Over the course of a few blog posts, I plan to share a few places I’ve traveled in Eastern Europe along with some great places to eat should you venture there yourself one day!
First up…PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC. I visited Prague in the summer of 2009* with my best friend Amy, who is also a vegetarian. During our trip we made an effort to take in the city’s beauty, culture, history… and as much vegetarian food as we could handle.
*Note: Although the trip was a while ago, a quick Google search confirmed that all places mentioned in this post are still open for business.
Vegetarian Travel Tip: Before leaving home, I had written down several vegetarian & vegetarian-friendly restaurants that I had found through various travel guides, websites, etc. I then marked each on a map of the city, so that no matter where we were in our adventures, if we got hungry we could easily find the closest vegetarian friendly establishment. But, despite all my preparation, we had a few hiccups as we were there over a Sunday and Monday and a couple of the restaurants we tried to go to were closed on those days. Lesson Learned: I’ll jot down the days/hours the places are open next time too!
Otherwise, that map sure proved handy, as many of the restaurants near the touristy areas offered only prix-fix meals with meat as the only entrée choices, and it led us to several hidden gems!
But perhaps the best Czech Street Food are these “Trdelniks”. Dough is wrapped around rotating wood or metal bars and roasted until it’s golden brown. Then it’s rolled in sugar, cinnamon, and nuts. Unlike American treats, these were only lightly sweetened and the flavors of the nuts and high-quality cinnamon really stood out.
One one of the days, we took a walking tour with a local Czech guide. One of the stops on the tour was a restaurant. Not only was it fabulous to walk around the city and learn both the history and culture from a local, it was also the best way to taste the traditional cuisine. Our tour guide spoke in Czech to the waiter and politely asked to sub out the meaty portions of the meal with vegetarian options.
When Amy asked about a cake called “Medovnik”, recommended by a friend, our guide also steered us to a quality bakery. Medovnik is a honey-cake, and it’s delicious! To me, it tasted like a lighter, milder and sweeter gingerbread.
There are a surprisingly large number of Vegan & Vegetarian Restaurants in Prague. Even more surprising to me was finding one right around the corner from the tourists haven of Old Town Square. The Country Life restaurant has a tremendous salad bar sold by weight perfect for a quick lunch while site-seeing.
Another surprise was Radost FX. This is a night club with an attached vegetarian cafe. We actually came here twice. On a weekend night we ate in the cafe and found it to be surprisingly low-key. We also went again on a weeknight when the club did not have entertainment and ate in the club itself which had a loungy atmosphere and was perfect for a late-night bite. I really enjoyed their Spaghetti “bolognese” and cous cous salad.
For a magical meal, go to Lehka Hlava (the name means “Clear Head”) and eat “under the stars” in an enchanted room. Making it even more enchanting, it’s on a street so tiny and winding, we thought it was an alley.
I read about Dobra Cajovna in Rick Steve’s guidebook and flagged it as a must-try. Dobra Cajovna makes tea into a ritual – you ring a bell to beckon a tea monk (who may even be a member of the Lovers of Tea Society). We loved their Chai tea and the light eats, especially a pita with marscarpone and cherries.
Vaclavske Namesti 14
Last but not least, we especially loved Dobra Trafika. In search of more Medovnik in the “Mala Strana” neighborhood of Prague, a shopkeeper directed us to this hidden cafe that’s popular with locals. A “Trafika” is a newsstand, and you actually walk through a newsstand to get to this hidden cafe.