Sometimes you need to go to a supermarket. After all, there are always some things that you just can’t find at a traditional market. And while Tallinn’s chains – Selver, Rimi, Maxima, Prisma, and more – seem to get bigger and bigger the further you go out into the suburbs, those who live or work downtown are blessed with some rather unique options. Central Tallinn’s choices – a fortunate three – can be found at Kaubamaja (the Department Store), Stockmann’s (the Estonian satellite of Finland’s top department store), and the Solaris Center. Depending on what you plan to cook or what you happen to be looking for, however, you may need to visit all three to find absolutely everything you want or need. Fortunately, these three stores are rather close to each other – even within easy walking distance.
The newest member of this Big Three is Solaris’ Toidupood (Food Store), the flagship of the small Delice supermarket chain launched in 2009. Some of my friends swear by it – it has become their supermarket of choice – perhaps because it is on their way home. It might even have become my favorite had it opened when I was living over on Tõnismägi. Their unique selection (especially of household goods) means that I still go there from time to time – although rather less often than to the other two.
Stockmann’s Delikatess – opened in 1996 – is the “middle” supermarket. When it first appeared on the Tallinn scene, it served as a wake-up call to every other Estonian grocery store – even if it was only the little Stockmann sister (her big sister in Helsinki was home to the best supermarket in the Nordic countries). While the much-downsized Helsinki Delikatess is no longer the culinary wonder it once used to be, I still make a pilgrimage there each time I go to Finland. Sadly, Tallinn’s Delikatess has also slipped from the heights that it had once scaled in the late 1990s and early 2000s when it reigned supreme as Estonia’s best supermarket. Although I still go there – especially when I’m looking for something a little unusual like fresh mint, Stockmann’s is no longer my first choice even if it’s only a short tram ride away.
Even a shorter ride away is Tallinn’s oldest supermarket – Kaubamaja’s Toidumaailm (Food World). Although Kaubamaja opened for business in 1960, its food department only appeared some 25 years later. Located on the Kaubamaja building’s ground floor, I remember visiting back in Soviet times when its shelves were largely empty. Fortunately, its offerings steadily improved after Estonian regained independence. When the re-imagined supermarket relocated to Viru Center in 2004, it received a new lease on life as “Food World” thanks to its location right next to the city’s main transport hub. Forced to undergo such radical changes over the years, this supermarket is easily Tallinn’s most improved – and it continues to evolve and adapt today. Thanks to its forever forward-looking approach, I guess you might say that I’m a Kaubamaja loyalist – it is my Tallinn supermarket of choice.
Image: A protective Ukrainian motanka doll with her sextuplets (maker unknown).