In the last decade, Czech cuisine has seen a rebirth thanks to young, innovative chefs looking to preserve the cooking of their past, with new culinary techniques and experiences. Prague is home to two, Michelin star restaurants, and several Bib Gourmand representatives, proving the dining scene of the city should be taken seriously by visitors. While a bowl of goulash from a pub, or a sausage from a street vendor is certainly satisfying, exploring the wide range of dining options Prague has to offer will enhance any itinerary.
The most important thing to understand about Prague’s restaurant culture is that almost every place you go will require a reservation. It’s not uncommon to be turned away from a dining room for not having one, even if empty tables are available. Most restaurants have online booking systems these days, but for those that don’t, enlist in the help of a local, or hotel concierge, to help on the phone.
Start your Czech cuisine education at Lokál, a chain with a small network of locations spread out across the city. Each restaurant has its own “vibe,” (one is set inside of an old Communist canteen in Old Town, another is more of a local pub scene in Karlín) with a majority of the same items available at each one, but the main connector is that Lokál’s menu focuses on Czech classics, made with sustainably-sourced ingredients from different regions of the Czech Republic. Choose your main dish (the butcher’s goulash, or the fried cheese with tartar sauce are recommended), and a side (bread dumplings are always a solid choice, but their buttered potatoes, or steamed cabbage are equally good). Save room for a pint of beer, which is brewed on-site and is known by locals as some of the best beer in the entire city.
The Vietnamese community of Prague has been a vital part of the city’s population for decades and it’s not surprising that cuisine from this country is a favorite amongst Prague locals. Opened in 2017, Taro set out to showcase the complexity of Vietnamese cooking. The restaurant has a lively atmosphere where the decor takes a back seat so visitors can focus on the food presented before them. The restaurant offers a seven-course tasting menu (with a five-course vegetarian menu), which changes seasonally, and sometimes daily, depending on the ingredients the chefs are able to source. An a la carte menu is available at lunchtime, which features soft shell crab, beef pho, and mango ice cream.
Journey down to Vinohrady for a venue that has something to offer almost anyone. Radost FX is home to a cafe, restaurant, night club, and vintage record/CD shop. It’s a haven for vegetarians, as the menu is entirely vegetable and grain-based (there are several vegan options as well). Try their Popeye Burger, a spinach burger made with garlic, hazelnuts, and cheese, or their homemade gnocchi, served with a selection of sauces. Brunch on the weekend includes omelettes, waffles and french toast, XXL egg sandwiches, Mexican-inspired dishes, a giant cinnamon roll, and more. Catch a show, or dance the night away at the underground club, which hosts music acts and DJs almost every night.
Kuchyň's (Czech for kitchen) Chef Marek Janouch aims to make your dining experience here as close to being in the kitchen as possible. The interior is sparse and contemporary so that the star of the show truly is your meal, but during the warmer months, you can reserve a table on the terrace for unrivaled views of the city. Pay one price and be treated to a four-course meal; you’ll start with a shot of homemade honey liqueur, followed by a selection of appetizers like chicken liver pate, and farmer’s cheese, then a soup course (their mushroom soup is divine). Once guests have eaten their fill of starters, they are taken into a “warming” area of the kitchen, where servers lift the lids of pots and pans to reveal main courses and side dishes. Guests are encouraged to mix and match from the selections; try roasted pork knuckle and bread dumplings, paprika chicken with mashed potatoes or rice, or beef heart with root vegetables. All dishes are customizable, and the best part is that ordering seconds is highly encouraged.
Many Czechs avoid the restaurants directly in and around Old Town Square, which historically have catered to travelers looking for “typical” Czech cuisine. These restaurants are often overpriced, and the food is of low quality. Mincovna set out to change that perception in order to get locals back into the historic city center. Opened in 2015, it has quickly become one of the best places to dine in Old Town Square, for lunch or dinner. The menu is small, with mainly traditional Czech offerings, but the chefs put a contemporary twist on favorites like the bread dumplings, which are made with fresh herbs, or roasted trout served in a light broth. It’s also the best place to try svíčková na smetaně, traditional beef sirloin in a root vegetable cream sauce. The beef is tender and the sauce is hearty, especially when sopped up using the bread dumplings it’s served with.
The minds behind Cobra have transformed a former gambling club with a seedy past into one of the hottest dining spots in Letná. It’s nearly impossible to get a table without a reservation, especially on the weekends when guest DJs spin chill lounge music that transforms into funky beats as the night goes on. Because of its proximity to Holešovice, young locals have made this bar and restaurant their go-to for light bites and post-work drinks. It’s worth traveling to the area from the main city center to sample their seasonal menu, with a special focus on elevated vegetarian dips and snacks. Start off with their homemade baba ganoush, or fish pate with sourdough bread, followed by beetroot gazpacho, or the Cobra Poke Bowl: made with rice, marinated melon, carrot, zucchini, sprouts, and furikake seasoning. Their cocktail menu is constantly evolving (ask your server for the bartender’s choice, if you’re feeling adventurous), but some main staples include the Peachy Pedro (Cabrito Reposado tequila, peach juice, agave syrup, lime, salt, and pink peppercorn), and the Sunset Negroni (Tanqueray gin infused with yerba maté, Campari, Fonseca Porto Siroco, sea-buckthorn syrup, and rosemary).
Czech cuisine can get heavy after a while; one can only consume so much meat, bread, and potatoes. That’s when a visit to Bistro Špejle comes in handy. The concept for this cafe lies in its name: “Špejle” translates to “skewer,” and that is how the dishes are presented. Part tapas bar, part buffet, diners go up to a counter displaying dozens of small-portioned meals. The menu changes seasonally, but guests will typically find skewers with everything from Czech sausage and cheese to cream cakes and everything in between. Your final price is based on the amount of skewers left on your plate at the end. Bistro Špejle is a great option for an inexpensive meal with a variety to choose from. Make sure to try the foie gras chlebíček, a goose liver pate spread on a slice of crispy French bread, garnished with pickled onions.
A favorite of former Czech president Václav Havel, Café Savoy offers a pleasant retreat from the busy city center of Prague. It’s easy to find a quiet corner in their upstairs seating area, or marble-topped cafe section, for a house-made pastry or coffee. Their hot chocolate is especially rich and flavorful, and perfect for warming cold hands on a snowy winter day. Café Savoy offers a full menu of classic Czech favorites with elevated ingredients; try the chicken schnitzel with potato salad, or the Czech fruit dumplings, made with seasonal fruit encased in a light dough and topped with melted butter, small cheese curds, and grated gingerbread. Make sure to look up while you dine; the restaurant, just over the west end of Legions’ Bridge, is in a building that still features the original Neo-Renaissance ceiling, dating back to 1893.
Asian cuisine is quickly becoming more mainstream in Prague, thanks to the growing populations of immigrants from countries such as Vietnam, Thailand and Laos. Tamarind Tree combines the flavors of Asia in their diverse menu, and Czechs have been pleased with the offerings. Once only found as a pop-up style street food vendor around the city of Prague, Tamarind Tree now has a permanent home in Vyšehrad, serving food for the lunch crowd (and savory breakfast crowd, if you’re craving a pork bun at 9:30 a.m.). Their veggie, and barbecue pork buns, are solid starters, and their “big soup” bowls are super satisfying on chilly fall and winter days. Try the Taiwan beef broth with noodles, which is made with sous-vide cooked beef, or the soto ayam, a rich chicken soup made with coconut milk, galangal, rice noodles, and fresh herbs.
Those looking to dine in style should visit Café Imperial, known amongst Czechs as one of the finest restaurants in the city. It is located in the Hotel Art Deco Imperial, a magnificent hotel that has preserved much of its turn-of-the-20th-century art and architecture, including its restaurant. Diners sit under a colorful, mosaic-tiled ceiling while admiring intricate columns and walls covered in panels depicting pastoral scenes. The menu provides seasonal dishes based on Czech ingredients, with an element of contemporary flavor. The rabbit with garlic sauce is satisfyingly fresh, and the veal schnitzel with mashed potatoes is filling and flavorful. The restaurant’s selection of desserts, made in-house, is worth saving room for. Try the Imperial chocolate cake, made with a rich chocolate mousse and covered in chocolate ganache with a hint of hazelnut, or one of their intricate ice cream sundaes.
Forget about takeout: One of the best Thai restaurants in Prague is NOI, located in Malá Strana at the foot of Petřín Hill. The atmosphere is hip, with a stylish bar area, but the rest of the interiors are evocative of an elevated Bangkok bistro, where colors and materials come together in bold yet harmonious ways. An outdoor patio offers a pleasant dining experience in the warmer months. Try the Kang Knew Wan Ped: a duck fillet cooked in green curry broth with coconut milk, bamboo shoots, eggplant, fresh pepper, chillies, and fresh basil leaves. Or go for the Phad Thai Kai, with fried rice noodles, chicken, tofu, eggs, carrots, leek, onions, bean sprouts, ground peanuts, and tamarind sauce. NOI also offers a selection of fresh juices but for the full experience, order their house cocktail: vodka, lychee juice, Cointreau, and lime juice, garnished with mint.
Luka Lu is a restaurant with an eccentric atmosphere and with menu items inspired by former Yugoslavia. The interior welcomes guests with its warm, colorful wall hangings, murals, and mismatched furniture, and it’s not uncommon to hear birds chirping from birdcages hung in various corners. Meals incorporate cooking styles from Serbia, Croatia, and other countries from former Yugoslavia. It’s also possible to try wines from the different regions that made up the now-dissolved Communist satellite country. And with the Czech Republic being a landlocked country, it’s one of the best restaurants to have a seafood meal, as fish and shellfish are regularly imported. If you're not in the mood for fish, there are more grilled meats at Luka Lu than you could ever ask for. Try the Luka Lu platter, featuring Kulen from Slavonia with parmesan, Bosnian sausage (“sudzuk”), prosciutto, pickled cheese, roasted peppers, and olives. Or order lamb meat roasted under “sač,” prepared using one of the oldest methods of Balkan cooking.
Not many Czech restaurants offer the chance to see behind the scenes, but the open-plan facility at Eska offers exactly that. Set in an old factory in Karlín, the minds behind Eska wanted guests to be able to see exactly where their meals were being prepared, and what kinds of ingredients were being used. The bottom floor is a fully-functioning bakery, where all baked goods are made on-site (their bread is some of the best in the entire city). A metal stairway brings visitors to the elevated dining area and bar. Seasonal lemonades are a specialty, with ingredients like elderflower, rhubarb, and mint making an appearance. The bakery makes Eska a great choice for breakfast or brunch (try the Breakfast Eska, with a porridge of fermented wheat, mushrooms, egg, bread, ham, and a hint of horseradish). For dinner, guests can select a five- or eight-course chef’s selection menu, where dishes are chosen based on the whims of the kitchen, and served family style.
Another Karlín favorite is more subtle in its aesthetic, resembling an old-school Czech living room, with a bookshelf of cookbooks, comfortable lounge chairs, and communal tables. The highlight of Nejen Bistro’s kitchen is the Josper grill, upon which many of the dishes are made. Part grill, part oven, it is heated using charcoal, and food is prepared at a temperature of about 300 degrees Fahrenheit, allowing food to be cooked on all sides at the same time, resulting in crisp, grilled outsides and juicy, tender insides. The menu focuses on seasonal ingredients but is influenced by the experiences the owners had while living in Budapest. Guests can’t go wrong with any of the beef, chicken, pork, or lamb offerings. Order a gin and tonic from their specialty menu, or a beer sourced from the Dalešice brewery, for the full local experience.
Years of communist rule, with its regulated food sourcing and discouragement of culinary creativity, certainly took a toll on Czech cuisine in the 20th century. Luckily young chefs have been reviving their national cuisine in innovative ways. Le Degustation is one of the best examples, regaled by Czechs as one of the finest representations of contemporary Czech cuisine in the country. Opened in 2006, it has maintained its recognition as a Michelin-starred restaurant since 2012. It is only open for dinner, serving an eight-course tasting menu that changes based on the ingredients head chef Oldřich Sahajdák is able to source. Despite its fancy ambiance, many of the dishes can be eaten with your hands. The sommelier has done an excellent job of curating a selection of wine that compliments the ever-changing menu, which can be paired with the meal as well.