Although much of the literature we read before our trip touted how much cheaper Prague was than Vienna we really didn’t find the difference significant. While the lodging was much cheaper (partially because we found a ‘stay for 3, pay for 2’ room deal), the food prices were about the same. That said, we also found Prague to be quite touristy in and around the old town area, so I’m sure that influenced the price of our meals.
We arrived by bus on Thursday evening and wanting to have a special Thanksgiving dinner (and not think about where to eat after a four hour bus ride!), we had the hotel make advance reservations at Red Pif. I am glad we did because this place was crazy packed when we arrived! We were seated on the right hand side by the bar in front of a giant wall of wine because most of the restaurant was taken up by a large party. Our waitress was eager to suggest local wines and let us try a taste before deciding. This made it easy to have a different glass with each course and considering the price (about $3/glass), an affordable option too.
I started with a delicious and well-presented beef tartare appetizer and my quick taste of Eric’s chicken cream soup was tasty as well. My steak with crispy roasted potatoes second course was cooked perfectly and Eric’s Coq a Vin was a big hit. The local dessert wine, palavar, had a golden raisin and light licorice nose, stonefruit, nuttiness, and a nice acidity to balance the light truffle dessert (both chocolate and fungus truffles!).
After walking the parents back to our hotel, Eric and I walked around the block to the Prague Beer Museum to try a few options. We selected well among a mix of dark lagers and cherry beer but we could only stay for one round as the smokiness of the place was starting to get to us. We were tempted to go back our last night but opted out because we wouldn’t have time to air out our jackets before we flew home the next day.
On Friday, we hit one of the two cafes during our visit. A pretty standard Julius Meinl Cafe to be sure, but the restrooms were free for customers (not always the case) and the hot chocolate and mulled wine (svarak) was quite nice. It was a good place to warm up after the cold walk down from the castle.
After our coffees, we wandered around a bit and worked our way over to a wine bar, Vinograf, to relax and figure out what to do for dinner. It was chilly, so we decided to dedicate our search to the west side of the river rather than venture all the way back to our hotel. Thank goodness for the TripAdvisor app because our first two choices were closed, so we ended up at Tři Století.
We grabbed a table for four in the entryway and although they mentioned that they were expecting a large party, most of the restaurant was empty until right before we left after 8:30pm. My dill potato soup starter was nice and very dill-y (the waiter was a bit put out when I informed him they brought the wrong soup for both Eric’s Dad and myself the first time as apparently there are two potato soups on the menu and we weren’t clear enough about which one we wanted). My main course of duck had good overall flavor but was a bit dry and came with waaaaay too much bulgur. Eric’s goulash was just okay, the sauce was good but meat was blah. They did offer very generous pours on the rose wines we ordered by the glass.
a fish pond amidst the tables (no glass over it) and a mostly empty restaurant
On the way home we grabbed a famous pastry, Trdelník – so tasty!
After dropping the folks off again we headed to U Medvídků specifically to sample their famous x33 beer but no luck. We did snag a table in the non-smoking room (bonus!) but all they had on draft was Budvar light and dark. We found it strange that a brewery had none of their beers on draft in the restaurant. The brewery room was closed in the back and their shop didn’t have that beer for sale either. Overall, a disappointing experience. So, we walked back the Hotel Josef for our free cocktails and the bartender gave us free nuts to go with. :)
The next morning we wandered around the Christmas markets and found ourselves warming up at Choco Cafe, a place Eric had heard about on BBC during our trip. My hot chocolate with ginger was spicy and outrageously good. Eric ordered the Tanzanian-sourced hot chocolate which had an interesting fruitiness to it and was almost pudding thick. It was memorably delicious!
a chocolate paradise and respite from the cold
After getting ready for the Advent concert we were planning to attend that evening, we decided it would be easier to eat somewhere close to the hotel but not in the touristy Old Town Square. This resulted in the only disappointing meal experience we had on the whole trip. Chez Marcel was underwhelming for a number of reasons. First, you had to walk through the smoking section to get to the still-smoky non-smoking section. My mussels and Eric’s chicken caesar salad were fine but the overall service was very slow (noticed more because we were trying to have a quick meal) and the waiter forgot to bring my beer until I had to track him down to ask him about it. Additionally, this was the only place where a waiter rejected our tip. He brought us change and we said keep it (about 10%) — he muttered something about the tip not being included and left it on the table.
As I mentioned, the food and drink prices were fairly reasonable but overall, I liked the dining experiences in Vienna better.