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).
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.