We have one rule whenever we travel: we visit the main sights early in the morning or late in the evening to beat the crowds, and see the other, more local things during the day. When we visit a city, we prefer to see how people live there today, and not necessarily how they lived there in the past. And Prague is no exception. Especially during the high season, we recommend getting up early, seeing the sights before all the other people get to see them, and then just walk and explore the surrounding districts. And the Karlin is a place you should not miss if you travel like us - it has a great local feel and great places to eat and drink. That is why we sometimes visit it with the guests of our Prague Foodie Tour and that is why we think it is worth a visit even during the off-season.
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, 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 would literally have to buy pastries somewhere before the tour and bring them over to the restaurants we were visiting, bribing the wait staff with favors and smiles to let us serve them there, while the chefs and managers were refusing to bake their own on the assumption that Czech pastries were “too common”.
Which is a shame. The Czechs are famed to have been the pastry makers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, with a long and proud tradition of baking and French-inspired pastry making. And the fact is that Prague is full of pastry shops frequented by locals. The problem is most of them are not exceptional. Prague still lacks places like Cedric Grolet’s Le Meurice in Paris, and while Prague has its star chefs and star butchers (oh yeah, we like our meat), we are still waiting for star pastry chefs to pop out (with, perhaps, the notable exceptions of Mr Skála and Ms Fabesová).
That said, Prague has some great pastry shops that will make you reasonably happy and quite unreasonably fat. So if you have a sweet tooth and are on the lookout for pastry shops and pastries in Prague, we are here to help. This is our guide to the best pastry shops in Prague. You live only once, right?
Confession: we have been bitching about Prague food scene’s development probably for a better portion of 2018. Not enough places are opening, some great places are closing, and where’s the innovation? While Prague lost a Michelin star and a Bib Gourmand award in the spring, the world lost Anthony Bourdain and Jonathan Gold, and generally, the mood here at Taste of Prague was fairly low. (Only to be lifted by the shenanigans of JJ and Lola, the two newest members of the team.)
But looking back at the year, things look a bit more rosy now in hindsight, thanks mostly to what can be described as a strong finish. (And the pills may have finally kicked in too.) 2018 was a year that has solidified some of the trends we have had seen before. People in Prague like to go out. A lot. Booking great restaurants for our Prague food tours has become a game of long-term strategy, and booking for last-minute enquiries nearly impossible. Don’t believe us? Look at Instagram videos from Dva kohouti, which opened in December. It’s been hopelessly full from opening up until Christmas. Whatever the concept, people seem to jump on it, at least for now.
Also, 2018 saw consolidation, as two new groups seem to have emerged to challenge the market-leading, and, in a way, defining behemoth that is the Ambiente group. Czech diners want common sense, quality and transparency if they are to spend top dollar, and seem less prone to jump on hype. So when an all-avocado restaurant opens, the logic of opening a restaurant based on produce that is in no way local and has to travel the world to get here is questioned online, and when a new rotisserie chicken place opens and serves chickens from a large, industrial chicken farm, they are called on that, too. That said, both of these places seem to be prospering at the moment, so we’ll see if this awareness manifests itself only online, and not in… ahem… real life.
If you want to see the Sapa market, you want to see it with Marcela - project manager by day, Vietnamese food tour guide by… ehhhh… day, too (but mostly on weekends). Warm, friendly and passionate about food, she is the perfect companion to what at the beginning might seem like an impenetrable maze of warehouses and hole-in-a-wall pho places. (Did we mention she’s beautiful, too?) Heck, she gave us her own tips when we wrote about the market, and they have never failed us on our own visits.
Born in Vietnam yet raised in the Bohemian town of Chomutov (“No-one comes from there,” she claims incorrectly, not knowing that Zuzi was in fact raised there, too.), she has a unique insight into both Vietnamese and Czech food and culture, and isn’t afraid to share it. What started as cooking Vietnamese dishes for her friends (and she has many, often recruited from young fashion and design circles) eventually snowballed into one of the most popular tours to Sapa. She also seems to be travelling all the time, which we often observe on social media with thinly disguised envy. So yes, we like her, and we think you’d like her too. Here’s her five faves for Prague and social media.
Oh, what a year 2017 was. What started rather slowly has become, both for us personally and for Prague’s food scene in general, a year of excitement and hope. Here’s the year 2017 in review, as it relates to the Prague food scene.
(And yes, we did not know what picture to post as the title photo, so we put a pic from Maso a Kobliha with JJ's first hand modeling assignment.)
This post is really one long apology.
You see, if you’ve been reading this blog for some time, you may have noticed that the frequency of our blog posts has decreased in the past years. Well, „decreased“ is a nice way of putting it. We hardly posted anything this year. We’re sorry. We did not die, or split up, or go on a hunger strike. But there’s a reason for the silence, and a change is coming.
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.
Prague farmers markets are, without a doubt, one of the best things to do in Prague. As a Prague attraction, they are authentic, genuine and popular among the locals. Prague markets are on throughout the year, most typically on Saturday mornings, with an ever-shorter pause in January and February. Visiting Prague farmers markets is a great idea for so many reasons, but primarily, they nicely show what is in season at the particular time of the year and what you should expect - and demand - on the menu in the best restaurants in Prague. We have picked the four best farmers markets in Prague we think are worth visiting. You can find more farmers markets in Prague, but we visit these four the most.
Oops, we did it again. (Oh, this never gets old. Thank you, Britney.)
Yes, we’re happy to announce that the second, updated and improved edition of our Prague Foodie Map, our Prague food guide, is finally out. Our curated selection of the best restaurants in Prague, along with best coffee shops, bistros and bars in town.
The first edition sold out in less than six months (the recommendation in the Food & Wine magazine helped). The new, second and improved edition adds more tips and Prague travel advice, mostly based on two things: (1) our own travels, and (2) the most common questions that get asked on both of our Prague food tours.
We travel quite a bit, and if you’re following us on Instagram (if you don’t, drop everything and do it now), you know it’s mostly for food. And we’ve always wanted to have a reliable, honest guide for each city we travel to, written by a local foodie. With things that only make sense to taste, and nothing more. A guide devoid of cliches and stereotypes. With tips that get you outside of the beaten path. Basically a guide a local would endorse. So we wrote one for Prague. And now you can have it, too.
We're finishing our "Prague Five Faves" series where we are introducing the people behind Taste of Prague. And we saved the best for last: the founder, the enforcer, the visionary: Zuzi.
"Capo di tutti capi.” "Da boss.” “The interrogator.” These are only a few things people say about Zuzi. When she’s not in the room. The truth is that Zuzi runs a very tight ship and likes to be in control of things. Because she cares. She’s not that type of person with a “whatever” attitude. Only the best will do, especially when it comes to the guests of the Taste of Prague tours. And she’s a leader with a strong - and usually the right - opinion. And she’s not afraid to voice it. You know what Zuzi thinks. As Karolina put it during one of our Taste of Prague outings: “Zuzi, you’re tough, but I have never, ever, ever thought you were a b*tch.” Wow, thank you for the compliment! (We were all tipsy.)
Zuzi is also a loving foodie with a discerning palate. Heck, she even quit her good lawyer's position in big law to pursue her passion for food. She’s known for one thing: she will not finish a dish or a cup of coffee she does not like. (Unlike Jan, who can gobble things that are less then perfect because, you know, food.) Which can mean long dry coffee spells during vacations. Or the relative lack of fruits in the winter because, hey, they "don’t taste the way they should”. Yes, Zuzi demands perfection not only from people but also from fruit.
But Zuzi also has one of the biggest hearts you will ever see, and if you’re a friend - or a guest - she will do whatever it takes to help you or make sure you’re happy, and she is genuinely happy for your success. She is the girl behind our “will not write about bad dining experiences” policy because she understands perfection takes time and effort. And that's what makes Zuzi so great: she is the perfect combination of demanding - which is great for what we do - and loving, which is great for everything.