By now, everyone knows about trdelniks. You know, “donut ice cream cones”?
Yes, those ones. They blew up on the internet a little while ago, but what most people don’t realize is that they are actually a very traditional dessert in the Czech Republic. In Prague, you can find them on every corner.
Most people also don’t realize that Prague has a lot more to offer the world than a delicious and beautiful dessert. I’ve compiled a list of the foods in Prague that deserve but have yet to receive a moment of fame, and the best places to try them.
As svičkova is one of the most popular Czech dishes, “underrated” might not be the proper word for it. It amounts to a slice of sirloin or round steak which is roasted and served in creamy gravy-type sauce, topped with whipped cream and cranberries. It’s usually served with Czech dumplings – basically very thick bread soaked in egg and baked again, a little like unsweet French toast.
It doesn’t sound appetizing, and it’s not photogenic, so it’ll probably never become insta-famous. Literally, I scoured the internet for a good picture and this was all I could come up with. Once you try it, though, you’ll be hooked.
Svičkova is everywhere, but the best kind comes from restaurants that don’t advertise their “authentic” Czech-ness. Find a restaurant that only displays its menu in Czech, and you’ve probably found good svičkova.
Goulash has largely suffered the same fate as svickova: It’s delicious, but kind of ugly. It’s also not American goulash—noodles with ground beef—but a sort of hodgepodge of beef, sausage, vegetables and spices that makes the perfect comfort food.
You’ll find good goulash at the same place you find good svičkova.
#spoontip: also order a pivo (beer) while you’re there. Czechs are famous for and very proud of their beer.
Vietnamese food in Central Europe? You betcha. Vietnamese people are the largest immigrant community in the Czech Republic. Most arrived during the Czechoslovakian communist era as a work agreement between the two countries, and when that era ended in 1989, many immigrants decided to stay instead of returning home. As a result, a bunch of authentic Vietnamese restaurants sprung up.
You can get good Pho almost anywhere, from food stands in the city center to sit-down restaurants in the suburbs.
You can read more about Prague’s Asian food here.
Czech cuisine is traditionally centered around meat, and it can be difficult to find meat-free options that aren’t fried cheese. (Even “vegetarian salads” sometimes come topped with chicken.) There are, however, a few popular and very good restaurants for vegetarians. Some serve classic Czech food sans meat, and others get even more creative.
The vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Prague are admittedly few and far between, so it takes some research to find a good one.
Vienna may be the coffeehouse capital of the world, but Prague isn’t too shabby when it comes to its kava. From little hipster places that serve Aeropress to cat cafes and famous ones where Kafka and Einstein literally had coffee, Prague has it all.
To find good coffee, all you need to do is go outside. There are places everywhere, and a even a bad latte here is better than Starbucks. (Even though Starbucks is a lot cooler in other countries.)
In Europe, hot chocolate doesn’t mean Swiss Miss. You also can’t really drink it. It’s more like a really high quality chocolate bar, melted down and served in a mug, and it’s not for people who can’t handle rich food.
The best and most beautiful hot chocolate I’ve come across is served at the Choco Café, where they serve several specialty chocolates (with sea salt, different flavorings, etc.) and drinking chocolate if you’re looking for something to sip.
In Prague, there are two types of “cake”—dort and kolach. Dort is the typical American idea of cake: lots of layers with whipped cream or other fillings between them. A kolach is more of a pastry, usually filled with cream cheese, fruit, or nuts.
The best dort comes from cake shops called “cukrarnas,” and for authentic kolaches, hit up one of the many weekend farmer’s markets.