Don’t believe the rumor that food in Prague is restricted to stick-to-your ribs meat and potatoes. With the influx of foreign visitors, eating in Prague has increasingly become an adventure in unusual flavors and unfamiliar dining practices.
Still, the quality of cuisine varies greatly depending on where you go. As a general rule, stay away from Chinese food but do try the authentic Czech food served up in pubs. Thai food is particularly good with several fine Thai restaurants located just off the many tram stops. More upscale Italian and French places also serve very good food.
As for Czech food, there is a lot to try in many different places and often at very affordable prices. There is a time and a place to try everything from the sausages and fried cheese sold in Wenceslas Square to the traditional pork knuckle to the popular chicken, peach, and cheese sauce dish that can be found in numerous Czech restaurants. When ordering in Czech restaurants keep in mind that beef is not very popular among the Czechs and that pork and chicken tend to be of better quality than the beef. The exception to that rule would be the goulash, a hearty beef stew. A very traditional dish, it is best when accompanied by a mug of beer and some dark rye bread.
Many classic Czech dishes are basically composed of either a chicken or pork cutlet topped with a cheesy or fruity sauce, a potato side such as dumplings, fries or croquettes, and pickled shredded vegetables. Be aware that Czech dumplings are actually sliced rounds of boiled bread. The consistency is much like steamed bread and not at all like pierogi.
Where to Dine in Prague
Just a year old, Cotto Crudo in the Four Seasons Hotel brings a piece of authentic Italy to Prague. Ingredients like burrata and prosciutto are flown in direct from the Italian boot. The expansive dining room may sit just off the lobby of the luxe Four Seasons but you can eat very well here for under $50 a person. Start off with a selection of fresh fish from the crudo bar or some tangy, silky soft mozzarella then dig into a pasta like the tagliatelle with wild boar. A 360-label strong wine list offers a handful of Czech wines alongside traditional powerhouses France, Italy and Germany. Four Seasons, Veleslavínova 2, website
If you are looking to dine with locals in a neighborhood favorite, try Stoleti. Tucked in a series of small streets near the Old National Theatre, this former stable once functioned as a Communist club. Stoleti serves Czech food done in a more modern style, a wonderful break from the heavier, more traditional versions around town. Take some time to speak to proprietor Antonin Kinsky, who aside from being a count from an old royal family in Prague, is behind the impeccable service. Another treat is Stoleti’s western-style salad bar, which is a rare find in a country where “salad” usually consists of chopped cucumbers and tomatoes in sour cream. Dinner for two starts is about $50. Ulice Karoliny Svetle 21, website
Another inexpensive option for authentic Czech food is U Pivrnce, a two-story pub featuring a rather risque basement. Step in through the smallish bar and descend the stairs for a look at the cartoons by illustrator Petr Urban. Then slide onto a bench and enjoy rib-sticking dishes such as goulash and dumplings. A meal for 2 with beer about $25 – $30. Maiselova 3, website
Restaurace u Parlamentu, located near the Staromestska station, is right down the street from the Prague Municipal Library. It serves some of the best Czech food near Old Town Square. Go for hearty Czech classics like Moravian beef and traditional Czech salads, full of sour cream and mayonnaise, naturally. Enjoy a large mug of beer and a hearty, delicious meal among locals in a handsome dark, wood-paneled setting. Dinner for two is around $40. Valentinská 8, Prague 1, (420) 721-415-747, website
A popular place to dine for locals and visitors alike is Orange Moon, a Thai establishment with two locations: one on the fourth floor of the Palac Flora Mall, and one near Old Town Square. The food here is good enough to compete with Thai restaurants in New York City. For a relaxing night out, eat dinner at the Palace Flora location and grab a movie at the theater located in the mall. A meal here for two costs about $50. Ramova 5or Atrium Flora 3, Vinohradska 151, website
Aromi serves some of the best Italian in Prague. The delicious, authentic Italian food, friendly atmosphere and prompt service make it a favorite of expats in Prague. Somewhat on the pricey side, a meal for two including a large carafe of wine is about $130. Aromi is often packed so reservations are recommended. Manesova 78, website
Radost FX doubles as a club and lounge by night and a restaurant by day. Eat Sunday brunch in Saturday night’s lounge decorated with rich plush cushions and Moroccan lamps. They serve delicious omelets and a large selection of drinks. Brunch served on weekends from 10:30am. Expect to spend about $40 for two. Belehradska 120, Prague 2, 420-603-193-711, website
As for street food, the booths selling sausages and fried cheese sandwiches in Wenceslas Square offer a truly Czech experience. Locals frequent the booths during the day while visitors tend to make late night visits while waiting for the night trams to arrive. The sausages come with sauerkraut, ketchup and mustard on a hoagie. The more unusual fried cheese sandwiches come with a generous slathering of mayonnaise and sandwiched in hamburger buns. The sausages cost about $5 and the fried cheese sandwich $4.
On the Old Town Square, grab some Old Prague ham from the stand behind the Town Hall. Here, large hocks rotate over a zesty fire and you can get get a portion for under $5. Sausage and portions of potatoes and bacon are under $3.
Just off Wenceslas Square, there is a stand selling what is perhaps the best gyro for your money in Prague. The tiny stand serves chicken shawarma gyros topped generously with all the traditional veggies and sauce for about $4. Grab a gyro and look for seating on the nearby benches for the perfect quick lunch while sightseeing. Na Mustku 1
In a country known for its beer, Czech wines tend to be very underappreciated and rarely make it outside the country. For a quick lesson, drop into tiny Vinograf near the Charles Bridge and try the large selection from around the country. They specialize in small producers you’ll never have heard of, so just ask the knowledgeable staff to guide you. Míšeňská 8, website
Czechs love their gelato and there are various gelaterias scattered all over Prague. Cream and Dream, a chain with a store located near the Charles Bridge, is crowded at all hours of the day and offers generous portions of gelato for around $4 as well. Husova 12
Cremeria Milano is a more upscale dessert shop with what many believe to be the best gelato in Prague. Located on the most fashionable street in Old Town, Milano Gelateria is a very popular destination for special dates and friendly gatherings. A scoop of gelato here will set you back around $6. Pařížská 20
Service & Tipping
While service in the Czech Republic is notorious for its Eastern European sense of hospitality, there are plenty of places that are exceptions to this quickly changing aspect of Czech dining. An added plus, many waitstaff speak English.
Tap water is safe to drink in Prague but difficult to get in restaurants. Most people drink bottled water when dining out.
Watch out for the bread charge. Bread is not complimentary in every restaurant and may show up on your table, even if you don’t want it, especially in downscale restaurants. If you don’t want bread, let your server know when they take your order. Bread charges can be as much as $2 per person.
As for tipping, most Czechs simply round up the total so that the tip comes out to around 10% of the bill. Restaurants expect the check to be settled once it is brought to your table. Tip is not simply left on the table so be sure to include it when paying the check. If you need change, indicate how much you would like back.