Even though I am not blessed with a Czech grandmother who can offer me some of the traditional dishes from Czech cuisine, I discovered the next best thing in the form of a classic Czech cafeteria in the centre of Old Town. Havelská Koruna is one of the most unique dining spaces I have found in Prague, with a counter that includes over 40 different Czech dishes each day, and a long line of customers eagerly waiting for a budget lunch in the centre of Old Town. Nowhere else have I been able to find such an extensive list of traditional Czech dishes.
Upon entering the restaurant – which is really more of a buffet-style diner – I am handed a tally card where servers write down which dishes I choose to eat. This is an efficient process because there is no need for waiters. The tally card allows me to go back and forth to the cafeteria line throughout my visit, and I simply pay the total at my departure. The restaurant is divided into sections: salads, sweet dishes, soups, and a selection of traditional Czech cuisine. And of course, a selection of Czech beer. As I wait in line I watch as people pass by holding interesting looking dishes piled with a variety of foods. Tomato sauce with dumplings, stuffed stewed peppers, and mushrooms fried in bread crumbs. I haven’t seen these dishes before, and instantly my mouth starts to water. I decide in that moment that I cannot simply have just one; I’ll have to come back each day this week to sample as many of these fantastic-looking dishes that my still young body can handle. On my first day I chose a hearty dish with sauerkraut, bacon, onion, and grated potato that’s called střapačky. I never enjoyed eating sauerkraut before coming to Prague, but when paired with pork and a good beer I find it to be a perfect combination of sour and umami. For dessert, I chose a plate of dumplings filled with strawberry and topped with cottage cheese – just one version of a this classic Czech dish. The heavy dessert was too filling for me to finish, but was quite good nonetheless.
My week at Havelská Koruna continued with Moravian sparrow, pork schnitzel, and a pancake with spinach and chicken. I was disappointed that the bread dumplings were not any better than what I have eaten at other Czech restaurants, but besides that, I was quite happy about each dish I ate. I’ve come to learn that Czech food is definitely not diet food, and while each meal was quite tasty, I would not suggest it to someone looking for a light meal. There was not a huge variety of vegetables but there were several dishes that would be considered vegetarian such as pea mash with fried onion, yeast buns with custard, and baked cauliflower with cheese and eggs. The cafeteria set up allows the restaurant to be a perfect quick lunch spot, and within half an hour I was in and out. The decor of the dining room itself is a bit outdated, but that adds a bit to the vintage feel. When it comes to eating, I prefer to avoid the city centre due to its high prices and large tourist population, so finding such an eatery dead-centre of the tourist track was a pleasant surprise.
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