American style burgers are booming in Czech eateries, riding a wave that began with the fall of communism in the 1989. Western influence that began in Prague with fast food such as McDonalds has now blossomed into a horde of boutique burger restaurants run by expats from the west, according to Prague Guide online (www.prague-online-guide.com).
Lori Wyant, co-owner of The Tavern in Prague 2, says the fad goes beyond Bohemia. “The burger craze that’s hitting Prague has been going strong in other cities like New York, LA (Los Angeles) and London for over a decade… some trends catch on a bit later in Central and Eastern Europe and this is one of them.”
Wyant adds, “Burgers seem to evoke passionate opinions in people… burger “connoisseurs’ are very vocal about their favorites.”
Praguers voted on their favorite burger on October 12-13 at Burgerfest (www.burgerfest.cz), an event that pitted city grills against one another for the title of best burger. Held at the Namesti Miru metro stop, the festival drew competitors including Bejzment, Bohemia Bagel, TGI Fridays and JJ Murphy’s Irish Pub.
Now in its second year, Burgerfest was organized by Zdenek Strizek, owner and founder of the restaurant Bejzment (www.bejzment.cz) located in Prague 5, according to Strizek himself. Visitors touting voting cards reviewed over 4,500 burgers at last year’s edition which drew roughly 6,000 people but crowds were five times bigger this year, scarfing down an estimated 23,000 patties according to Strizek.
The winner, Bejzment (www.bejzment.cz), at Zborovská 6 in Prague 5, scored honors for best restaurant and best special burger. Zephyr at Michalska 13 in Prague 1, took home the prize for best burger (meat and bun combination).
“Next year will be bigger, faster, and better,” stated Zdenek Strizek, Burgerfest organizer – “We are planning to have some big names as partners, car show, bike show, something for the kids and more bands…” Burgerfest was a huge success this year and should only be more successful in the future.
Festival or no, three Prague restaurants are leading the burger revolution currently: The Dish, The Globe Bookstore & Café and The Tavern.
The Dish – Fine Bistro (www.dish.cz), Rimska 29 in Prague 2, is a small cozy bistro with a variety of burger for diverse taste buds, with an open kitchen at the entrance. If you want to guarantee a table, make sure you reserve one.
The Dish burger, the house special, and its most popular, is 150 grams of beef with cheddar cheese, bacon, homemade ketchup, garlic aioli, pickles and lettuce. The Savory burger is a close second, says co-owner Matouš Petráň,
More adventurous types order the Pepper – with bacon chips, fontina cheese, baked bell peppers and jalapeno salsa – or the Caesar with little gem salad, Caesar dressing, parmesan cheese and bacon.
Their vegetarian Portobello burger is a grilled marinated Portobello mushroom with smoked mozzarella cheese, herbs, pesto, baby spinach and pickled red onion – all nicely complemented by the homemade fries.
At The Globe (www.globebookstore.cz), Pstrossova 6, founded in 1993 as Prague’s first English language bookstore, the American influenced menu ranges from burger to chicken wings and weekend brunch. They also schedule live music and literary readings as well as the screenings of major sporting events and karaoke night every Saturday.
The Classic is a typical American cheeseburger with American cheese, lettuce, red onion and your choice of bacon or grilled mushrooms, while the Mexican guacamole burger offers more of a kick with chilies, jalapenos, salsa, lettuce and red onion.
The Globe also offers the Spinach Burger for vegetarians with Balkan cheese, walnuts, grilled mushrooms and onions; smothered in tzatziki sauce and served in a pita pocket.
At The Tavern (www.thetavern.cz), in Chopinova 26 in Prague 2, the friendly staff makes you feel right at home and the signature cocktails fill out the burger menu.
The Lokal Burger is their most popular and is the “original burger that launched our food stand,” says Wyantt. It is an all-beef patty topped with Gouda cheese, shredded lettuce, tomatoes and a secret sauce, served on a grilled butter bun. The Classic Bacon-Cheddar Burger takes a close second, topped with two slices of English cheddar, pancetta bacon, ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard lettuce, pickles and onions.
The menu is expanding, adding six burgers, to the original either, which is helping them stand out among the competition.
They offer their “own original creations and go for the ‘roadside’ classic American style of burger,” explains co-owner Dean Selby. He calls their vision a “comfortable, relaxed atmosphere where everyone can feel like they can hang out whether they are passing through town, live around the corner or are just coming in to meet friends for some good times.”
The burger business in Prague is increasingly becoming more popular among locals and tourists. As Wyant said, “… it’s (burgers) a ‘fun’ food to eat…” All these burger restaurants I visited offered a great social environment for friends, family and your significant other. So take a break from the goulash and try a juicy, flavorful, American style burger. You won’t regret it.