Prague’s Best Cuisine: A Little Taste of Central Europe
The Must-Try, Traditional Czech Foods In All of Prague
By Isabel Kagan
A trip to Prague is not successful without tasting some of the famous Czech foods. From Goulash to fried cheese to mulled wine, Prague offers up rich, satisfying meals that have deep, historical roots in Czech culture. You don’t have to go to a fine-dining restaurant to try the famous cuisine, either. Some of Prague’s most famous foods are best served hot from a street vendor. Below are some recommendations from a colleague, Sam Diehl, who lived in Prague for several months early in 2016.
Pork and Dumplings and Fried Cheese, Oh My!
One of Prague’s most famous restaurants that serves classic Czech cuisine is called Lokal. Their roast pork with bread dumplings dish, known to the locals as Vepřo-knedlo-zelo, is a traditional dinner meal often served with sauerkraut. Interchangeably, potato dumplings can also be served with the dish and are a popular substitute.
Besides from its hearty dinners, Lokal is also known for its delicious pub food. Drinking beer is basically a lifestyle choice in the city, and what better to pair with a cold pint than Prague’s national delicacy, known as fried cheese. Served battered and fried, this gooey, delicious snack can be made using a variety of different cheeses.
Cheese lovers have to look no further than Lokal, because while their version of smažený sýr is pan-fried, they also offer a lighter, pickled cheese snack called nakládaný hermelín, which has a consistency and taste similar to Camembert, and is served with fresh bread, peppers and salad.
If a sit-down restaurant is not what you’re looking for, fried cheese can be found at any street vendor around Prague, a quick and easy delicacy if in a hurry.
Nothing to fear, Tartare is here
Although tartare can be somewhat of a daunting order at a restaurant, the Czechs serve it up completely uniquely. Tatarák is minced beef served with egg on top, and is often paired with ketchup, mustard, onion, or various other condiments on the side as mixing options. The meat is then placed on top of topinky, which is toasted bread that has been rubbed with fresh garlic.
Souper Exciting Meals
If there’s one thing that’s certain, Czech’s love their soups. Every authentic Czech restaurant is bound to have a different version of dishes like goulash, but the key to choosing the right one is the difficult part.
While goulash is historically a Hungarian meal, the Czechs have made the dish their own by transforming it into a thick, meaty stew. Beef is the most commonly used meat in the recipe, however pork and chicken can also be used, and the stew can vary from being spicy from paprika or sweeter and tomato based. Bread dumplings on the side are a must however, as well as a heaping ladle of gravy on top.
The best guláš can be found in the Old Town part of Prague where the main attractions is a large square with old churches, street performers, and a multitude of restaurants. Mincovna is always a safe bet for goulash, and is right in the center of Old Town Praha.
Another classic Czech soup is called Kulajda, a creamy soup made with dill, potatoes, mushrooms, and commonly served with a poached egg on top. The take on the soup can vary from modern to more traditional, so it’s worth a try at multiple restaurants around Prague. For a fine dining experience, try V Zatisi, or for the slightly less refined palate, the Imperial Cafe serves up a simpler yet still tasty version.
Sausages and Schnitzel, Czech Style
Czech’s have a tendency to make their own versions of all the famous central European foods, so it should come as no surprise that wiener sausages and schnitzel are ubiquitous at the street stalls of the Old Town Square.
Borrowing from the Austrians yet again, the Czech’s serve schnitzel, a fried, tenderized meat, with one of their favorite sides, potato salad. The go-to place for schnitzel would have to be Cafe Savoy, who apparently also makes the best french toast you will ever taste.
Whether you want to go the classic route or choose a beef sausage, it’s a guarantee they will be grilled, juicy, and served with a side of mustard. You can’t go wrong ordering the grilované klobásy, made up of grilled sausage in a bread roll, with your choice of dipping sauce.
Find it in any large square, or if you’re a sausage fiend, stop by the Nase maso butcher shop to choose among their specialty sausages. While there, you might want to also try their version of the chlebicek, an open-faced sandwich that you’ll see being eaten in every pub or deli shop alike. Served on toasted bread with ham, mayonnaise, pickles, salami, or many other savory ingredients, the chlebíčky, as the Czechs call it, is customizable and will satisfy even the pickiest of eaters.
Czech Out the Trdelnik
You may have seen this scrumptious-looking pastry on the homepages of Buzzfeed, or other popular websites. That’s because the Tredlnik is absolutely worth the buzz. A treat for everyone, the Trdelnik is a rolled pastry covered in cinnamon sugar, and often filled with chocolate, ice cream, and berry compote. So popular that it has started to be sold all across Europe, the pastry not only entertains your tastebuds, but is quite the sight to watch being made.
If you’d rather try something a little less trendy and a little more traditional, order the palačinky, which is essentially the Czech version of a crepe.
It can be filled with jam, chocolate and nuts, or if you prefer savory to sweet than order it with meat, cheese and vegetables.
Both items are sold at food carts across Prague, but if you want the best of the best, Good Food Cafe is the place to go.
Traditional Czech dishes are hearty, rich and definitely not low calorie. A trip to Prague is therefore an indulgent one. The only way to get the most out of touring the city is to satiate your cravings and try all the delicious foods that the city has to offer.
While there are plenty of good Italian and Mexican restaurants as well, it's important to remember that authentic Czech cuisine is only available in one place, and that is Praha!
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Isabelle Kagan is a writer from the south shore of Massachusetts. She spent five months studying in Paris and exploring Europe, becoming an avid fan of traveling. In her spare time she also writes for a satire blog. She currently lives in western Massachusetts.