Restaurace Stara Praha – Prague, CZ

Restaurace Stara Praha
Vítězná 11
Prague 5 – Mala Strana
Czech Republic
+420 251510217

If you’ve spent any time around Old Town, Prague, you quickly come to realize that all seasons are tourist season. Memories of cheap beer and affordable, hearty Eastern European fare are quickly dragged back into reality. In 2008, post-EU and the after the first, second, and third waves of tourism from Europe, North America, and Asia,  Old Town is essentially one large tourist trap. Even old time institutions like U FleckU and U Medvidku have pushed most locals out, with higher prices and annoying tourists. Locals have fled to the suburbs, where 20kr pilsners are still available.

Just across the bridge from Praha 1 in Mala Strana, lies a small bastion of Czech culture. Not quite the suburbs, but far enough off the tourist track that locals still socialize uninhibitedly. Here, Stara Praha, a restopub sponsored by Staropramen Brewery, maintains their commitment to cheap beer and good food. After days of eating heavy pork, doner kebabs, and rich Eastern European fare, I was craving some good old simple food. Nothing dressed up, nothing fused with French techniques to create Nouveau Czech dishes, but honest food. My first attempt was met with a completely booked service. Luckily, I was able to get away for a lunch later that trip.

In Prague, there are five major breweries of which Staropramen is the largest. To extoll the virtues of Czech Beer would require another essay completely. Let’s just say, all you have to know is it is tough to go wrong with any Czech Beers. Staropramen brews a particularly good pale, lager, and dark. Just like most other Czech Breweries. The Pale was particularly good – hoppy, well-fermented, slightly bitter, with fruit notes on the finish, this is the perfect beer to go with the heavier dishes served in Eastern Europe. I really liked the dark as well, though I find it a bit heavier, and only drink it on it’s own, or with snacks, not with a full meal.

The food at Stara Praha was fantastic – probably the best example of “home-cooked” Czech food i’ve had. I had two basic dishes. The first was drstkova polevka – tripe soup. Recommended by a poster on Chowhound, they were bang on in how extraordinary this soup was. The sharp spices cut through the days of accumulated pork fat that had collected within my system – alternating spicey bursts with the rubbery, crunchy chewy bits of tripe was perfect. Now i know tripe isnt for everyone, but this was one fantastic soup.

My entree was the goulash. This was honestly the first goulash i had in Prague that i truly enjoyed. Previous goulashes were bland, plain, and excessively oily, with poor quality, chewy beef. This goulash was peppery, and flavourful. The meat had been simmered for an appropriate period of time and was tender yet firm. The sauce was reduced to concentrate the flavours – and delivered with strong notes of pepper, tomatos, clove,  paprika, nutmeg, and allspice. A touch of sourness in the sauce, and in the dumplings, helped counter balance the excessively oily nature of the goulash itself. This was excellent goulash.

I have a definite love-hate relationship with food in Prague. While i think Czech food in general is underrated, I found it tough to find good honest food around Old Town. To some, this may sound like expecting great food in Disneyland, but I was hoping for less of an impact from the throngs of tourists – hoping against hope there would be some honest eateries left. Stara Praha is one of the few places in the central core that served a meal that was high in value – great food at great prices – and based on the lineups and full houses they entertained, it is not surprising to see that the locals feel the same way. With great beer and great food, if you find yourself in Wenceslas Square overwhelmed by photographers and touts, and craving a good meal, head west, past the Tesco, over the Vlatava, into Mala Strana. It’ll give you, and your wallet, a taste of how Prague was in the 90’s, before  Praha was “discovered”.

5 thoughts on “Restaurace Stara Praha – Prague, CZ

  1. Praha, Paris, Barcelona, Salzburg. Tourists always change the local dining scene. Look at Banff.

    If you stay longer, head to the country. Pilsen or Budweis? Great experiences in both places.

  2. Yes, an excellent point. I did hit the rural areas as well, but I guess my point was supposed to be more nostalgic, or a lament, at the fact of how much it has changed. Really, heading into a non-central district was typically enough to see more authentic fare – it just wasn’t that tasty in many cases though.

  3. Thanks for the post! And I know what you mean. I did find that there was this large, but completely unnoticeable cafeteria for local workers – recommended by a tour guide that had no incentive in it. I think the meal cost $2US…. and it was amazingly good. Now if only I could ever find it again! 🙂

  4. First time I went to Prague in 2008 and as I discovered this restaurant, I fell in love with it immidiately. Gulash was delicious, waitress was nice, everything was fine and I knew that this ain’t my last time there. Then I went in there in 2010. After a long road and walking around town all day I was really hungry so naturally, I went to my favourite place in Czech. Then I had to face a huge disappointment, when the waiter told me there’s no gulash. Of course, there’s no reason to get upset – it’s not like I’m the only one eating it, since it so popular. Whether I liked it or not, had to order smth different and I did. Again, I went there this year, 2 weeks ago. So I was like, let’s give it another chance. Sentiment is a sentiment and I definitely had it for this place. First, waiter told us, there’s no gulash. Again?! But ok, again, it’s not like it’s somebody’s fault or anything. Wasn’t pleased with their lack of essential Czech meal, but ordered smth different and usuals: garlic soup and beer. After some time, waitress came with my chicken and french fries and I was like, what about my soup? Turned out the waiter who was taking my order, forgot about it. When I finally got my soup, it wasn’t even hot. Decided to eat it without making a fuss, even though lack of gulash and now this made me a bit irritated. So I ate, I drank and thought, ok, apparently I will have to look for some other favourite place now. On my way out overheard the waiter asking his colleague: “did this guy pay for his meal?”. That was too much. I will NEVER go there again. Next day I took a risk and went to this shady pub or smth and it was definitely worth it – much cheaper, nicer and with gulash on my plate. Don’t be afraid of trying their ordinary looking local places. Good looking restaurant won’t necessarily fulfill your expectations.

    • Interesting point. I’ve been to this restaurant many times and never experienced any problems like this. They’ve always had a goulash (one of the best, I’ve ever had), the service was always good, and to be honest, I don’t know what kind of restaurants do you usually go to, but here the food is unusually good and unusually well priced.

      Moving on to the next point, if you were not satisfied with your food (cold soup), you should have returned it. Was the waiter supposed to put his hands in your plate to check if the soup is hot, warm, or something?

      And a question “did this guy pay for his meal?” is completely normal and in order. Firstly, somebody should have taught you, that listening to other people’s conversation is rude. Secondly, it is a completely normal question, since there are couple of waiters and only one takes the money from you, the others have other business than watching YOU pay…

      Nevertheless, Stara Praha is a place with great food, low prices, great service and a very nice atmosphere.

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