Jáma - Burgerfest

Jáma will have the chance to prove their burgers are the best against 15 other restaurants

Once officially home of the ‘best burger in Prague’ a lot of stiff competition has cropped up in recent years since Jáma opened in 1994. First making the claim due to a lack of other places doing good quality burgers but then formally awarded the accolade, at Burgerfest they’ll have the chance to prove their burgers are the best again, albeit against 15 other top burger specialists. When Jáma opened its doors nearly two decades ago the competition wasn’t even a third of that.

“I was one year out of college and had always dreamed of opening my own bar,” says American owner Max Munson. “I was living in Europe, teaching English in Paris, and fell in love with Prague; the beauty of the city, the women, the culture and needed an excuse to stay. Between two of us we had $3,600 to start up a bar and needed a lot more, so we wrote a business plan for investors.”

Considering they were both English Majors, only 22 years old and had never written a business plan before, it initially failed. After rewriting it though they got the investment and opened Jáma, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary in March next year.

“There were no American style places in town and none with friendly service so we opened to be different. We would be open later, have a range of beer on tap and any alcohol we could buy we would put on sale. This was just after the revolution which meant there was no longer any regulation on who you had to hire, before it had to be people from the hotel services.”

They decided to focus on the Czech rather than tourist market, pricing it towards the locals as there were already a few places for expatriates. That’s not to say they’re not welcome but at lunch times the cliental is normally around 95% Czech as they work nearby, and even the rest of the time it’s about 80%. The place used to be known for having regulars but Max says it’s a whole new group now with a lot more competition about.

Currently they have 12 beers on tap, all purely Czech. Nine come from the Lobkowicz company, which took control of small breweries and bettered them, and the other three taps are dedicated to small independent breweries. One of these is Zemské Pivo a contract brewed beer available in only 26 pubs in Prague. Unfortunately it won’t be available at their first time at Burgerfest as they’re only allowed to do food.

“We were sad to have missed it last year as I was out of town,” explains Max. “Our chef Martin Tomek, who started in January, was really excited to be in it so we joined. Plus I had heard great things from last year.

“We will have a classic burger, a cheddar bacon burger and maybe a BBQ burger but me and Martin haven’t decided yet. Burgers are actually better here than the USA as they have lots of places that use cheap, low cost meat. There are lots of good places in Prague now so we don’t claim to be the best burger any more but hope to be in the running. It is the golden age of burgers in Prague.”

Jáma also run a steakhouse in Prague 1 and in 2014 Max will be focusing on making it the best it can possibly be, using meat from Argentina, Uruguay and of course the Czech Republic. They will also be aiming to keep the burger standard high and obviously hope to perform well at Burgerfest.

“We intend to keep churning out the best burgers and have made improvements to them in the last few years. There are more and better suppliers of meat and other ingredients now which have helped a lot.”

Check out their website: http://www.jamapub.cz/pub/pub/mainmenu/mainpage/show.en.php

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