vegetarian

Where can you have a salad in Prague?

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The heat is presently boiling Prague and its people, making a stay outside very exhausting. And if we trust the weather forecast, we’ll still have to suffer through the heat wave the next week (well, the temperatures should drop with thunder storms on Tuesday). With temperatures this high, it can be difficult to imagine yourself doing anything outside, let alone eating.

The only thing we crave during these days is watermelon and salads. Unfortunately, for many restaurants in Prague salads are still sort of an afterthought. In too many places you can still find the following only: chopped iceberg lettuce, a tomato cut in six wedges, some cubes of cucumber, add a bit of salty cheese and four green olives and voila - you have a Greek salad! Luckily for you, we have some tips because a good salad is hard to find.

Imperial – The Imperial Café offers a great selection of salads. This is the place if you love your food in a Belle Epoque interior. Although essentially a hotel restaurant, Imperial has a great reputation among the locals, and their menu includes classics like the Caesar salad but done right: not with iceberg but romaine lettuce. Other salads include goat cheese salad or the endive and orange fillets salad.

La Bottega di Finestra– The sister restaurant of the next-door La Finestra di Cucina restaurant, La Bottega di Finestra, the more casual bistro, offers a nice selection of salads. You can mix whatever you like on a plate, order some bread baked in house, have their cucumber lemonade, and eat it there or have it wrapped to go.

PastaCaffe – This is a great option when you crave something simple and decent. The salad with Gorgonzola and avocado has a nice orange dressing, but we usually go for a salad with tuna, which, although canned, is of good quality. Go to the Vodickova branch or watch the Czech nouveau riche in the branch near the Old Town Square.

Muj šalek kavy– A very popular café, Muj salek kavy offers smaller meals and at least two salads in their menu. Complex, fine dining dishes? No. Quick, tasty meals? Yes. Don’t forget to have one of their ice-creams made by 2AD in Tuchlovice, a small village about 15 miles off Prague, or combine it with their delicious coffee in a cup of Affogato.

Café Lounge– Another one of our favorite cafes, this time on the Castle side of the river. In addition to great coffee, they prepare full meals for lunches and dinners. However, we return there for their grilled vegetables and goat cheese combo. Two additional perks: tap water is served without any obstructions, and their lovely garden in the courtyard offers a shady, cool environment, and an intimate contact with the medieval Hunger Wall that runs through it.

Café Savoy – Just two minutes by walk from Café Lounge, Café Savoy is slightly upscale, and we usually recommend it for a rich, plentiful breakfast. Perhaps not the lightest of meals in these hot days, but their French toast is to die for. That said, they also have a small selection of nice salads, some adding cheeses or meat to the mix.

Home kitchen – One of the most popular bistros in the centre, Home Kitchen changes their offer daily. Their daily specials usually include a salad and they are open to adjust it to the client’s tastes. In addition, their summer soup menu includes a cold soup daily. We also love their breads with different toppings.

Cestr – We can hear you say it: “Salad in a steak house? Are you crazy?” No, according to our doctors, we’re not. Čestr makes salads using locally sourced products from local farmers. In addition, they really know how to season even a plain salad: we get great responses from our guests about the simple garden salad, too. We recommend the salad with the cheese from the Krasolesi farm, or the sheep cheese salad with oregano, or the roast beef salad (obviously). And don’t forget to have a scoop of their delicious beer ice-cream.

Dish fine burger bistro – Just like in Cestr, Dish’s forte is in meat, namely burgers. However, this should not deter you if you crave a salad. They offer two salads as we write this: one with watermelon, tomatoes and feta, and another one with marinated fennel, citruses and mint. Their older salad, arugula with caramelized garlic and ricotta cheese, remains Zuzi’s favorite to this day – quite logical, given that she was born in a village known as the “garlic capital of the Czech Republic”.

Pizza Nuova– Are you really hungry and crave something more substantial? Than we recommend Pizza Nuova’s all-you-can-eat salad and tapas bar, which offers good value for decent food, ranging from salads, smoked fish, cold cuts, olives and so on to cheeses and other Italian products.

Pho Vietnam – If Asian flavors is what you are looking for, head over to the Vinohrady district for a plate of Bún bò Nam Bộ, Vietnamese beef noodle salad. Head over to the branch at Anglicka street, which offers seating.

No matter of what eatery you visit, remember the three Hs of summer: hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Enjoy the sun... and the salad!


Vegetarian restaurants in Prague

Being a vegetarian in the Czech Republic used to be tough. Some ten years ago, restaurants would have only two "vegetarian" options on the menu: fried cheese, and fried cheese... with ham (really). While things have gotten better recently and vegetarians do have many options to choose from (at least in Prague), for many restaurants that also cook meat, vegetarian dishes remain a mere afterthought, while their focus is clearly elsewhere. You may notice we tend to be quite critical of the local vegetarian scene. Don't get us wrong: we love vegetarian cooking (even Jan) for the variety and richness of flavors. However, some of the older Czech vegetarian dishes are stuck on the practice of basically cooking meaty dishes with meat substitutes. In our eyes, this makes no sense. Goulash with tofu, anyone? Soy "a la beef steak"? Why does Czech vegetarian cooking of the yesteryear try so hard to mimic meat? We don't know. That is why we still tend to think that while some of the choices in Prague are good, they will have a hard time matching some of their counterparts abroad (establishments like Ottolenghi in London, or De Kas in Amsterdam).

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If you are a vegetarian, you can still taste some Czech classic dishes, though. Of course, fried cheese remains a classic, although that dish probably betrays the whole idea that vegetarian cooking should be healthy. Other options include Kulajda, a typical Czech soup with dill, potatoes, mushrooms and a poached egg. Dill sauce or lentils with a hard-boiled egg are also quite common. In addition, we should not forget the staple of Czech cuisine: hot sweet main meals. These include dumplings filled with fruits (usually plums or strawberries), or "sisky" (similar to gnocchi) with poppy seeds.

Anyway, without further ado, here is a selection of vegetarian restaurants in Prague:

Lehká Hlava (Borsov 280/2, Prague 1) Probably the best-known vegetarian restaurant in town. Reservation is definitely recommended. In our opinion, Lehka hlava is clearly superior to its sister restaurant, Maitrea, although the latter is very popular, too. Both restaurants' menus include dishes that makes little sense to us: meaty dishes without the meat (things like fake roast with red cabbage and dumplings, or vegetable sausages). Maitrea also serves "Czech specials", so you are eating Czech dishes, originally based on meat, with meat substitutes, listening to wind chimes and flutes. Maybe it's just us. If you have to choose between the two, choose Lehka hlava. It is good but we think it's nothing to write home about in international context.

Bio Zahrada (Belgicka 33, Prague 2) A small café/bistro/shop in the heart of the Vinohrady district where local come to collect the farmers' produce they ordered. This restaurant focuses on organic and gluten-free lunches. A nice place with a small outdoor seating area with a nice selection of cakes and sandwiches.

Estrella (Opatovicka 17, Prague 1) A relatively recent entry on the Prague vegetarian scene, this place is a bit hidden but really worth a look. The daily specials are tasty, and you can see the food is made with love. Very helpful, young staff.

Secret of Raw (Seifertova 13, Prague 3) Recently opened, this small place made big waves in online circles when it opened as the first raw food eatery in Prague. A confession: we have not been there yet but a look at the menu raises suspicions: avocados, coconut and other ingredients really make it impossible to call this restaurant's food either seasonal or local. Although raw cuisine may in theory include meat, this is a vegetarian place.

Plevel (Krymska 126/6, Prague 10) Opened just a few days ago, Plevel is a new vegetarian eatery in the hipster heaven that is the Krymska street near the Grebovka vineyard on the border of the Vinohrady and Vrsovice districts. As the name of the restaurant ("weeds" in English) implies, the owners have a humorous take on the whole vegetarian scene.

Mama Coffee (Vodickova 6, Prague 1) A great place enjoyed by local crowds and families, a flagship store of the Mama Coffee coffee roasters that supplies fair trade coffee to many Prague cafes. The cafe offers vegetarian lunches and snacks that cannot deny their Middle-Eastern influence (like hummus and tabouleh dishes, bagels and sandwiches).

Mlsná Kafka (Sokolovska 29, Prague 8) Great for vegetarian Sunday brunches from 11am to 3pm, which give kids the opportunity to prepare some vegetarian food, too. The menu looks very interesting and may be appealing even for carnivores.

Beas Dhaba This North Indian eatery with self-service lunches offers good value for the money. Out of the five branches in Prague, the most convenient and the nicest is the one at Tynska street, which sports a nice summer garden. Free tap water, price is paid per weight. You should expect vegetables, legumes and rice.

Govinda One of the first vegetarian restaurants in the centre of Prague, now sporting two branches. The atmosphere is certainly oriental, with meditative soundtrack playing in the background. Again, food is paid based on weight.

Country Life We are including this in the list just because we would get lots of mail if we didn't. This chain of organic food stores is a good choice for buying groceries but we are not convinced by the food. We saw them serve "svickova with tofu and dumplings". Yes, it makes no sense. (Just that you understand: "svickova" is normally a typical Czech beef dish).

Kidó (Smeralova 22, Prague 7) This quite recently bistro quickly became a local favorite in the Letna district. Great interiors and helpful staff help building a local feel of the place. Kido serves a vegetarian lunch menu every day, allowing you to choose from a buffet of about five daily dishes, or combine them to your liking.

Have a group that includes carnivores and vegetarians who want to eat together? It's still pretty tricky to find a place that would truly satisfy both but we do have two suggestions:

Dish (Rimska 29, Prague 2) A burger joint in a list of vegetarian restaurants? Yes. The wildly popular upscale burger bistro offers two veggie burgers: caponata and falafel. We have enjoyed the former more than the latter. And the regular burgers are awesome. Coming for dinner without a reservation? Forget it.

Pizza Nuova (Revolucni 1, Prague 1) The all-you-can-eat pizza and pasta restaurant is full every evening, and for good reason. The dishes are great and the menu includes meaty and vegetarian dishes. Vegetarians may opt for the all-you-can-eat salad bar that offers many nice Italian vegetarian cold dishes, or you can choose a single dish a la carte.

Sisters (Dlouha 39, Prague 1) Since it opened in March 2014, this bistro that focuses on the modern interpretation of the Czech "chlebicky" (traditional open-faced sandwiches) has become incredibly popular among the locals. Apart from the classic ham on potato salad and steak tartare chebicek, they serve vegetarian options, too: red beet puree with goat cheese, radishes and cream cheese or celery remoulade are the favorites.