.
The national beverage of Finland is milk (sometimes curdled), which is safe to drink (as is water) throughout the country. Two famous Finnish liqueurs should be tasted: lakka, made from the saffron-colored wild cloudberry, and mesimarja, made from the Arctic brambleberry.
Many Finns are heavy drinkers (schnapps is their favorite for an all-around tipple). Hard liquor, often imported, is expensive -- and anyone on a budget had better stick to a domestic beer such as Koff and Lapinkulta.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.