Ruzyně Airport - Terminal 1

Serving unappealing food at outrageous prices, Prague's airport offers nothing for the discerning diner

This article was originally posted on the Czech Please weblog.

This post is not about what I ate. It's about what I didn't eat. What I won't eat. What I refuse to eat unless I have absolutely no other choice.

I'm talking about airport food.

Airport food around the world usually falls somewhere between expensive and highway robbery. Some of it, you wouldn't even call food. However, some airports now offer more and more interesting and quality choices.

Such quality choices are few and far between at Prague's Terminal 1. In fact, there aren't too many options for food at all there.

I'll have to look at Terminal 2 another time, but I haven't seen too much I like. That terminal is mostly for internal European flights, so I'm sure I'll have a chance in the not-too-distant future.

In between Terminal 1's arrivals area and the check-in desks is the little "cafeteria" where most travelers stop. I didn't stop there this time, but I've sample the goods on a number of occasions.

One of the biggest needs can be for something to drink. At this place, the prices are stratospheric. A half-liter bottle of Bonaqua sparkling water is 85 CZK. I don't usually convert prices to other currencies because they are always changing, but in this case, I'll make an exception. At today's rates, that is roughly four US dollars, three euros, or two British pounds

Strangely, it's the exact same price they charge for a bottle of Coke.

And don't forget to drink it all before you hit the security gate. It's a shame to see such precious fluids go down the drain.

There are prepared salads, but they didn't look so nice. I didn't check the prices on those. There is also pasta salad, and shredded cabbage.

Hot food is served, including a number of Czech meat specialties. They have chicken schnitzel (smažený kuřecí řízek) for 125 CZK, chicken gyros with tzatziki for 135 CZK, fried cheese for 125 CZK, a grilled chicken quarter for 125 CZK, or a cheeseburger for 155 CZK. Nachos with cheese, salsa, and sour cream is 160 CZK.

I have no idea what any of these items look like. One thing I do know is that the cashier lady gets upset if you take too many pictures of the place.

There are fried foods and savory pastries sitting under heating lamps. During breakfast hours, there are dishes like "breakfast goulash" for 120 CZK, ham and eggs for 85 CZK, or two eggs, fried or scrambled, for 45 CZK. Bacon is 55 CZK and cornflakes and milk is 60 CZK.

There are also sandwiches that cost 100-130 CZK. They all look pretty grim to me. I used to occasionally get a pastry or a brownie at this place before a flight.

I gave up completely on those after my last brownie. After one bite, it crumbled into dust in my hand.

There is another option for eating, but it is not as obvious. Near the doors from arrivals-customs area, there are stairs that lead up to a large, modern non-stop cafeteria.

There is a wide selection of hot meals like grilled chicken breast, sausage, pork and beef dishes, pizza, and many desserts. The prices seem a bit cheaper up there. Sorry, I did look at them, but I didn't write them down.

The same cafeteria is accessible from the area of the airport on the other side of the security gates. A glass wall divides the place.

There are other options hidden around, like mediocre sushi for expense-account prices. No thanks.

Price is almost always going to be an insurmountable problem at airports. Corruption, cartels, unions, a captive clientele, and all that.

Of course, Prague isn't the only place guilty of crazy high prices. I once saw a man completely flip out when he saw the total price for a pizza and a beer at Sbarro at JFK. When he finished screaming, he left the meal on the counter and walked away.

But every once in a while, you find something worthwhile. A nice little wine bar with tapas at Venice airport. Crab cakes in Baltimore. Fresh herring at Schipol in Amsterdam (though I can't find it anymore).

When Prague's new Terminal 2 building went up, I was hopeful that the airport managers would see what's going on in other cities around the world and realize that quality has its place, even in airports.

So far, not so much.

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