The American Bar in Obecní Dům

The Art Nouveau architecture is spectacular, but so are the prices at Prague's oldest bar

"No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people."
--HL Mencken
OK, so I thought I was pretty smart, taking V for drinks at the American Bar in Obecní dům.

She'd been in the Art Nouveau building countless times but had never walked downstairs and seen the entrance to this little spot.

Aside from the sign on the door, the little American flags on top of the liquor shelves let you know you are in the right place.

It's an artistic and historic space, close to 100 years old. The Municipal House officially opened in 1912.

V was impressed. I get extra credits when I introduce her to interesting new things.

The American Bar maintains the Art Nouveau theme. The walls are covered with mirrors, crystal light fixtures, and the art of Mikoláš Aleš.

The bar is fully stocked, with a professional, white-coated barman at the ready. In addition to the usual range of top-shelf spirits, there are a number of single-malt scotches to choose from.

The room is quite small, with just a few tables in addition to the stools at the bar.

We decided to keep it sweet and simple with some pre-dinner Beefeater gin and tonics. The drinks come in large glasses with plenty of gin and three slices of lime. We enjoyed them.

Since they were so strong and we knew we'd be drinking more during the evening, we decided to split one more gin and tonic before hitting the road.

I had a little trouble getting the bill at the end. The barman was distracted by a lady friend at the other end of the bar.

When it came, I was a little taken aback. The tab broke down like this:

3 x Seagrams Extra Dry 330 CZK [we ordered Beefeater]
3 x Tonic 180 CZK
Total 510 CZK

It seems there was a special this evening -- order three drinks, get six for the price of six. I really didn't expect to be doing math, but I was able to work out that it was 170 CZK for a gin and tonic.

I've seen this before -- separate charges for alcohol and a mixer. But here, they were served mixed together.

When this happens at other places, they usually give you the bottle of tonic. You can then order another shot of gin, but have to stir it up yourself and, perhaps, ask for another lime wedge.

It reminded me of the time, years ago, when V ordered a mimosa at Pravda. She was charged for a full glass of champagne and a full glass of orange juice.

The waitress said they didn't have a key on the computer for "mimosa." I asked the manager what happened to the half-glasses of orange juice and champagne that we didn't get. He just shrugged.

Anyway, maybe I'm still carrying a grudge, but I'm not in love with the separate alcohol and mixer charges concept.

So, I stared at the bill for a while. A long while. Long enough that the barman took notice.

"Is there a problem?"

"That's a lot of money for three gin and tonics."

"This is the American Bar," he said proudly and sharply. "Oldest bar in Prague."

So that explains it.

The American Bar is essentially an architectural museum and a drink is the price of admission. The few tables were filled with tourists who didn't mind paying to see the sights.

In honor of the great HL Mencken, I'll give you this advice:

You can go broke if you underestimate the price of a drink at the American Bar in Obecní dům.

The American Bar in Obecní dům
Náměstí Republiky 5
Prague 1
Tel.: (+420) 222 002 101

Prague Directory Listing

Next to the American Bar is the Plzeňská restaurace, which is a very nice looking space.

I didn't eat there or even look at the menu, so I don't have much to say about it. But I thought I'd throw in these pictures for your perusal. There's a colorful rural scene on the wall of the restaurant near the entrance.

"Well, I broke down the price of your drinks. Although they were in the high end, the seemed no more expensive than if you were at any 'Touristy' place here in Florida. Also you ordered 'Name Brand'or what we call 'Call' drinks down here. You pay extra for that normally, otherwise you get some rotgut brand, you never heard of. So my only comment is, you are paying for the atmosphere, enjoy it. And get drunk elsewhere. LOL

"Sorry for the late post, I just came upon this."

Ken Sturmer
January 6th, 2008

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