Praha, what took you so long. Such beauty, such history, such personality, such food? Yes, apparently! The popular notion that its not especially known for its food scene may have something to do with our hesitation all those years. Conclusion after three days: Color me surprised, and impressed, and.. a little
heavier full. There were beer gardens, bistros, and even street vendors, all cooking with high degree of skill. Some meals were better than others (hint: pay special attention to the last three) but overall we did not have a bad one, a rarity during our travels. Every meal offered something. Whether it was the food, the beverages, the location, or in some cases all of the above. And yes, there was plenty of pork, there was plenty of beer, and there was even plenty of pork swimming in beer.
At Provaznice we learned about what happens to cheating Real Housewives of Praha. Nothing better than a nice meal with a life lesson on the side for the ladies. Relatively quiet side street by the same name in the center, with community tables on the sidewalk. Our first foray into the town’s celebrated Pilsner Urquell scene. The goulash and the schnitzel did not disappoint, and so was our first pork knuckle (of many to come, even when we were offered “oxtail” in Germany). But the most memorable item was one of the more healthier local vegetarian options, fried hermelin cheese! Skip the fried mushrooms unless you enjoy eating fried dough (like Beignets that took a wrong turn in the cooking process).
At Sisters Bistro we sampled some Chlebicky, open faced sandwiches. Hana Michopulu a local food celebrity and farm to mouth pioneer opened Sisters along with.. you guessed it.. her sister not too long ago. It can be tough to choose betweeen the large Chlebicky array, but the girls speak English and can help. The beets one was the surprising winner. I’m finding that “beets” and “surprise” are being used in the same sentence very often lately on the blog. Something is up.
Health conscious folks exiting Sisters, are staring straight in the face of danger. Nase Maso, a newish popular butchery. After multiple attempts I havent actually eaten anything here except for a few lean pastrami slices. On both visits, things got a little hectic, and I ran out of time. Its practically a standing room only butchery where they cook their fresh goodies right on premises. Burgers, steak, meatloaf, and much more. Seems very popular with the locals. You can grab one of the few tables in the back, or hover over one of the tables outside and eat like in the good ol’ days. The cave days. Nice option for a quick bite or combined with Sisters next door
We planned the castle visit around our Strahov Monastic Brewery lunch appointment. After a shaky start where we were led to an empty room “This is where we sit reservations”, we said “no diky” and proceeded with a nice meal outside where the action was (and weather to boot). Nice pork tenderloin in beer sauce. Ribs, a bit dry but a terrific ginger sauce (out of 3) to the rescue. Tried another local specialty, Svickova na smetane – Sirloin in cream sauce with bread dumplings and cranberries. A somewhat uninspiring meat with gravy like cream sauce that will make anything taste great. Meat, car keys., anything. Domácí utopenec which translates to “drowned men” (after the rope maker of Provaznice strangling his wife story, I dont want to know what happened with this one) featuring cold pickled sausages. Nothing out of the ordinary but probably my favorite dish here. And one of the better beers of the trip, the St. Norbert, in particular the complex, slightly fruity dark
A note on sausages. They are all over the place, and they deserve proper respect. Sacrifice one dinner, or lunch, or in our case, a 4 pm snack to sausage and beer from one of the stands in the center. They are juicy, with ample heat, and pack more flavor than the ones we got in restaurants. Same goes for sausages all over Austria.
And then there’s the Trdelnik. I don’t even need to mention it because you cant really escape it, and resistance is futile. You may survive the first day, but after two you will not only succumb, but start experimenting with it. Add nutella, jam, pork, or anything else that comes across. Essentially its sweetened dough, rolled on a stick and grilled out in the open. Whether I liked it or not is not important.
Once you are tired of all that meat and potatoes, consider the meat and potatoes at Krystal Mozaika Bistro
in the up and coming Karlin hood, a short subway ride away from the center. A full menu more akin to what you may find in Soho, or Paris with a touch of local flair. Nicely executed soups. A silky smooth home made chicken pate. Melnik asparagus was the beginning of our white asparagus love affair during the trip. An excellent salmon tartar. Burger krystal with Emmentaler cheese was the real deal in both size and flavor, and would fit in quite nicely in burger town NYC. There was that addictive svickova sauce again but this time featuring a tender beef neck with herby dumplings. The star however was a Moroccan style falling off the bone lamb shank with spinach, bulgar, sundried tomatoes and an aromatic minty pesto. Plum Dumplings with poppy seeds, nuts and clarified butter was a proper, if not a bit heavy finish. Very impressed with this one
Something tells me that in Prague, the rule of avoiding chains does not apply, with restaurant gangs such as Lokal and Kolkovna pack with locals nightly. We tested this theory at the bistro looking Kolkovna Olympia
which delivered all sorts of surprising flavors for a chain joint. There was “Spicy” (but not quite) sausages swimming in a tangy tomato pepper sauce. Hermelin cheese, this time not fried, but topped with garlicky bread crumbs.. an improvement. There was creamy but refreshing Asparagus soup. Beef cheeks with French style mash was spot on (I’ve been spoiled with an abnormal amount of crazy good beef cheek dishes in NYC lately). A chicken roulette stuffed with liver, spinach, and egg wasn’t as memorable as the chicken wings that came at about the same. Yes, chicken wings, spiced and cooked to perfection, with BBQ sauce on the side that demanded a few finger dips. Ok, more than a few.
Another gem in the Karlin neighborhood is the popular Pivovarsky Klub where a room full of patrons sing 250 bottles of beer on the wall on a nightly basis. Not only it features the largest collection of bottled beer in Czech Republic but, it can also boast something very few in the country can, “Bourdain was here”. Six rotating beers on tap with the excellent Benedict at the helm. Fried Bread with raw garlic was just that, but quite addictive. Juicy sausages can be had in beer sauce or with red and white beans. Get both. Pork knuckle with light gravy came in sliced but retained all its glory. And if you leave without trying the excellent venison goulash, you haven’t done any homework.
Pivovarsky Klub Sausages
Strahov Monastic Brewery Sausage
Krystal Mozaika Bistro Dumplings