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Edible Prague!

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

When my husband and I traveled to Prague recently, a pattern to our days quickly emerged: walk and eat, walk and shop, walk and go to a museum, and repeat. Before the trip, I imagined shaking off my shy coat and boldly clanking glasses of pivo (Czech for beer) in slow motion with new found friends, the beer’s froth spilling onto the floor of a neighborhood pub with wide wood floors and leaded windows.

It may not have felt especially Bavarian, but the closest we came to finding a dream-pub was the excellent Pivovarsky, (Krizikova 17) a microbrewery with about 200 beers to boot. I’m not a big beer fan (I’d pivo pivoprefer a Lillet with a twist any day, thank you very much). But Drew, a home brewer, saw the hundreds of beer bottles lining the wall and went into some other dimension. To find Pivovarsky, we followed a fuzzy map and kept walking until things looked unbearably seedy (a real neighborhood!) and there it was, warm and bustling. The staff was jovial and the food looked bountiful—the place gives you a whole loaf of bread with each order. Too bad the by the time we arrived, we’d already eaten at Perfect.

Thankfully, Prague remained largely in tact after World War II. The apartment we stayed in was touching a building Kafka lived in later in life on Bilkova Street. There’s history everywhere, and walking around it’s easy to feel like you’re part of a very old bedtime story. Inside, many of the city’s buildings have been gutted, swept repeatedly, filled with mod furniture and painted bold colors. The restaurant Perfect pulled this aesthetic off with heart, creating the right balance of intimate ambiance with homey kitsch. The food was straightforward, fresh and memorable. My plate, spinach and smoked chicken gnocchi, was simple and honest-to-goodness one of the most glorious things I’ve ever tasted. The only thing better was my salad—bitter greens with cranberry compote and baked goat cheese.

Still full from dinner and drinks the night before, we stopped for coffee and pastry the next morning at Bakeshop started by an former New Yorker just off the main square. The exchange rate from dollar to euro was dreadful, but we were still tempted to carry out bags of the bakery’s flaky tarts, meringues the size of pancakes, and cherry pecan golden raisin bread (even if it did convert to about $25 dollars a loaf).


After breakfast, we felt like reading the newspaper, so we trekked to Globe, an ex-pat haven that first opened in 1993. It’s smoky, creaky, and a little hippie-dippie. With an English-language book and periodical shop in front, Globe is the kind of writing and reading place I dreamt finding in my college town. Patrons are intentionally scruffy; men with bed-heads and women with berets, drinking swimming pool-sized au laits.

After a full day of wandering around parks and exploring Prague Castle, relaxing with a glass of wine seemed in order. We stumbled upon the old and faithful Café Savoy, recently restored to its Art Nouveau glory after a couple of remodels. It’s easy to sip two glasses of wine and people watch here—the place was filled with an even split of eager tourists and grown up locals with sass. Drew left me to catch up on journaling while he went for a walk up Petrin Hill, and when we met up later, my stomach was empty and mind light from the wine.

Luckily, we found a gem at the venerable Cukr Kava Limonada (Praha 1 – Mala Strana, Lazenska 7), filling up with an herbed omelet and big, fresh plates of house-made taglitelle. Not sunny but warm, the cafe is decorated like the living room of your coolest Parisian aunt. Well fed, we shifted back to our apartment in the Jewish Quarter, past Tyn Church.

Near Tyn

There were merchants in the square selling metal work, painted eggs, and festive breads. Some schoolgirls dressed in traditional Czech outfits danced on a nearby stage. With Tyn looming bigger than a mountain behind us and with bellies full, “I could really live here,” Drew said. “Me too, easy,” I sigh. Trouble is, we say that about every place we travel, especially after a series of very excellent meals.

Sara Billups writes the blog Weatherspoon, a diary of living alongside the weather in the Great Northwest.