When Jan was small, he and his father used to visit the old Hamburk pub for Sunday lunches. It was not a beautiful place back then but then again, no pubs looked really that great in the 1980s under Communist rule. But Jan loved the maritime styling of the pub (referring, along with the pub’s name, to the fact that there was a river port with a direct connection to Hamburg nearby), with a big ship’s wheel under the ceiling as the main light in the room. It was a classic neighborhood pub with “regulars” hanging around the bar. A classic local pub of the Karlin district, a district with a “black soul”, the only “bad neighborhood” in town, a blue-collar worker, industrial neighborhood and a place when Jan’s father used to live.
Things have changed for the neighborhood and the pub since then. After the devastating 2002 floods, the Karlin district has risen like a Phoenix and now become a leafy oasis near the centre and one of the hottest places in Prague to live or work. Prague’s Williamsburg, if you will. And the pub? It was bought by the ubiquitous Ambiente group of restaurants and turned into another location of the wildly popular Lokal pub with all its classic staples: great, fresh Pilsner on tap, retro styling that respects the original (even the ship’s wheel has remained as the main theme of the restaurant) and honest Czech pubby dishes.
The location can’t be better: right in between the tram stop and the road that leads to the series of the newly developed office buildings near the river, this place is packed for lunch and dinner with hungry and thirsty office staff in suits. We always visit when we’re in the area and are in need for a quick Czech fix or a nice, fresh beer. Come at night for the best experience: when the weather is decent, the crowd spills from the pub onto the street around it, just hanging around with beer and enjoying the calmness of the Karlin district at night or the view of the Vitkov National Memorial above the hill.
When to come: In between meals if you want to have beer and food in solitude and calm, and right after the end of office hours if you want to be “in the middle of it all"!
Where to sit: The see-through bar with the steel tanks full of beer is something we could watch for hours. Therefore, have a seat in the front room. That said, we think there is nothing like having a beer standing outside of the pub in the summer with the yuppie locals, London-style.
What to order: Well, the fresh, unpasteurized Pilsner Urquell quenches thirst in any weather condition or season. Also, the pickled herring pays homage to the shipyard past of the nearby riverbanks. And then the Lokal pub classics: schnitzels, goulash, svickova and the “hamburker”. And, of course, fried cheese, the quintessential Czech vegetarian dish. (Yes, we know. It's sad.)
Runners up: We actually like to stop by Lokal and have a rakvicka, a Czech classic pastry, outside with a cup of coffee from Kafe Karlin, another local favorite, next door. Yes, we know, sounds strange, but if ordering pastries at a pub is wrong, we don’t want to be right.
What to beware of: Time your visit well. Getting a seat in the evening can be tricky as the lawyers, auditors and bankers from the nearby office buildings combine with the thirsty local regulars and flood the pub to drink their woes away.
Instagram-worthiness: Fairly high. Pics of beer tend to get likes from the male users of Instagram, while the see-through bar and the stencil-painted walls provide great visual stimuli. Forget about taking pics of Czech dishes. The brown sauces don't look that great.
(Photos by Eliska and Lukas by Couple of Prague)