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Czech Republic - Food and Drink
Pork (vepro) is the most popular meat in a traditional cuisine dominated by animal products. It can be baked, smoked or wrapped in breadcrumbs and then fried. Roast beef (rostene), roast chicken (grilovane kure) and spicy cured meats (uzeniny) are also widely available. Heavy creamy sauces are normally added to the dish before it is served.
Boiled with a light sugar sauce, red cabbage (zelo) in the Czech Republic has its own distinct flavor, which is different to the sauerkraut of the countries nearby. The popular dish cmunda consists of sweetly boiled red cabbage and spicy smoked pork topping a hot potato pancake.
In Czech homes, lunch will often be the main meal of the day. It can start as early as 11.30am. A cold plate of bread, cheese and meat cuts is traditionally popular.
The Czech Republic has a long history of brewing quality beer, especially dark and light lagers. Residents reportedly drink more beer per person than in any other country in the world. Pilsner Urquell and Staropramen are two very successful Czech brands. Lagers are normally on tap. Very few ales are produced in the Czech Republic, and bottled beers are a rarity. Wine is more expensive to buy than beer.
South Bohemia is home to the Budweiser Budvar Brewery, which has long been in dispute with US producer Anheuser-Busch over the name Budweiser. The beers produced in the two countries are very different.
If you are dining out in Prague, there is an endless supply of eateries to meet all budgets and tastes. Many restaurants serve traditional Czech foods. However, there is a healthy array of restaurants offering something different, such as quality French food or Chinese, Thai and Indian cuisines. Several restaurants and cafes cater for vegetarian and vegan clients.
Top of the range upmarket restaurants will charge premium prices which can run into hundreds of CZK (the local currency). Cheap eateries serve heaped plates of food at a very affordable price, especially if you order the dish of the day, which is typically served until 4pm, when the al a carte menu takes over. Menus will often be in Czech only, so translation services on your smartphone will come in handy, especially to work out what the dish of the day is.
Delicatessens, pastry shops and cafeterias offer food and drink to clients throughout the day. Light lunches, including soup and sandwiches, desserts and ice cream are typical menu items. Good quality coffee is readily found.
Trdlenik can be found served from shops and stalls. This consists of dough is rolled onto a stick, grilled, covered in sugar, and then topped with the flavour of your choice. Eaten on the go, this is a very inexpensive treat.
A number of microbreweries offer a comfortable and relaxed environment in which to eat and drink. The prices are normally reasonable, and can sometimes cost less than buying a soft drink.
Prices at the riverside and all popular tourist squares will be higher than elsewhere in Prague and beyond. If there is a good view from the premises, and if the menu is in English, it is likely the cost of the food will be higher. Many of these establishments will be open all day, with the kitchen closing sometime between 9am and 10am.
Eating out in the Czech Republic is not easy when you are a vegetarian or vegan, but there are more options than in some other European countries. Most of the traditional meals are centred around meat, and the dish of the day will never include a vegetarian option. But ethnic food serving vegetable dishes can be found in cities, and vegetarian restaurants have been slowly opening up over the past few years. Dhaba Beas, for example, has a number of branches serving freshly cooked food based on North Indian recipes at affordable prices. Loving Hut serves buffet and al la carte items from several Prague outlets.
In 2017, the Czech Republic banned smoking in indoor public areas. Some restaurants had already voluntarily implemented no smoking policies on their premises. However, 28 percent of the population of the Czech Republic smokes, which is above the European average. There was great debate over a number of years about parliamentary action to ban smoking from all pubs and restaurants before the laws were finally passed.
Traditionally, tipping was not part of the culture in the Czech Republic. But with mass tourism, times have changed. Many restaurants will add a service charge to the bill, and in these cases, no further tip is expected. However, if no service charge has been added, then a cash tip of between 10-15 percent should be given to the member of staff who served you. Service standards are different to that normally delivered in the US, with staff typically more reserved and serious. It is worth bearing this cultural difference in mind if you think the staff are not serving with the enthusiasm you may be used in your native culture.
If you are using a taxi to get home after a meal, the driver will not take a tip for granted. However, they will be pleased if you say you would like to round the far up.
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