It’s been a long time since the days when a Big Mac was the only hamburger around town. Since then burger bistros have become some of the most popular eateries in Prague. This week I highlight the restaurants who serve up the best of the classic American sandwich.
In recent years, Prague expats and locals have rejoiced at the influx of hamburger eateries, and now, more than ever, the competition is on for the best sandwich in town. Over the past week I surveyed some of the best options – at the cost of my own cholesterol.
My search began just doors down from my apartment, at Bejzment in Smíchov. The front door of the restaurant boasts a sign that claims, “American Quality”. The walls are covered with vintage beer and coca cola advertisements, and Johnny Cash is playing on the radio. In terms of the meat, this place cooks a mean patty, juicy and pink in the center. Each patty is adorned with a variety of traditional and unusual accompaniments. I had THE LEGEND – PORN DE JEREMY, which is a burger inspired by the adult film star. It is topped with peanut butter and smoked bacon jam, pineapple rum sauce infused with 7 year old Ron de Jeremy rum, and comes in the shape of the male phallic symbol. I have never had peanut butter on a burger before, but I liked it, and the buns, those perfect buns. They are toasted to a dark crisp, acting as a suitable vessel for the inappropriate but oh so delicious concoctions.
I had been told by Prague locals that The Tavern is the best burger in town, so I marched myself down to Vinohrady to check it out myself. The tavern is a hole in the wall type of hidden gem that offers rare delicacies like filtered coffee, breakfast omelets, and a lengthy list of specialty cocktails. The Tavern makes me feel right at home with American BBQ sauce, IPA beer, and a friendly atmosphere that makes me want to stay awhile and see who else will be passing through for a bite. The Classic Bacon Chedder burger is exactly what it sounds like - the kind of traditional, no fuss burger I’m used to enjoying at my local diner back in the States.
Café Palanda in Prague 1 requires a reservation days in advance, but surprisingly offers an easygoing atmosphere to accompany burgers. These burgers require a steak knife, and are bigger than my head. Even though the burger itself could suffice for 2 or 3 meals, I was disappointed that the patty itself was rather bland and dry.
Mozaika burger in Vinohrady is a bit more of an upscale dining experience. The dining room is modern and has a hip feel in the air that isn’t typically the ambiance of most burger restaurants. What I love about this place is the range of options for trying different dishes. Each burger can be offered as a full size or as a slider, so diners like myself who have ordering remorse, can choose several to taste. I had to try the tongue burger, but soon realized that even between two buns, I’ll never be a big fan of tongue. The standard Krystal burger with fermented pickles offered a nice balance between umami and acidity, and the Hummus burger was a delicious interpretation of a falafel sandwich, but a bit more garlicy.
It took me a week of red meat to finally find my perfect sandwich at Dish. While I couldn’t land a reservation for dinner, I tried my luck for lunch and was offered a spot in the light and friendly dining room. The Dish burger is a juicy piece of beef with homemade ketchup, garlic aioli, and crispy bacon. The freshness of the ingredients combined with the simplicity of the classically constructed burger is exactly what I look for in a perfect sandwich.
Before the fall of communism, burger restaurants were almost nonexistent in Prague. And, far from the days when a Big Mac was considered the highest quality of hamburger, Prague now boasts a variety of casual and bistro setting hamburger restaurants that offer a wide variety of traditional and unusual combinations. Most of these burger havens are booked every night of the week, making it clear that Czechs like their burgers, and the hamburger phenomenon is here to stay.
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