Cafe Bar Wigwam

Following the closure of his regular pub, Czech Please's Brewsta pitches his tent at a new Malá Strana local

This article was originally posted on the Czech Please weblog.

For years now, I had been meeting my friends at the same table at the same pub every week on Vítězná in Malá Strana. The food was nothing special, but the Pilsner Urquell came faster than fast and it was under 30 CZK. The pub, Přemysl Otakar II, wasn't pretty, but it was home.

And now it's gone.

Without warning, Otakar's doors were locked, its interior was torn out, and it reopened a couple of months later under new management. It is now a pizza place called Libertas. We tried it, but it just felt wrong. And they close early.

The king was dead.

We began a search for a new home in the area, but let's just say my friends are not easy to please. The new place would have to have:

1. Good beer prices and not Staropramen

2. Edible food at decent prices

3. A pleasant atmosphere

4. Friendly staff willing to reserve a table for at least eight people

5. Hours past 11 pm

The impossible dream, it would seem.

We tried Stará Praha, next door to Otakar (RIP) on Vítězná. Everyone gave a thumbs-up to the food. A Serb friend rated their ćevapčići at 75% of Belgrade's ćevapčići quality. That, he says, is a very high rating for Prague ćevapčići. The problem -- Staropramen on tap. That's a deal breaker for several friends. It is non-negotiable.

We tried the Švejk pub on Újezd, but it is too touristy, occasionally packed, with below-average Czech cooking, and an accordion player that tested nerves.

We tried Popocafepetl Music Club across the street on Újezd. It is a nice basement space that has live music. The problem is, the food is limited to things like chips and pickled sausage (utopenci) and cakes. No go.

We tried La Bastille on Újezd. Not bad, but not really a good pub drinking atmosphere. We were running out of ideas.

Olympia has Pilsner Urquell, but they didn't meet the friendly staff requirement and the prices are on the high side.

Our little group began to despair that we would find a widely acceptable place to drink, eat, and argue into the night in the Újezd area.

Last week, I think we found it: Café Bar Wigwam.

One small note here: Wigwams are dwellings mainly used by Native Americans in North America. However, the interior theme is native Central and/or South American.

Whether it is Aztec, Mayan, or Incan, I don't know, and no one really cares. We're not going to sweat small details here. It looks nice enough. Passed that test.

The Wigwam people recognize an important element in creating an interesting atmosphere in a restaurant: Good lighting. Lights are focused on the carved wooden statues, and other Indian design elements on the walls. The purple lights in the bar didn't quite work for me though.

We are a fairly large group, but it is not, generally, a place for groups. There were several couples there for a drink and conversation. On the website it is also called "Wigwam Café Bar Restaurant." They do try to be all things to all people.

The beer is Budvar -- Czech Budweiser, which we all know is completely different and vastly better than the American kind. I like it. Not everyone does. Whatever. It works for the anything-but-Staro crowd. The 12-degree half-liter is 29 CZK and the weaker 10 degree is 25 CZK.

Check and check.

The menu is wildly eclectic. It jumps from tortillas to Thai to Greek to French to salads to steaks. Given the relatively low prices, we wondered how it could be any good.

I started with the Greek Tzatziki (65 CZK). It is a generous bowl filled with cucumber, a lot of garlic, and fairly thin yogurt. There are sliced black olives on top, which I could have done without. It comes with four slices of toasted pita bread. An OK snack.

After that, I had the Classic Burger (95 CZK) with fries. My friend A liked his. I still might order it again, but I didn't love it. I thought the bun was dried out and the meat was overcooked. It's a very dense burger. It seemed to be a beef/pork mixture. It did have a nice smoky flavor. The menu said it came with bacon. I didn't see any. A's theory was that it is mixed in with the beef, which I think was very possible. It was too dark to see it clearly.

The burger was also drowning in mayo. Here's a shot with the lid off.

Ketchup has to be ordered extra on the side. I thought my fries were a bit soggy, but A said his were fresh, hot, and crispy. I think mine had been sitting for a while because we put in a big order at the same time. Still, this is pub food. I'd get it again.

B got the flour tortilla filled with chicken (115 CZK). He was quite pleased. It was a good portion. I took a bite of a piece of chicken that fell out the back of the tortilla. It was nicely grilled, but I thought a little dry. I didn't sample it with the red beans, onions, and red pepper inside. It came with salsa and sour cream on the side.

Someone got the pork ribs and threw me a bone. They were cooked with a sweet, spicy barbecue sauce, close to spicy ketchup. The ribs were very fatty. Not bad, not great. But for 115 CZK, they won't break your heart.

I didn't taste the Chicken Drumsticks in honey chili sauce (120 CZK) that sat to my right. My friend didn't finish them. I didn't ask why.

And I didn't taste the chicken fried in cornflakes (115 CZK). Both chicken dishes looked pretty greasy, but that's about all I can say. Just based on how they looked, they are probably not dishes I'll order next time. You can judge for yourself.

There are a number of items on the menu that I am still very curious about, even though I know they probably won't be close to what I expect they should be. I want to try all the Thai dishes -- "Mat Saman" curry (135 CZK), Phad Thai Kai (120 CZK), and Satay (120 CZK).

They also have a number of "large" salads for around 100 CZK.

No one was looking for gourmet here. The food just needed to be reasonably edible. It seems to have passed this test. Our evenings are more about the drinking and the talking. Café Bar Wigwam is good for that. It is open until 1am.

The final check on the list.

I'm not saying this place is for everyone. I don't know what kind of checklist you carry around with you. All I can say is, it works for us.

Finally, we have a new home. It’s the Wigwam.

Cafe Bar Wigwam

Zborovská 54

Prague 5-Malá Strana

Tel. (+420) 257 311 707

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