Saturday, March 17, 2007

Great Cafe and worst meal of the trip?

Of course, we get lost trying to find the Charles Bridge. In fact, today, we never do find it! However, we stumble across an outdoor market in Havelska square, a couple of blocks off Old Town Square (henceforth referred as OTS). It’s mostly filled with tourist souvenirs, but it also has some fruits, vegetables and flowers. The vendors are closing up shop, but I a score a cute (and warm!) black wool hat with a green flower for 200 kr.

We wander back through OTS, and as the sun is setting decide it’s time for a coffee break. There are about a dozen restaurants lining the square, and given their fantastic location, they have equally fantastic prices. A quick check reveals a cup of cappuccino for 130 kr ($6.50). I look at my notes and see a recommendation for a café in Tyn Square (a.k.a. the Ungelt) called Café Ebel.

The square is charming, and only one block from OTS, it’s a quiet respite from the hordes. Café Ebel is different from all the “traditional” cafes we’d been frequenting. There’s blues playing on stereo, tattooed servers in casual dress, and they roast their beans daily. It’s more like a college town cafe and it’s very homey and comfortable. As it turns out, they have 5 locations in Prague, but the one we go to is at #2 Tyn Square. We each have a cappuccino (60 kr here) and share a wonderful bowl of homemade vegetable cream soup.

By the time we leave, it’s dark and we walk back through OTS where all the buildings are brightly lit. I’d been given a recommendation from a coworker for a restaurant called U Pince, right off Wenceslas Square, so we walk over to it to check it out. They are already busy so we make a reservation for 8:30. When we return, we are almost seated in the bottom dining room, but are then shuttled upstairs to make room for a party of 12 Italian tourists. Upstairs, we are ignored for 5 minutes and then finally seated in one of the small dining rooms at an unclean table with no menus. We wait for 15 minutes (no exaggeration, I timed it) and are never approached, never given a menu, and the table is never cleaned and set. In fact, though the dining room is full with other people, no one is eating, nor is anyone else served while we are there. We figure that even if we are ever given a menu, it will take at least an hour to get food so we get up and leave.

I have another recommendation for a restaurant called U Radnice, off OTS, which is supposed to have great pork and dumplings in a big restaurant with communal tables. The restaurant is almost empty, and ignoring my misgivings, we decide to stay anyway. Instead of allowing us to sit at one of the bigger tables (all empty) near the front, we are sat in a hidden back corner next to two other women who are eating and smoking. Yes, we should have asked to be moved but we didn’t. Mom orders pork and dumplings and a glass of red wine and I order duck leg and dumplings and a glass of beer. The wine is undrinkable, the beer of course is just fine. The pork is mediocre and my duck is cooked beyond recognition to the point where there is barely any meat on the bone. Our introduction to Czech “dumplings” reveals them to be akin to slices of white bread. It’s a rude awakening. The meal is about $30 and gets both our vote for the worst of the trip.

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