For the past two years, the people behind Prague's Street Food Festivals have been working hard to create a very convincing impression that Prague actually has a street food scene, or street food for that matter. They’re at it again this year. And we love it.
Here at Taste of Prague, we have this secret competition with Vienna: we want all the guests of our food tours, and all the visitors to Prague, enjoy our city more than Vienna. Not that we have anything against Vienna. We actually love that place. But still, when many of our guests visit Prague, Vienna and Budapest within the same trip, we want them to enjoy Prague the best. It’s just the way we are. Competitive.
But some Prague visitors don’t make it easy. Their Prague stays are riddled by what we would see as traveling mistakes. (We wrote about some don'ts of Prague already.) And then they complain about Prague. And we’re sad. And angry. Yup, it’s an emotional rollercoaster here at Taste of Prague whenever someone dares criticize out home town.
To avoid that, we have put together a short list of what we think are the main mistakes we’ve seen visitors to Prague make, and how and why to avoid them. We hate to be haters, but hey - nobody disses our town on our watch!
So drop that pretzel, push away the pork knuckle, and read on. Here’s what you don’t do during your stay in Prague.
Let’s be honest here: you did not travel to Prague to eat Italian food. You want traditional Czech cuisine in its best form, and you want it right now.
But what are the classic Czech foods and where do you have them? Well, one way to find out is to book one of our Prague food tours, where we serve Czech classics that are close to achieving the impossible goal of matching the deliciousness that our beloved grandmas used to force us to eat when we were kids. (They did not have to force us though.)
But if you - for whatever reason - cannot join us for a few hours of serious overeating and fun stories about what these foods mean to us, we still have a few tips on where to go. Here’s our favourite classic Czech dishes and our favourite Prague restaurants for traditional Czech cuisine that remind us of our childhood. But beware: Czech cuisine is delicious and addictive, so make sure you reserve enough time to walk off those calories. Yes, there won’t be many salads - or vegetables for that matter - in the list that follows. But you did not travel to Prague to eat Italian food, right?
Ahhh, the joys of devouring a good steak tartare! One of the most feared - and later one of the most loved - dishes we order in the course of our Prague Food and Culture Tours, beef steak tartare is one of the most popular dishes eaten in Czech pubs and arguably the king of a specifically Czech category of foods found in many Prague restaurants: “snacks that go well with beer”. Forget about the naysayers and fear mongers. You should give it a try in Prague. Where and how? Read on.
What is the best Michelin star restaurant in Prague for you? That is the question. With the 2016 Michelin City Guide out and Prague getting a third star, the choice between Michelin-rated restaurants in Prague got slightly more complicated. Sure, it’s no rocket science: Prague now has three Michelin-star restaurants and six Bib Gourmand restaurants (meaning “exceptional good food at moderate prices", sometimes incorrectly labelled as “half-a-star”), so we’re talking a handful of restaurants. But how do you know which one is the one you should visit if you're in Prague for three days? It’s difficult given how complicated the Michelin site is, and the online reviews for all the restaurants listed are all over the place.
That’s where we come to the rescue, and bring you a small guide of Prague Michelin-star restaurants put down in layman’s terms. The key questions is: what type of diner are you? An adventurous one, or a more conservative one? This is vital because it will avoid some costly mistakes and disappointments. If you set your expectations right, you will be happy in any of these, so while we may seem to be a bit critical, bear in mind we’re merely nitpicking and looking for differences. You should be happy in any of these if you choose the proper one. So here we go.
When we started our Prague food tours in 2011 the hardest thing was finding a decent place for Czech pastries. Just like the chefs tended to cheat a lot with the ingredients under the Communist rule, the pastry chefs were no different, and even the consumers had pretty low standards up until a few years ago (witness the popular “Hera means baking” campaign by a big margarine producer).
We are happy to report that things have been getting better in Prague. But let’s be honest here: the situation is still far from ideal and Prague still lacks places like Pierre Hermé or L'Éclair de Génie, our favorites in Paris, or the Levain Bakery or Maman, our must-go-tos in New York City. That said, we do now has several places that we like to go for Czech pastries in Prague. And we need them, because we both have a fairly sweet tooth. (Jan more than Zuzi. At least according to Zuzi. Well, we agree to disagree on this one.) Anyway, here are the pastries in Prague that we enjoy the most:
You see, traditional Czech cuisine is all about guilty pleasures. You know you should not do it. You know it’s bad for you. But once in a while, when no-one’s looking, you just need a bit of sweet satisfaction from a pice of juicy pork belly or a crunchy schnitzel. It’s just so damn delicious, and nobody can stay so strong for long.
And the same goes for the meatloaf at the Nase Mase butcher shop. Meatloaf?!? Not the first you would order when you travel, but this particular meatloaf, juicy and tender and moist and beautiful, is - believe it or not - one of the most popular meals of our Prague food tour. Yes, we later visit other restaurants for fancy sit-down meals where you can inspect chefs’ tweezer work, but when we ask at the end what was our guests’ favorite meal, the meatloaf always gets a dreamy mention. It’s just that good. Heck, when Nase maso opened, the butchers held a competition for the best meatloaf recipe: each butcher would prepare their own, and the winning recipe would become the recipe of the butcher shop. Jirka Michal’s grandma’s recipe was the clear winner.
Sure, Prague nightlife may be mostly associated with Czech beer (and lots of Czech beer), but Czech wine, after a long but troubled past especially during the Communist rule, has been making a big comeback recently. Never heard of Czech wine? No wonder. With a production capped by the EU at about 1% of the French production of wine, there are hardly any exports of Czech and Moravian wine abroad. Yes, we like to keep it all to ourselves. Sorry.
And that’s exactly whyvisiting a wine bar is one of the best things to do in Prague. Prague wine bars tend to be intimate, small bars that serve good wines from the Bohemian and Moravian wine regions and from abroad. They also sell somewine gifts, like organic grape seed oils, grape jelly and other produce made by Czech and Moravian winemakers, which would make for a great, conveniently small souvenir. And you will be surprised how good Czech and Moravian wines can be. Many of our guests surely are, and that's why we make a point of tasting Czech wines in the course of our Prague food tour. (And of course, we taste Moravian wines during our Moravian wine tours, too.)
These are the best wine bars in Prague in our opinion. You probably weren’t planning to create your own wine tour in Prague, but a visit to any of these wine bars in Prague may change your mind and plans for good. Hey, you were warned, okay?
It’s been almost precisely a year since we last wrote about our favorite soups in Prague and oh boy, did things change in a year! New openings and new menu items mean that this year’s spring will be the perfect opportunity to taste new best soups in Prague, either in established venues or new ones. And the Czechs love a good soup: on a cold day, there is nothing like a bowl of hot, delicious and filling soup to make you fall or winter day just a bit better. According to Chef Sahajdak, the executive chef of arguably the best restaurant in Prague, Czech food is all about sauces and soups. So where to go for the best soup in Prague? Read on.
This is a big one, but we'll keep it short.
Want to join us? Help us do what we do? Yes, we’re looking for new Tasters of Prague! Qualifications? You should be a nice, friendly person. And if you genuinely like to meet new people, that’s a bonus. You should like food. A lot. Oh, and English and Czech are a must. In exchange, we offer lots of fun. Job satisfaction. Okay, we’ll throw in candy, too. Oh yeah, and money, of course. Sounds good? Please fill in our short form! We’ll get back to you soon. And please share if you know someone who’d be great at this. Thank you! We can't wait to meet you. Really.