• Street food is the most laid-back way of enjoying great food in Helsinki (c) Jussi Hellsten/Visit Helsinki

New street food culture in Helsinki

The street food culture in Helsinki offers an easy way to explore the flavours of the world.

Many new entrepreneurs who have been inspired by Restaurant Day can now be seen peddling their food carts around the city’s parks in summertime or moving them between locations – places that are popular at lunchtime can be quiet in the evenings, and vice versa.

In Helsinki’s arctic winter conditions, simple cuisine that is comparable to street food is also served by numerous street front restaurants that have popped up all over the city centre in recent years.

Local chef Tomi Björck loves how Helsinki now offers so many laid-back places to enjoy great food. A tour with Tomi Björck in the city centre takes us to Mexico, Vietnam and the Middle East.

When Tomi himself travels, he always samples the local street food.

“I love to tour the world and taste the authentic flavours. Of course I visit the restaurants that have been recommended to me, but I also always taste the street food that the locals eat. The stalls often serve different types of food in daytime and at night, so I often pay them repeat visits throughout the day,” Tomi tells us.

Street food is craved by connoisseurs and budget travellers alike. Street food also provides a quick introduction to the national culinary culture, presenting local flavours in their simplest forms. At its best, street food can be refined into delicious cuisine.

Mexican food at Cholo

The tiny Mexican restaurant Cholo on Lönnrotinkatu has established quite a reputation in just a few months. Its menu is short and to the point: beef, chicken or vegetarian burritos.

“Burritos have to be fresh and made to order. I don’t mind waiting for quarter of an hour if necessary, as long as I get a freshly made burrito!”

After a long morning of Brazilian jujutsu, Tomi Björck satisfies his appetite with a beef burrito that is perfectly spicy without obliterating the flavour.

“You can taste the main ingredient, but there is a lot more too. Beans, salad, avocado and sauce give it a kick and make it nice and filling. Everything is really fresh,” Tomi enthuses.

Unlike the Mexican street food that is usually served in the US, the ingredients used at Cholo have been refrigerated all the way from the source, so the freshness is guaranteed. In terms of flavour, the burritos served by Cholo compare favourably with the best that Tomi has tasted around the world.

Cholo operates alongside the modern Mexican restaurant Patrona on Annankatu and Lucha Loco on Korkeavuorenkatu, which has become super popular in just a short space of time. Tomi Björck considers the Mexican lamb dishes served at Patrona to represent the very best street food.

“The lamb broth and lamb tacos is a dish that is very well thought out by the chefs and really brings out the flavour.”

Reflecting the huge popularity of Mexican food right now in Helsinki, two fast food chains have recently opened up serving tacos. Keep your eyes open for Ahorita and Chalupa!

Text: Mariaana Nelimarkka

Read further: 

New street food culture in Helsinki

Part 1: Enjoy Vietnamese spring rolls in Helsinki via Australia

Part 2: Meze and pita let you sample the rich flavours of the Middle East

Part 3: Marrakech Madness à la Sandro

Part 4: A higher form of street food