I find that Czech friends and foreigners alike are often surprised that I can survive here as a vegetarian. “How do you manage to feed yourself? Czech food is so meat-centric?”. Quite well really! Certainly within Prague it is no problem at all, though in smaller towns and villages eating out often involves smažený sýr (fried cheese) or risotto. I’m vegetarian, not vegan, but I don’t eat meat or fish (which is really meat, isn’t it?).
I’ve mentioned one or two of these places before, but here is a non-comprehensive list of my go-to places in Prague.
Yes, this is the same Govinda you find all over the place in Europe – the Hare Krishna group that runs vegetarian restaurants, usually with set menus. 95Kč will get you the small menu plate which always includes soup, some sort of salad (rice or bean), rice or bulgur with vegetables and sauce, There are three locations in Prague. One very near Palladium mall in the centre, one in Prague 8 and the newest one, which appears to be a separate business, in Prague 5 across the street from Smíchovské nádraží. I’m partial to the one in Prague 5 as I find the food is fresher plus you get tea or juice included with your meal.
These vegan buffets can be found all over Prague, including in the food courts at Nový Smíchov and Galerie Butovice malls. It is amazing how busy they are. Food is sold by the 100 grams, usually between 19 and 22Kč, though if you come after 8pm it is usually discounted by up to 50%. It’s a little expensive if you need a big meal, but as a small meal on the go it is perfect.
For somewhere a little nicer, this is a great option. These restaurants are somehow related but have a different menu. Maitrea has a fantastic cozy lower floor eating area. Reservations are recommended on busy nights. The food is all original, well prepared with some “re-engineered” Czech specialties such as goulash or svíčková.
Polévka is Czech for soup and is a good option in many cafes and restaurants. This small restaurant near na plavka specializes in soups and always has some vegetarian options on the board. Economical and including bread with every bowl of soup. Be warned, it is very small and very busy at lunch time.
For a change of taste I sometimes go for the all you can eat Indian buffet at Indian by Nature. There are several locations in Prague but I am partial to the one near Hradčanská, the food seems fresher and the service friendlier. 125Kč gets you all you can eat, there are veggie and meat options was well as salad and naan. Drinks are extra of course.
There are many, many other restaurants. Some I’ve forgotten and other great ones I have yet to experience. Happy Cow will help you locate new places to try!
Here again there are many good options. Specialty store such as Country Life and Rozmaryna are great for a good selection of organic and bio products. Every weekend there are farmer’s markets all over town including my favourite at Na Plavka. Don’t forget the six day a week year-round market in Holesovice, found in the Vietnamese market area at the Pražská tržnice tram stop. It is less touristy and has a great selection of fresh local produce.
Good luck and dobrou chuť!
Being Canadian isn’t something I give a lot of thought to, we usually aren’t a very patriotic people and I’m less patriotic than most. One of the things I admire about a lot of the people I meet is a distinct sense of culture. Most or my students can easily point to something they consider to be “Czech” – often beer or food – and then ask me to tell them something that is typically Canadian and I am at a loss. It is too big a country with too many different cultures mixed in. Usually at this point it comes up that I don’t like hockey, and can’t even skate. Still, many of my students want to know something about Canada.
Fortunately a friend recently posted something that helps me explain some things about Canada and also works wonderfully to demonstrate how not all English is equal. Or comprehensible. Language can indeed be a barrier to communication:
“I’m going to collect the loonies and toonies out of my knapsack and head to The Beer Store for a two-four. On my way back, I’ll pick us up a double-double and some timbits, then we can have that back bacon for breakfast. If you spill your Tim’s because I’m driving 20 clicks over the speed limit, I’ll give you a serviette to use in the washroom. And don’t worry—I’ve got a mickey of vodka to put in our caesars. Save me a seat on the chesterfield, eh?”
After reading this I realized that about 90% of my ESL students would have only a vague idea what the hell we were talking about.
Loonies and toonies? Okay, so we can figure out it is money quick enough. But what kind of country calls its currency a loonie? This leads us back to waterfowl – the loon that appears on our dollar coins. Introduced in 1987 to replace our one dollar bills, they quickly became known as loonies. So in 1996 when the two dollar coin was introduced the name toonie was quickly adopted despite other suggestions.
Knapsack, rucksack, backpack – all more or less the same thing. I can’t explain why Canadians adopted a word of German origin to describe this essential accessory.
You will notice it is not the beer store but instead The Beer Store. Only people from Ontario will see the difference. When I was a kid I remember it being called Brewers Retail – renaming themselves The Beer Store is marketing brilliance, it’s what everyone called them anyways.
And a two-four? Easy, we buy our beer in cases of 24, the way nature intended! The idea of this quantity of beer seems to make many of my students very happy.
The next couple of references come from what can only be described as real Canadian food: Tim Hortons. Coffee, doughnuts, food, and named after a hockey player – how much more Canadian can it get? You will find them on every corner, in every town, everywhere. Starbucks pales by comparison.
I’m not a coffee drinker, another strike against me as a true Canadian I guess. Standing in line at Tim’s, as we affectionately call it, you won’t hear anyone order a tall non-fat soy latte. No way, the most common thing will be an extra-large double-double – 24 oz of coffee with two cream and two sugar. Not enough sugar to get you going? Add an order of timbits. What other companies do with the holes they cut out of the doughnuts is a mystery – Tim’s cooks them, covers them in various sweet substances and sells them by the hundreds.
Reflecting our British connections, you will often find the option of back bacon on a breakfast menu – a different cut of meat than the traditional bacon found elsewhere. Outside of Canada you might find it referred to as Canadian Bacon. Once again people from Ontario might disagree and call it peameal bacon, a leftover name from when the meat used to be rolled in cornmeal for a distinct taste and yellow colour.
Need to clean up a little? Here, have a serviette, or napkin. Perhaps not as common as it used to be, but still heard all over Canada. This is also a good time to introduce the idea that we don’t use toilet to describe the place where you go, only the actual toilet. Washroom, bathroom, restroom, facilities, we will go to any length to avoid saying toilet.
Had enough of all this? Open that mickey of vodka and let’s kick back and relax. There seems to be some disagreement about what a mickey is, and where the name came from but it is generally accepted to be about 375ml of alcohol. Perfect for carrying with you.
In your living room you might find a sofa, couch, or chesterfield. In some places a chesterfield is a specific kind of couch covered in buttons and quite plush, but for us it can be anything multiple people sit on. It’s becoming an older word and fewer people use it now, but you still might be invited to have a seat on one.
Last, but certainly not least. Eh? Canadians will stick this at the end of sentence, always with a question mark. It’s our way of inviting comment, asking for confirmation or just checking if you were listening.
Take it easy, eh?
Some days it seems my brain works something like this: “sleepfoodfoodfoodfoodworkworkfoodfoodfoodfoodsleep”.
You get the idea, food is pretty high up my priority list.
For those of you new to Prague, or just looking to try something different, here are my personal picks:
For a great relaxing tea room try Čajovna Durama at Trojanova 4. No pressure, nice environment (non-smoking), free wifi and fantastic masala čaj. A very close second are any of the Mama Coffee locations – always a pleasant atmosphere with free wifi and a selection of snacks too!
Natures perfect food: Pizza! After trying many pizza slices I’ve settled on Kebab Star & Pizza at Národní 18. 45Kč gets you 1/4 slice (not a pathetic 1/8th slice) of fresh and crispy delicious pizza.
I’m a vegetarian and when I am feeling particularly hungry I head to one of two Govinda locations (Soukenická 27 or across from Smíchovské náměstí). 95Kč gets you the set menu meal and for an extra 10Kč you can have free seconds! Come 30 minutes before closing time at the Soukenická location and get a discount.
Special occasion? Friends in from out of town? Try Maitrea or its sister restaurant Lehka Hlava (Light Head). Maitrea is located just off of Old Town Square at Týnská ulička 6/1064. Fantastic food and a very beautiful atmosphere. Even the non-vegetarians in the group will rave about it! Maitrea has managed to take traditional Czech cuisine and reinvent it as vegetarian food. Expect to pay 200-300Kč per person depending on your tastes. Reservations recommended for busy times.
For those times I have a craving for something sweet Kumbál Kavárna a Mléčný Bar at Heřmanova 408/12 in Praha 7 is an easy choice. A fantastic selection of desserts awaits and the prices are low enough to justify two or maybe three pieces if you just can’t decide.
This should be enough to get you started and I will add more places as I come across them….