Prague trip report [Nov 2023]

Everyone we dealt with during our week in Prague, even the most harried server, was quite friendly (and nearly all spoke English). It is a beautiful city, not only in its old town, but in the surrounding suburban neighbourhoods. We were staying in Holešovice, but walked through Letná, Bubeneč, Karlín, Vinohrady, and others, always finding interesting buildings, façades, and retail businesses. (Incidentally, it is not hard to learn how to pronounce Czech words, though I don’t think I got some of the more obscure vowels entirely right.)

We wanted our accommodations outside the old town, both to save money (it was a professional trip for my partner, but her expenses were not covered) and to get some sense of normal life. It was mid-November, so shoulder season (low season is probably around February) but there were still a fair number of tourists, and I have not been touted as heavily in Europe in some time as I was in the main squares of the old city. It must be intolerable at the height of summer. We tried to avoid eating in that zone. (The old town is lovely, and Prague Castle and the Charles Bridge are worth whatever crowds you may have to endure. They’re large and wide, respectively, at least.)

I didn’t expect much of the food beyond meat and starches, and we did have a lot of that, but generally we were pleased with our meals. Our Hamburg strategy of going for immigrant food did not pay off here. Dim Sum Spot Letná (second location) looked promising, with varied homemade dumplings that arrived in proper steamer baskets. But the wrappers were too thick and the fillings mostly meat. Both might have been to local tastes, but not ours. Pho Vietnam Tuan and Lan came highly recommended, but was a disappointment: oily nem ram, pallid pho with a few bits of cilantro for herbs. There is a significant Vietnamese community in Prague, so I cannot explain this.

We did better with local strengths, starting with my first solo lunch at Lokál Nad Stromovkou. Lokál is a Prague chain run by the Ambiente restaurant group, who seem to be involved with a lot of respected places. I started with a mug of their special unfiltered black lager from the Kozel brewery.

My taste in beer mostly leans towards ales (I was a fan of IPAs well before they became overexposed hipster juice). I find most lagers forgettable, and I view foam as an annoyance between me and the actual beer. At least, that’s the way I thought before visiting Prague. First of all, the Czechs brew some seriously good lagers. And second, foam is important to them. They use special taps - pull for beer, push for foam. Above is what you usually get (size and proportion, though not style) if you just ask for “pivo”. But you can get one that is three-quarters foam, or even all foam. And the foam is good.

The meal tasted better than it looked. Tripe soup to start, then, from the daily specials menu, country-style pork belly with potato dumplings and braised cabbage. For dessert, I had rakvička, a standard offering, a hollow biscuit with whipped cream piped in.

I won’t list all the prices on every meal I had, but this one was typical. The exchange rate was 25 CZK = 1 EUR. The tripe soup was 70 CZK, main was 180 CZK, dessert 50CZK, beer 65 CZK. Which is to say, not expensive. Tipping is optional, but it’s common to “round up”, and the server will, if one is paying with a card, announce the total and then wait to punch what you suggest into the machine. I generally rounded up by at least 10%, because I could afford it, and the service was usually excellent.

My first dinner was also solo (partner had dinner with colleagues), and since I had spent the afternoon at the Synth Library Prague near Vyšehrad, to the south, I took advantage to have a meal nearby, well out of the tourist zone, at Basta, a brewpub interconnected with the U Bansethu restaurant.

The house specialty here is a quarter roast duck stuffed with potato dumplings, over white cabbage. Now, ducks come in various sizes. This one was large. This meal cost me the equivalent of 10 EUR.

You can see there is a certain similarity to the food. But it was not heavy or dull. I enjoyed eating it, and watching the locals interact (I was the only foreigner in the place, I believe).

My partner got away to join me for lunch the next day, which was at Kantyna, a place which shows up on many lists. It’s on the southeast edge of the old town, close to the main train station. As with a few other addresses I had collected, the front is a butcher shop. Passing through, one is handed a cardboard tally. Beyond are two large windows set opposite each other, with a communal table for standing in between them. One window is for food, the other for beer. You walk up to each, make your selections from the posted menu, and hand your tally over to be annotated. You carry your food and drink on a tray to a table you choose in rooms beyond with high vaulted ceilings and tiled floor.

Here is our food. It doesn’t look like much, but it was an incredible meal.

First of all, at lower left, there is a mug of fresh draught Pilsner Urquell. I’d had it in the bottle many times, and knew it to be a reliably superior choice for a bottled pilsner. But this was a revelation, tapped fresh. (The brand originated in Plseň, a 40-min train ride away, but there’s probably a brewery in the vicinity of Prague also.)

Next, a beef tartare, but spiced differently from what I’ve had in France. The beef had good flavour, neither too fresh/mild nor gamey, served with buttered toast. We had a choice between “cooked vegetables” and “salad” (I saw that on another tray, and it looked like a heap of butter lettuce leaves). Not overcooked, and welcome, but nothing special. At top left is roast pork shoulder. My partner took a few bites and said, “This is exactly what I want from a pork roast: crisp skin, tender meat, well-seasoned.” Beside it is a garlic potato pancake, and bread (one could take as much of that as one wanted).

We saw others having soup, which was served in small copper saucepans, and some with numbered bones, indicating meats cooked to order and delivered to table. A server circulated asking if people wanted beer refills. A man next to us chatted us up in good English, and said he had been coming there for ten years. “The quality has not declined,” he said.

We went back for another lunch later in the week, but the pork shoulder was not available that day. We instead had some meatloaf, and a pork schnitzel, both of which were great (though I guess I didn’t deem them photo-worthy, as I can’t find a record on my phone). There was roast goose, in honour of the Feast of Saint Martin which was on the Sunday we were to leave, but it was only available as part of a set meal, and the price was quite high (apparently there is a goose shortage and prices have doubled in the past two years). We did manage to cadge some of the braised red cabbage which was part of the same meal.

Lunch the next day was at Naše Maso (“Our Meat”), in the old town but out of the tourist crush, though a number of Asian tourists did show up and order from the touchscreen outside, and ate in the cold. We got one of the three tiny tables inside; most of the place is a butcher counter. They are famed for their dry-aged beef burger, and while it was not quite as good as the one we’d had a month earlier in Berlin, it was still very good.

The next dinner was at Vinohradsky Pivovar, a brewery-restaurant with a couple of locations. We went to the original in the slightly more upscale neighbourhood of Vinohrady, to the southeast of the old town. It had a more varied beer selection than my previous brewpub, and a full, more creative menu, but we only had a couple of starters (rillettes, and sausage cooked in a paprika sauce), which was plenty with the bread basket. Again, everyone else was locals, as far as we could tell.

We had a few dinners close to where we were staying in Holešovice that were notable, though very American-influenced. One was at a place called Burgerman, at a bricks-and-mortar recently opened after working up through food truck and pop-up. Excellent fries, and the burger was good, though a bit too goopy for my tastes (you can probably tell from the unwrapped one).

Sandwich Rodeo is the third location in a mini-chain that includes Mr HotDog (just around the corner) and Big Smokers (Texan BBQ) in east Holešovice. We piled in here with all our luggage for fried chicken sandwiches and one last terrific beer before taking the tram/bus to the airport. (We also ate at Mr HotDog: again, excellent fries, and a respectable job on the eponymous dish.)

I should also mention the cakes and pastries, in the Austro-Hungarian tradition. These are from Erhatova cukrárna near where we stayed (second location) which we visited a few times:

And these are from a place in Vinohrady that I found while we were waiting for a tram home after dinner. On the right is a variation on veternik, a common pastry (basically a croquembouche). This one is pistachio-flavoured.

Here is the tram stop closest to where we stayed, showing a typical modern streetscape.

We will definitely return to Prague and we would recommend it as a destination.


Maybe because the Vietnamese community in Czech Republic doesn’t have the money to dine at restaurants, or doesn’t seek out Vietnamese restaurant food as an occasional treat, because they have better Vietnamese food at home for less cost, and the Czech locals who dine there don’t demand better because they’re not familiar with the better stuff. Also, finding good Vietnamese professional cooks or sourcing good ingredients might be a problem in Czech Republic right now.

I say this, because in many expat or immigrant communities, the restaurant food won’t be high calibre if the expat or immigrant community doesn’t have a dining out culture in the newer country. A lot of Greek , Polish and Indian restaurants in Canada fall into this pattern, because people eat their traditional food at home, rather than ordering traditional food at restaurants. The restaurant food reflects what the local economy wants or tolerates, and the prices the local economy will tolerate have an impact on how much the kitchen can spend on the food it is serving.

I remember seeing a large Vietnamese market, with vendors and stalls, on the road between Cheb and Bavaria, 18 years ago. It’s a fairly depressed part of Czech Republic.

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I’m contrasting this with Hamburg, but, yes, there is a considerable economic difference between Germany and Czechia. And my sample pool is very small. Back in Canada, there is no shortage of mediocre Vietnamese food in Toronto or Kitchener-Waterloo, despite the large immigrant populations. There is also quite good food, but one has to know where to go.

I would like to know if there are reliable, non-touristy addresses for non-European food in Prague. If I had been there for much longer, I probably would have found myself going to a supermarket, buying a bag of mixed salad, and tearing it open and plunging my face into it just outside.


Maybe a Prague Reddit query could help. I sometimes use Reddit and TripAdvisor to ask locals for restaurant tips.

I guess if I was in Prague or elsewhere in Czech Republic, my non- Czech food choices would probably lean towards cheapish Doner, Czech Chinese (I like comparing local Chinese to local Chinese around the world, and I don’t care about authenticity) and maybe Greek, Armenian, Turkish or possibly Russian or Shashlik.

I had some nice Czech meals in Marienbad / Marianske Lazne on my last visit.

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My wife and I visited Prague in 2015. Most of the food we had was just ok, but there was one stand-out restaurant that we loved, Sansho. The cuisine is modern Asian. If you go back to Prague, don’t miss it.

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Thanks for this report.
We will spend a week in Prague in Oct. '24. This is great info.

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Enjoy your trip and please report back on what you found!