When the Czech Republic was born in 1993, dining at Hamburk pub offered an all too familiar Prague culinary experience. The meat-and-almost-no-veg fare could be euphemistically described as hearty, the ambience smoky. Twenty-five years on, a respected Prague restaurant group runs its reincarnation, Lokál Hamburk. The fug has vanished, but the convivial atmosphere remains, and the pub stands in once grungy Karlín, now abuzz with new eateries. For these days, a food revolution is sweeping Prague, just as it did when Czechoslovakia emerged from the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918.

No longer just about dumpling mountains or hefty slices of pork, dining in the city now entails a rediscovered pig breed, Michelin stars and bustling farmers’ markets – to name a few. “When I got here in 1990, eating for us newly arrived Westerners was a big problem. Now the choice of good restaurants is endless,” recalls Briton Jo Weaver, director of the leading PR firm JWA, and a Prague resident since 1990.

When she arrived, Prague teemed with canteens serving cheap but decent food. Today, of the handful left, Lidová jídelna Těšnov is the best value. Still sporting the décor typical of 25 years ago – dark veneer panelling, blue checked tablecloths and net curtains – the canteen vividly illustrates how much dining in Prague has changed. Its numerous devotees, from labourers to blue-chip managers, keep faith with Lidová jídelna Těšnov. And while the prices remain retro, this traditional local bastion boasts a website with information in English.

After 1989, pizzerias and other global eateries, often of questionable authenticity, opened in Prague. But Lidová jídelna Těšnov continues to serve local dishes, as does V Kolkovně restaurant. Manager Luboš Havlíček states that “visitors always want to start with Czech cuisine”, which strongly resembles that of Bavaria and Austria. Menus feature sausages, smoked meats, sauerkraut, beef and pork. Vegetables play a bit part, and flavourings stretch to herbs but not exotic spices.

Havlíček suggests it is best to visit a pub (hospoda) at lunchtime, when they offer good value meals. Local office workers opt for the lunch menu (polední menu) of soup (polévka) and a main course (hlavní jídlo). Goulash in various versions forms a staple of the latter, as does svíčková na smetaně, beef sirloin bathed in creamy vegetable sauce with dumplings. Crisp pork or chicken schnitzel, other favourites, come with a hefty dollop of the ever-popular potato salad.

But even this traditional world is changing – thanks to the food revolution. Prague dining is constantly improving, but Havlíček explains that quality and variety have rocketed especially over the last five years, fuelled by greater consumer awareness of food. Social media is also raising the stakes, as meals are posted on Twitter or Instagram. “Diners demand more and want better quality ingredients and an experience,” he explains. British chef Paul Day, owner of Maso a Kobliha and Sansho, also notes Czechs’ fondness for travel and exposure to other cuisines. At Divinis, Zdeněk Pohlreich, the Czech Republic’s most famous chef, provides a third explanation. “I believe that it is the improved Czech economy that is making the public more demanding.” And the healthy forecast continues, with 3.2 per cent economic growth predicted for 2018.

Pohlreich and other chefs are one factor driving the transformation. They are most strongly influenced by French and Italian approaches to cuisine, but Radek Kašpárek, executive chef at Field, contends that Prague cooking is simplifying. “Restaurants are no longer combining cuisines, and fusion is waning.”

At Eska, chef Martin Štangl, is inspired by Nordic cuisine, and he argues that globalisation has helped his profession in the Czech Republic, and is thus transforming Prague dining. “People travel more, and it isn’t as difficult to land an internship in the world’s best restaurants as before.” Additionally, Radek Kašpárek states that “young chefs with lots of potential are arriving, and the old guard in Prague is on the way out. These young guys are opening new bistros and bringing a breath of fresh air to the scene.”

Chefs are also promoting appreciation of produce quality, another factor changing Prague’s food scene. Kašpárek notes the trend towards “seasonal, regional and fresh ingredients”. Meanwhile, Paul Day uses meat from his butcher business, The Real Meat Society. In turn, Czech organic farmers supply him. They are enjoying a surge in popularity partly thanks to greater consumer awareness of flavours. “Seven years ago, when I met the first farmer suppliers, we didn’t have enough. Now, many rear their animals outside and have much more meat to sell.” Martin Štangl concurs: “Credit to the farmers, who are interested in doing good business by providing restaurants with the highest-quality produce.”

Besides produce quality, sourcing, on which Paul Day refuses to compromise, is contributing to the revolution. “Several years ago, everyone in Prague was advertising meat from the US and South America. I was determined to have only Czech protein on the menu.” The enthusiastic Englishman’s commitment also motivated him to popularise a local breed, the Přeštice Black-Pied pig, which he regards as one of the best around. “They are outside all year and lead happy lives. You can taste that,” he adds, grinning.

Prague food lovers are positive about the future, including the continued improvement of customer service. “There are still waiters who aren’t service-oriented,” points out Isabelle du Plessix, although she is confident that this will change.

And food commentators view the emphasis on produce and localism as an opportunity for traditional approaches to Czech cuisine. Oldřich Sahajdák, executive chef at La Degustation Bohême Bourgeoise, is regarded as a champion of such cooking, which he promotes at his Bistro Milada restaurant. By contrast, the chefs also predict the growth of Asian cooking, partly thanks to the city’s large Vietnamese community, which settled here during communism. In addition, high-quality ingredients are
available from the SAPA Asian market. “I think there will be many more Asian restaurants in the future,” says Sahajdák.


Prague’s Habsburg years bequeathed it a Viennese-style café culture, notably at Café Savoy, Café Louvre and Café Slavia. The scene thrived during interwar Czechoslovakia, but inevitably suffered during communism.

In the post-1989 revival, the above are facing some healthy competition from cosmopolitan young entrepreneurs. “I think that Prague is up there with Copenhagen and London when it comes to coffee,” argues Jan Valenta of Taste of Prague Food Tours. Must-tries include city centre EMA Espresso Bar and, in the inner districts, Coffee Room in Vinohrady and Můj šálek kávy in Karlín.

Cafés also offer a good place to try Czech wine, which is coming into its own. “Wine consumption is actually increasing in the Czech Republic, whereas beer consumption is declining,” explains Isabelle du Plessix, who runs wine tours in Bohemia and Moravia.


Partly attracted by more affordable rents, eateries are opening in the post-industrial inner areas of Karlín and Smíchov, and Vinohrady just beyond the centre. “Vinohardy has always been an affluent area, and restaurants thrive when locals have money for activities such as dining,” explains Jan Valenta.

Restaurants in all these three areas offer value, informality, and Czech and international dishes. In Karlín, good names include Nejen Bistro and Podolka Karlín. In Vinohrady, wine connoisseur and tourism operator Isabelle du Plessix recommends breakfast favourite Mezi srnky and longer established U Bulínů: “an authentic Czech restaurant with nice ambience.” She also advocates Na Kopci in Smíchov for great value.

Inner area farmers’ markets, such as at Jiřího z Poděbrad or Kulat’ák by Dejvická metro station also enjoy huge popularity, showcasing the wares of food producers from jam-makers to speciality bakers.


The most famous Czech export – apart from the Škoda car – is beer (pivo). Beer is also fondly known as “liquid bread” locally, hinting at its importance to Czech culture. And Evan Rail, author of Why Beer Matters, says that “Prague is probably the best city in the world to sample traditional lager.”

The honey-coloured pale lager (světlé pivo) is the most common and originates in the industrial West Bohemian city of Plzeň, hence the name “Pilsner”. Dark beer (tmavé pivo) is also available, but these days it’s less common.

Although big names such as Pilsner Urquell or Staropramen are most familiar to visitors, Rail urges them to sample the many new ales, including craft beers. “Prague’s beer scene is exploding. Just ten years ago we had only nine breweries in the whole city. Today we have 36, with more on the way,” he enthuses.


Coffee Room

  • Cosy contemporary café
  • Korunní 74, Praha 10
  • +420 736 171 990
  • coffeeroom.cz


  • Italian cooking in a relaxed environment; Michelin Bib Gourmand 2018
  • Týnská 21, Praha 1
  • +420 222 325 440
  • divinis.cz

EMA Espresso Bar

  • Minimalist, popular café
  • Na Florenci 3, Praha 1
  • +420 730 156 933
  • emaespressobar.cz


  • Restaurant, café and bakery, contemporary style. Michelin Bib Gourmand 2018
  • Pernerova 49, Praha 8
  • +420 731 140 884
  • eska.ambi.cz/en


V Kolkovně

  • Traditional Czech beer hall
  • V Kolkovně 8, Praha 1
  • +420 224 819 701
  • vkolkovne.cz

La Degustation Bohême Bourgeoise

  • Degustation menu, contemporary Czech. One Michelin Star 2018
  • Haštalská 18, Praha 1
  • +420 222 311 234
  • ladegustation.cz/en

Lidová jídelna Těšnov

  • Traditional Czech food in busy canteen
  • Těšnov 1163/5, Praha
  • +420 224 225 421
  • lidovajidelna.cz

Lokál Hamburk

Maso a kobliha

  • Informal nose-to-tail cooking. Michelin Bib Gourmand 2018
  • Petrská 23, Praha 1
  • +420 224 815 056
  • masoakobliha.cz

Mezi srnky

  • Friendly, homely, popular for brunch
  • Sázavská 19, Praha 2
  • +420 732 238 833
  • cafemezisrnky.cz

Můj šálek kávy

  • Popular neighbourhood café noted for excellent coffee
  • Křižíkova 105, Praha 8
  • +420 725 556 944
  • mujsalekkavy.cz/en

Na Kopci

  • Neighbourhood Czech/French cuisine; Michelin Bib Gourmand 2018
  • K Zavěrce 2774/20, Praha 5
  • +420 251 553 102
  • nakopci.com

Nejen Bistro

  • Contemporary bistro and grill with industrial feel
  • Křižíkova 24, Praha 8
  • +420 271 249 494
  • nejenbistro.cz/en

Podolka Karlín


  • Informal Asian fusion. Michelin Bib Gourmand 2018
  • Petrská 25, Praha 1
  • +420 222 317 425
  • sansho.cz

U Bulínů