Discovering the Food Scene of Prague with Pragusto
Our visit to Prague led us to some amazing attractions that the city had to offer. We strolled through the touristy historic center of Old Town, watched the Astronomical Clock as it struck at the top of the hour which put on a small show for the crowd to admire, strolled across historic Charles Bridge, and marveled at Prague Castle, a large castle complex dating back to the 9th century. Aside from the numerous architectural wonders that Prague had to offer, we were also interested in exploring Prague’s gastronomic scene which we’ve heard was very underrated.
In a city with so many tour operators, there was a vast selection on which food tour to book. After reading numerous reviews and searching for a tour that focuses on local cuisine, we ended up going with Pragusto Food Tours. What sets Pragusto apart from other food tours in Prague is that they are focused on having smaller groups and taking their guests outside of the touristic restaurants and showing what the locals eat. They aren’t bound to specific restaurants, and change their itinerary based on the group size, preference, or food restrictions. In addition, they combine the history of Prague with the local culture and cuisine to show how the Czech people have accelerated in gastronomy after the Communism occupation. We were taken to a handful of restaurants – all different in each respect, from hip urban tapas, to a local butcher shop serving some delicious meats, to a local lunch time eatery specially known for meats and carpaccio, Pragusto showed us the Prague food scene that was not easily explored on our own.
We began our tour to meet with our tour guide, Jitka, just on the west side of Prague. She began by introducing herself and giving us a little overview about the history of Prague and explained how after the fall of the iron curtain and communism, Czech Republic (also currently known as Czechia) started to reach out and absorb the many cultural influences that Europe had to offer, which also included culinary influences. What makes Czechia such a great country for gastronomy is the farms that are located outside of Prague. These local farms cultivate some amazing produce and meats that are fresh, delicious, and are mainly used by the restaurants in the city.
Vítězná 419/15, 150 01 Praha-Malá Strana, Czechia
We started our tour just a few steps from where we met. A small quaint restaurant with the kitchen situated right in front so you can see the action.
Our first dish was buckwheat pancakes with emmental cheese. There were two selections – one with bacon and mushrooms, the other with spinach and egg.
For the first starter, it was definitely delicious and filling. The pancakes were more crepe-like and had a nice crisp to it because they were made with buckwheat. The bacon and mushroom pancake was very hearty and the bacon tasted similar to pancetta than American bacon. Eating it with the mushrooms was an excellent combination giving it a distinct earthy taste. The spinach and egg pancake was very creamy and it paired very well with the emmental cheese. This was our first time tasting emmental, very light and buttery tasting. It originates from Switzerland. We were off to a great and rather filling start!
Smetanovo nábř. 1012/2, 110 00 Staré Město, Czechia
Considered to be Prague’s “best-known cafe”, we made a quick stop at Cafe Slavia. We didn’t get to dine at the cafe, however, Jitka brought us here to show us an example of how typical cafes looked in the early 20th century. Famous for their cakes and desserts, it looked like an excellent place to stop by before a trip to the Opera House located right across the street.
Vodičkova 39, 110 00 Nové Město, Czechia
A very casual dessert and sandwich shop, Ovocny Svetozor, provided us a peek into the life of a typical Czech local. The shop was located in a small shopping aisle which felt like a small indoor strip mall.
We were immediately greeted with a glass case full of beautiful and decadent sweets and cakes. The other case had some delicious looking open-faced sandwiches with a plethora of flavors to choose from. Jitka explained how the open-faced sandwich was a very important and traditional part of Czech culture. The open-faced sandwich can be a casual lunch time snack for a local Czech looking for a quick bite between work. She also explained how it’s a typical dish served during special occasions and get-togethers. Due to traditional Czech homes being on the smaller side, having open-faced sandwiches made it easy to place various dishes throughout the house, and made it easy for guests to pick one up, stand and have a bite to eat while moving around the house to socialize with others. It also reflected a cost-effective way to have a variety of sandwiches without having to spend a lot of money during the Communist era.
We ordered a few sandwiches to taste: smoked salmon, radicchio, and salami, a good snack as we continued our culinary walk.
The sandwiches were simple but it was perfect for a mid food tour snack. The smoked salmon was the star of the stop as they piled the salmon high and it went very well with the cheese and bread. Do yourself a favor and order that if you ever visit Ovocny Svetozor. While eating our sandwiches we noticed many Czech locals coming in the restaurant just enjoying their Saturday ordering ice cream and pastries and just hanging out.
During our walks between restaurants, Jitka also managed to explain important tidbits about the history of Prague. We passed by this monument, which commemorates the Velvet Revolution against the communist government. She mentioned that at the time, the democratic movement was led by a man named, Vaclav Havel, who was a huge advocate of non-violence. Supporters would use the peace sign as a way to show their support for him (letter V), as well as to show their desire for change in a peaceful manner. On November 17th, 1989, more than 200,000 protesters gathered and filled the streets with their peace signs to protest and successful ended the communist rule. There are very powerful images surrounding this monument, and hearing Jitka’s first hand account was really amazing to learn about.
Politických vězňů 1511/5, 110 00 Nové Město, Czechia
The next stop in our food tour lead us to a nondescript building. Kantyna is a butcher shop that is famous for serving some of the best meats in Prague. As we walked into the lobby of the restaurant we immediately smelled the wonderful aroma of grilled meat just filling the air.
The restaurant is a no frills butcher shop that is only focused on meat and beer. They use a card ordering system which you’re given upon entering the restaurant.
From there, we walked to the meat counter to awe at the impressive selection of meats that were being offered. It was fully displayed and readily available for you to order what you’d like to eat.
Everything looked so good, we didn’t know what to pick. Jitka recommended that we try the house specialty, beef carpaccio, and paired it with a glass of beer and a potato pancake.
Simple yet satisfying, the meat was sliced paper thin with a generous sprinkle of fine olive oil, salt, pepper, and creme fraiche. It was the perfect combination with an ice cold beer. The freshness of the beef really stood out with a few simple toppings. We both agreed that this dish was one of the top dishes we had during the tour. What set Kantyna apart from other restaurants was that it’s a local no frills restaurant which had a releaxed and casual environment. The atmosphere was very inviting and definitely a great place to hang out after work to enjoy some delicious meat with a beer or two.
Jindřišská 937/16, 11000 Nové Město, Czechia
Putting a new spin on the tapas concept, we were taken to Bistro Spejle which had a hip and cool vibe. The waitress explained to us how everything worked. Every item in the restaurant had a toothpick/skewer (Spejle meaning skewer) stuck through it. This was used as an accounting system for the final bill which was calculated by counting the amount of sticks you had left after finish eating. It was self serve so you can go to the counter and take what you like.
The restaurant had a wide array of open faced sandwiches. The bars were separated between cold and hot dishes and we were free to select any small tapas we wanted to try.
I love sausage so I had to try the open faced sausage sandwich and I also picked up the open faced blood sausage. Both were really tasty, especially the blood sausage.
We also got an order of the schnitzel and potatoes which was the first time we’ve had it. After tasting it, I was very much looking forward to our visit to Vienna to try the original weinerschnitzel. Crispy battered pork and potato salad that tasted so creamy and much different from the potato salad we have back in the states. Instead of mayonnaise, the Austrian potato salad uses vinegar, butter, dill, and mustard. Tiffany also picked up a few seafood dishes of octopus with cous cous. This was a really interesting restaurant, as you could see the Spanish influence of tapas variety, but was tweaked to cater to the Czech palette, with lots of open faced sandwiches. It’s a great place to stop by if you want to try a lot of different items!
A butcher shop in the center of Prague was quite popular and buzzing upon our arrival. The shop was fairly small with a few seats inside and a long stainless steel counter outside. The centerpiece of the store was a huge open refrigerator that showcased an impressive array of steaks, chops, sausages, and anything meat!
Even though we were pretty full from all the food we’d already enjoyed at the previous restaurants, we still had some space left for steak. We ordered a small tri-tip cut about 6 oz. The butcher showed us the meat and helped us cut it and even grilled it to our liking.
It was delivered to us right outside the shop and we enjoyed it standing at the steel counters. This was a popular place among foreigners and locals, and although there was always a big crowd, the line moved quickly and placing our order was fairly quick.
Staroměstské nám. 7, 110 00 Staré Město, Czechia
The last stop of our food tour led us to Old Town Square, a perfect place to end our tour. The night was starting to liven up and people were buzzing around Old Town Square.
Mincovna had a very modern but rustic feel to it. Upon walking in, we immediately noticed large beer tanks hanging from the ceiling above the bar. Jitka pointed out the decorations on the walls resembled coins. She mentioned that Mincovna is the Czech word for “mint,” and this restaurant actually used to be an old coin minting factory, which was why the coins were on the walls.
We finished off the night with dessert of course. Tiffany wanted to try the apple strudel and I had the strawberry and cheesecake mousse. Jitka couldn’t resist sweets either and also ordered herself some ice cream with chocolate sauce.
It was the perfect ending to a long and delicious food tour and our stomach was very happy that night. Overall, Pragusto did a wonderful job carefully planning out the different types of restaurants and food stops throughout the tour and tied it all together with different stories and explanations of how Czech culture played into the types of food. Prague’s food scene definitely surprised us, as it felt a little like back home in Los Angeles, with a wide variety of different types of cuisine. It’s great to see that Prague has really embraced outside culinary influences and the local people are more than willing to venture into trying and creating different delicious restaurants.
A huge thank you to Jitka for showing us around and educating us on the culinary scenery in Prague. We highly recommend that if you’re ever in Prague and feel overwhelmed with the enormous amounts of restaurant selections in Prague, or are interested in having a more local experience, take a tour with Pragusto Food Tours!
Thank you to our wonderful guide Jitka and Pragusto for hosting us on this food tour in exchange for this review. All posts and opinions are our own.