02 June 2007

Prague Picks

We went to a picnic on Memorial Day weekend. A friend of ours said he and his wife were leaving soon for a trip to Prague. They knew we’d been there and asked us for some ideas about where to eat.

It was easy to decide which were the memorable meals. But we needed to refresh our memories about the details – where, why, and how much. So at home, we pulled out our albums and found the memorabilia that we needed to reply. It was so much fun that I decided to adapt it for my blog.

We have been to Prague twice. The first time was 1999 and the second was 2005. It’s a beautiful city with a lot of historic things to see.

There are three restaurants that we ate at and consider to be memorable. My caveat is that it’s been a few years since we were there. I don’t know to what extent things have changed since then.

First is U Tri Zlatych Hvezd, which translated means “The Three Golden Stars” and also is called Vinny Restaurant.

We ate there on our first trip. The weather on that trip was not great. It was chilly and damp with scattered light rain. On our last night, the sky cleared and we enjoyed a gorgeous, mild evening. We strolled across the Charles Bridge and discovered this restaurant. It features Czech specialties. Linda had roast duck. I had trout. We had a table near the window at the front of the restaurant. (There is a dining room in the basement wine cellar as well.) There was a gypsy trio performing in the entryway, and we could hear the music in the dining room. We enjoyed the food, the ambiance, and the music. It was a great parting memory of our first visit.

Also on our first visit, we ate at Adria. I did a search online, and I’m not sure if the restaurant is still there. It was located right on Wenceslas Square. There is a Hotel Adria that I think is the same location. The hotel’s main restaurant is called Triton but I don’t think it’s the one we ate at. The way I remember it, the restaurant was on the second floor with windows overlooking Wenceslas Square. Triton is a cellar restaurant. The restaurant I remember featured classic continental cuisine, as does Triton. So maybe it’s the same restaurant, and I just don’t remember it correctly. It was eight years ago, after all. What really was memorable was the beef stroganoff that they served. Unlike the heavy cream sauce you usually get, this was a light sauce with tomatoes and paprika and maybe a little light cream.

My third recommendation is U Stare Pani (The Old Lady,) which is really a jazz club. The evening we went there, we had eaten a fairly heavy lunch. So instead of a full dinner, we ate some of their appetizers and small plates. The food was good, but our main attraction was the music. This club has a nightly schedule of jazz musicians, mostly from Prague but also from across Europe.

The New York Times Online has a pretty good travel guide for Prague. They have a couple of editor’s picks that sound interesting. Allegro is an Italian restaurant in the Four Seasons Hotel. Café Savoy is a Prague landmark restaurant that’s been recently renovated. I’m sure your hotel concierge could get reservations at either.

Concierge.com also has a travel guide for Prague. It also lists Allegro as a recommended restaurant, and it provides a list of a dozen other restaurant picks.

When my wife and I travel, we don’t usually plan our restaurants in advance. Our typical strategy is to check out different cafés and restaurants that we see while we’re out sightseeing. If we see something that looks promising – totally subjective like quaint dining room or attractive setting – we’ll look at the menu. If we like the menu, we’ll return for dinner in the evening. We don’t always get a five-star meal, but we’re seldom disappointed, and it adds to the adventure of the vacation.

At lunchtime, we usually will find a café or restaurant in the neighborhood where we’re sightseeing. When we were in Prague in 2005, we had lunch one afternoon in the Old Town Square. There are several places around the plaza with outdoor tables where you can relax and enjoy a lunch and a glass of wine or a Czech beer. When we toured the Prague Castle, they have a café inside the castle grounds. We took a day trip to Plzen and toured the Pilsner Urquell brewery, and then had lunch at the restaurant there. That was a lot of fun.

In Plzen, there is a Great Synagogue that has been restored and an old synagogue that is in disrepair. It’s difficult to find the old synagogue because it’s located in the courtyard behind an apartment house. If your tour includes a visit to Plzen, perhaps your driver will know how to find it.

Prague is one of my favorite cities. I was happy to give our friends some tips on restaurants there. If any of my readers have been there and have your own tips, please leave a comment.

No comments: