I am not a food blogger. And don't aim at becoming one, even though there is an incentive to commence composing a cookbook. I actually promised a friend of mine that I would post a weekly recipe for him this year but as you may check on my BigOven profile, it did not really follow suit. Yet. What is important, though, is the place I made this promise. Whenever he comes over to Prague from his new home city, that is Glesga, it is my task to find the right place for a catch-up early dinner. It is difficult to find decent restaurant in the Czech metropolis. You mostly encounter the tourist-targeting convention of overpriced meaty dishes infused with salt, our national habit of using pre-made components, or a combination of thereof. The surprise is how many of them are in proximity of a district 2 square, only popular among locals, end even that is limited to the period of Christmas market craze.
Let us check what awaits you at and around Náměstí Míru, then!
When you are looking for Italian, Czech Republic does not have much to offer in terms of authenticity. The Peace Square, as you may translate its name, there are two places that closely adhere to it.
The more budget-friendly of them, and the only one that serves pizza, is Grosseto. A restaurant so respected that it had become a network with four diners, an Italian imports shop, and its own culinary academy, with both hobbyist and professional classes. Although this particular place is not the one where it all started, you get to experience identical range of Italian classics made to specification set by one of their three star chefs, specialists in their own branch of the cuisine: regional classics, gourmet specials, and pizza. After the standard procedure of table assignment, you sit down in a compact, yet airy, interior, get to observe the passion-driven pizza chef throw dough back and forth, receive international-standard service from the front of house staff, and don't usually have to wait too long before your meal arrives. And that is in spite of all meals, including the specials, being made to order with no shortcuts. The overall experience is pleasant and definitely worth every penny.
The posh option that emphasises the Italian beyond pizza and pasta is Aromi, led by a chef with Michelin experience, Riccardo Lucque. At the price, you obviously get the level of service where a porter takes care of your coats, sits you down in a spacious interior decorated with original paintings, introuces himself by first name, and remains your server all the way through the experience. There is fresh fish and seafood on display, any item of which you can ask to be made for you in the original fashion or any other way you like. Well, the chefs will obviously give your personal waiter a long stare once he brings in a monkfish to be made into fish and chips. On top of this, there is obviously a short permanent menu, number of seasonal specials, and couple of ready-to-serve lunchtime dishes. Five course menu culminating with Italian small-batch roast coffee is therefore an option. Personally, I would not be able to justify the bill on regular occasion, but I do greatly appreciate what you get for the money. Anniversary, maybe?
Pho Vietnam Tuan & Lan
This basement bistro is not too well known due the massive competition from their compatriots. See, the Vietnamese to Prague are like the Indians to London or the Moroccans to Paris. This place is however the only one that received endorsement from the nationally established advocates of high gastronomy, namely chef Zdeněk Pohlreich, and mentor Roman Vaněk. While the inconvenient interior and order-at-the-bar approach to service might be an issue to some, the main reason for your visit, food, is authentic and far outweighing the downsides. Starting with a ready made fresh shrimp roll or its fried counterpart stuffed with beef handed over immediately upon your arrival is highly recommended. The two signature dishes here include Phở Bò, an enormous bowl of broth with noodles, boiled beef, and chives, and Bún bò Nam Bộ, an alternative with lower amount of water and greater variety of veggies. Two undisputed upsides of this restaurant is lack of horrible cheap-plastic decorations so typical for Vietnamese restaurants everywhere, and its price level, which is with respect to the amount of food and culinary satisfaction the lowest on this list.
It's not like going out for a burger would be something you take an airplane to do, but in case all the new tastes overwhelm you and you just want something familiar, Dish is definitely the place to go. Everything is made to order from fresh ingredients, the patties seem to be made of pure beef and their menu composition just works. And their fries are wonderful. Inside the interior, where you better book table for both lunch and dinner, everything is quite crammed, but that only makes sense, given their popularity, for the sake of which they opened in a second location. Service takes more modern approach and I like to deal with them that way, especially since staying in for a chat after the meal is not something I would prefer, given the acoustic conditions.
In case you are just passing and feel like grabbing a quick meal to keep you going through further Prague adventures, check out one of the two nearby outlets of the popular Czech franchise Bageterie Boulevard. The first one is just southeast of the square, while the other, smaller one, is to the west. They offer a wide range of ready made sub fillings with a choice of bread and a menu option that includes portion of baked potatoes and a fresh ice tea. In addition to that, they do a pair of quarterly specials, soup of the day, muffins, and biscuits. There is also a coffee of custom blend on offer, which I prefer avoiding. Nevertheless, the place is wonderful to call at for quick lunch in the house or a takeaway dinner. Since it is a franchise, your choice will taste the same, no matter the location, but you will not be served a stack of prefabricated components.
After you eat
When I make plans to go out with my friends, we never discuss where to go. Visit to the Banyan tearoom is implied. The routine starts off with a teapot of Touareg and continues with an optional shisha paired with a pick from the menu.
As a souvenir
And in case you like to cook yourself, I do suggest Book Therapy, where they have a lot of hipster-targeted books including a nice range of regional cuisine cookbooks.