The Burgers of Prague
Drawing on recent dining experiences, Brewsta compiles a list of his favorite hamburgers -- and picks an unexpected winner
"Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely."Where can you experience the best hamburger in Prague? A juicy question. But perhaps a waste of time.
The question, I mean.
Who can seriously answer that? A lot of good burgers are served up in this town. But who has tried them all?
The Prague Post has had an article the past couple of years on Prague's best burgers. I had sampled the offerings at a few of the places mentioned. But so many good burgers were not included in that competition.
So, I have my own list.
What follows are not necessarily the best burgers of Prague. I will not even say the list is objective.
It is, in fact, only a list of all the hamburgers I've eaten over the last year. I've put them in the order that I like them:
Czech Inn Hostel: Call me crazy. Call me unconventional. I put this one at the top. This home-style hamburger is the one your mother would make (if she made really good hamburgers).
It was not flashy. It was not gourmet. It was just right and hit the spot. The patty is large, a little crumbly, like Mom's, with just the right amount of fat and salt. The bun is big, dusted with flour, and doesn't fall apart.
It came with lettuce, tomatoes, and a square of melted American-style cheese. There was no bacon. A fried egg on top was an option. It came with a hefty amount of fries and mayonnaise on side for 150 CZK.
My only quibbles? The Heinz ketchup was served in large packets instead of a bottle. And on one visit, the fries were not cooked in the freshest oil.
The Czech Inn is an upscale hostel, a few tram stops outside the center. Its pub has a very nice look, with great, artistic plasterwork on the walls and ceilings.
There is also an English-language trivia/quiz night every Monday at 8pm. Big fun.
Potrefená husa on Vinohradská: This hamburger was close to perfect. The high-quality meat had a great smoky flavor from the grill.
It had bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and onion. All the toppings are thoughtfully cut to fit under the bun. You rarely see this kind of attention to detail.
The bun was very good bread and toasted. The fries were great.
I had only small issues with this burger. One was that the ground beef was actually too lean. It was on the dry side after cooking.
Because of this, I order it rare, but it always comes at least medium.
Then, there's the price. It is now 312 CZK, up from 290 CZK when I last wrote about. Ouch!
The cost does take some of the pleasure out of it for me.
This place, which serves Czech- and American-style dishes, is often full of Czech urban professionals and expats. It appears they are willing to pay any price.
Fraktal: This burger is a favorite of many, and it has been one of mine. The burger patty itself was thick, round, and nicely charred on the outside.
The ground beef sat on a sturdy, poppy-and-sesame -seed roll. There were generous amounts of bacon and cheese.
The burger came with lettuce, red onion, sliced sweet pickles, a mayo-based sauce, and a side of fries and mustard. I also got a bottle of Heinz ketchup.
I had the small, 125-gram version for 175 CZK. The larger 200-gram version was 195 CZK.
Small criticisms here: the tomatoes were sliced wedges -- not exactly the best shape if you want to throw them on the burger. The fries were large and good, but needed salt.
The dark, subterranean space is not my favorite place for a meal. The floor often smells of beer and it can fill with cigarette smoke.
I do like to sit at one of the few tables outside in the summer, if one is available.
El Barrio de Ángel: I'd give this burger the award for the best ground beef. It traveled all the way from Argentina. There was a wonderful flavor, made even more delicious by flame grilling.
The patty was well-seasoned, with a perfect amount of salt. The low fat content makes it very dense and even a bit dry in the middle, like Potrefená husa's.
Still, juices dripped on the plate -- the chef brushes the burger a lot on the grill.
It came out with lettuce, tomato, onion, and mayo already on it. It was well-constructed.
My Argentine friend, Max, the Beer Philosopher, told me that this is the standard way burgers are served in his country. I'm not a big mayo-on-the-burger fan so I wished I'd had some choice in the matter.
Fries came on a separate plate. The cost is 149 CZK, which seems fair, considering the quality.
The biggest problem was the bun. Although nicely toasted, it was a flaky little thing that was dwarfed by the big, thick patty.
It appeared to come from a supermarket. It fell apart. This fine beef deserved better.
Ultramarin: I'm glad I went back to try this burger again recently.
It also had bad bun issues only a few months ago. But it has gotten an upgrade and moved higher on my list.
They call it the "Elvis King burger." It came with Irish bacon, sweet onion jam, fried onion, and a grilled mushroom cap. I really liked the onions.
The burger was served with house-made french fries with the skins on. They were very greasy and cooked to an orange-brown color. I liked them, despite the large amount of excess oil.
Mayo came on the side, and bottled Heinz ketchup was also available.
It costs 220 CZK. That's up from 175 CZK when I had it with the bad bun in November 2007.
Cafe Bar Wigwam: This is the hamburger I eat most often. I am a regular at this place.
The "Classic Burger" is usually nothing too special. It has a bad, supermarket bun. They use decent beef, usually cooked to well-done.
There's lettuce, tomato, good bacon, red onions, melted cheese, and tons of mayo on top.
What do I like about this one? It is 115 CZK with fries included. The best bargain of the bunch.
There is also a strangely endearing aspect to this hamburger, at least for me. It seems it is never made the same way twice, week after week.
The shape and size of the patty is always changing. Sometimes it is wide and flat. Sometimes it is a small lump. The toppings vary from time to time.
It's never great, and only rarely bad. These weekly changes keep me from getting bored with it.
Mozaika: I know this burger is much loved, and this is one of my favorite restaurants.
Still, I really haven't loved the Mozaika burger. It was the least conventional, but I didn't downgrade it for that reason.
It came on a big, spinach bread bun, with baked mushrooms, sweet onions, mayo, tomatoes, and lettuce.
The beef patty was quite large. It is heavily seasoned and very good. However, the toppings just didn't work for me.
Both times I've had it, they mixed together into something of a mess inside the bun. They fell out of the bottom after a few bites.
It was very messy and hard to eat with your hands. The bread itself didn't hold together so well either.
It came with fries or a small salad and goes for 199 CZK.
Hergetova Cihelna: This was the most expensive hamburger I've eaten in Prague.
In summer, you might consider that you are paying for the view of the Charles Bridge from the terrace. In the winter, you're just paying for the burger.
The beef patty was big and char-grilled. On the side were pickles, onions, tomatoes, coleslaw, ketchup, and mayo. The sesame seed bun was big, and perfectly toasted. The bacon was great. The fries were thick and crunchy.
The tomatoes were cut into awkward-sized chunks rather than slices. The slaw had way too much mayo. The meat was very fatty, and had an odd, rubbery quality.
It tasted good, but the texture bothered me.
And I was really bothered by the price: 395 CZK. Wow! I won't be doing that again.
T.G.I.Friday's: If you want a real American-style hamburger, what better place than an American restaurant chain? Well, to be honest, there are better places.
I had the World Famous Friday's® Burger. I went for the smaller 150-gram version for 160 CZK. The larger 250-gram burger is 210 CZK. Neither come with any side item like french fries.
The large, thin patty had a nice, but familiar flame-broiled flavor. It came on a large, sesame-seed bun, pre-loaded with great, thick bacon, American cheese, lettuce, pickles, tomato, and onion.
After a few bites, I realized why the flavor was familiar. It tasted almost exactly like Burger King's Whopper. I do like Whoppers, but if I want one, I'd rather go to BK and pay less. (There's a rumor they are coming to Prague.)
The only difference between the two in my mind was that the WFFB had better bacon and didn't come with mayo like BK's.
The faults of the Friday's burger? Too much melted cheese that overwhelmed at times. Also a bun that was big enough, but was too soft and barely held together.
I had it with onion rings, for 35 CZK, which were almost completely flavorless. I loved their chocolate milkshake, but it was 85 CZK.
One other thing worth mentioning. I would never go to the T.G.I. Friday's on Na Příkopě, only to the one at Anděl. The prices are drastically different.
At Na Příkopě, there was only burger size on the menu (they didn't give the weight), and it went for 290 CZK. The ribs are 380 CZK there, but only 240 CZK at Anděl (though 50 grams less).
U Dědka: There was nothing very wrong with the hamburger at U Dědka. It was just my least favorite.
The meat was a big, round lump with melted cheese and bacon on top.
The burger came with toppings on the side: sliced white onions, pickles, jalapenos, lettuce, annoying tomato wedges, liquidy coleslaw, mayo, and ketchup.
The ground beef ball was too rare for me.
Also, the meat had a very distinctive and different taste. I really couldn't make out what kind of seasoning was the source of this flavor (or if it was definitely from a seasoning). I didn't like it. Also, the bun was not toasted.
It was 140 CZK, but unlike many of the others, it did not come with fries.
And those are all I've tried. And not a single McBurger in the past year (though I did have a fine Angry Whopper in Munich).
Since some of these hamburgers were eaten many months ago, I must mention this caveat: There may have been changes since my visit.
If you know of some good burgers or would rank them differently, I'd love to see your Burgers of Prague list.
And some day, I'd like to take a look at the Burghers of Calais.
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