My Favorite Things

Our food writer's top 10 11 best-loved drinks and dishes in Prague

Marty DiBergi: Why don't you just make 10 louder and make 10 be the top number and make that a little louder?
Nigel Tufnel: [pause] These go to 11.
--This Is Spinal Tap

I was in a reflective state of mind today, and I started thinking about my all-time favorite food and drink in Prague. And the thoughts put me in a good mood.

So I thought I'd share.

I wasn't thinking about specific restaurants or bars. Often, it is one specific dish or drink that makes me feel good and makes me return, whether everything else is good or not.

Here are my top 10 favorites with just a little bit something extra. This list goes to 11:

1. Risotto alla pescatora at Kogo at Slovanský Dům

As someone who craves variety, I am always surprised how much I love this dish and how often I order it. The seafood is always fresh and plentiful. Shellfish galore. There is tomato, wine, and plenty of garlic. I love the leafy parsley thrown in the mix. I always think I'll make myself order something different at this restaurant, but I rarely do.

2. Entrecote at Café Savoy*

The cut of beef is usually good, but not that special. It is not so large. But the demi-glace that comes with it is a rich, smile-inducing treat. The fried string onions on top, soaking up more of the sauce, only add to the feeling of decadence. And I order a side of fries to go with it to clean up any sauce that remains. None ever does.

* Update: I'm sorry to say that this version of this dish is no longer on the menu. They still do an entrecote, but it is done with herb butter and grilled vegetables. It is nice, but without the demi-glace, it doesn't do it for me anymore.

3. Nasi goreng at Zahrada v opeře (Garden in the Opera).

The Indonesian rice, seafood, and chicken combine into a wonderful mélange of flavors. But it is dominated by finely chopped Kaffir lime leaf. This is among my favorite seasonings in the world. It comes with lime wedges for squeezing, so it has a pleasant tartness, and there are chopped, relatively mild red chilies for a little kick. It is up to you how much you want to mix in.

4. Hot chocolate at Café Louvre

The inspiration for this post. The drink is thick, rich, and almost pudding-like. It comes in relatively small cups that always leaving me wanting more. So today, I ordered two at once to go with my club sandwich. I enjoyed the second cup even more than the first.

5. Steak sandwich at Rocky O'Reilly's

It ain't cheap these days, and I don't want to go when a big game is on TV, but this sandwich is close to perfect for me. They use very good quality steak. It comes on a long, crunchy-toasted, buttered roll. There are fried onions and mushrooms. And no cheese. Some may miss this, but I don't. I sometimes throw a little sweet Soja sauce or ketchup on top.

6. Carolina wings and ribs at Ambiente on Mánesova

These wings are delicious on their own, with crispy-sweet skin. But then you add the fantastic mango chili sauce that comes with them and they go to a whole new level for me. It's sweet and spicy and I love it. I could drink that sauce straight. The ribs have never been dry and the meat is easy to pull from the bone so you can dip it in the sauce. The best ribs in Prague, I'd say. There is an all-you-can-eat option, but I've never gone that far.

7. Bacon cheeseburger at Potrefená Husa on Vinohradská

Maybe the best burger in Prague. It has a great, smoky-grilled flavor, a good bun, and is very well constructed. The only failure is that the high-quality beef they use isn't fatty enough and it can be dry, especially because they tend to overcook them. Not cheap, but the place I go when I need some comfort food.

8. Chocolate gelato cone at Cremeria Milano

An intense chocolate experience. Better than all but a few fancy restaurant desserts I've had in my life. Made with Cream & Dream gelato, which can be found at a number of other places around Prague. I associate it with Cremeria Milano because that's the first place I tried it.

9. Mojito at La Bodeguita del Medio

This "European" mojito comes in a big glass filled with crushed ice. Sure, this drink has become a cliché and the most-ordered concoction (a bartender told me), but there is a reason. Many bars are often in a hurry to make this work-intensive drink, and La Bodeguita is no exception. But more often than not, they get the combination of lime juice, mint, rum, brown sugar, and soda water just right. I used to sit at the bar and have one while snacking on a goat cheese and spinach salad, but I must admit it's been too crowded for me lately.

10. Complimentary green salad at Hanil

The sushi is OK, nothing too special, but reasonably priced for Prague. But one of the things I most look forward to at this Japanese/Korean restaurant is the very simple green salad they serve all diners at the start of a meal. It has a soy vinegar dressing that, yes, I did once drink from the bowl when the lettuce was all gone. I love it that much. The waiter told me the secret ingredient, but if you want to know, you'll have to ask for yourself.

11. Brownie at Passion Chocolat

Actually a soft cookie made with high-quality chocolate, nuts, and candied orange. I eat a few of these every week. Yes, there are three entries on this list that involve chocolate, one of the great loves of my life.

But these are just my tastes. And on a different day, I might make a different list. In fact, I'm sure I would.

So how about you? Crisp apple strudels? Schnitzel with noodles? What are a few of your favorite things?

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