Kampa Park (Na Kampe 8b, Prague 1; tel. 296-826-112)
On a warm evening in summer, Kampa Park's idyllic riverside setting will be etched in your memory for a long time to come. The food and service are pretty spectacular too, but give the place a pass if you can't book on the terrace since there's better value to be had elsewhere.
Pálffy Palác (Valdstejnská 14, Prague 1; tel. 257-530-522)
This renovated baroque townhouse restaurant is a Prague institution. The hardest part may be deciding where to sit: the luxurious main room feels like a dinner with Louis XIV, but the outdoor terrace floats just below Prague Castle and has striking views.
La Degustation (Hastalská 18, Prague 1; tel. 222-311-234)
How could you ever forget a full seven-course meal that seems to unfold without end over a long evening, interspersed with unexpected appetizers and bottles and bottles of wine? It's a meal you'll talk about for years to come.
Kavárna Obecní dum (námestí Republiky 5, Prague 1; tel. 222-002-763)
This reinvigorated Art Nouveau cafe at the Municipal House has re-created the grandeur of Jazz Age afternoons.
Bellevue (Smetanovo nábrezí 18, Prague 1; tel. 222-221-443)
This is the best spot for an important lunch or dinner. It has artful international fare and impeccable business-friendly service, with a cozy atmosphere and super views near Charles Bridge.
Angel (V kolkovne 7, Prague 1 tel. 773-222-422)
Star chef Sofia Smith will have you coming back again and again for her alchemistic concoctions of Asian spices and central European staples such as lamb shank, pork belly, and duck. Angel's 2008 opening was the culinary event of the year and it's only gotten better since.
Bakeshop (Kozí 1, Prague 1 tel. 222-316-823)
Yes, it's pricey for a bakery, particularly one in central Europe, but who can resist those loaves of sourdough bread, muffins straight from the oven, cookies, and brownies, not to mention the range of lunch items like sandwiches, salads, and big bowls of chili? Eat at the counter along the window or take it with you.
This is a tough call, but if you're into Michelin stars, give Allegro (tel. 221-427-000) in the Four Seasons Hotel a try. A big drop in price, but only a modest decline in quality, Angel (tel. 773-222-422) offers memorable Asian-inspired meals at prices that, while not cheap, are at least within range.
Best Fancy Italian
There's only one real game in town when it comes to the best Italy has to offer: Aromi (tel. 222-713-222) in Vinohrady. Come for dinner or for a remarkably good value lunch special on the terrace.
Best Czech Cuisine
In an intricate flower-embellished setting, U modré kachnicky (tel. 257-320-308) brings delicacy to Czech fare, including savvy spins on heavy sauces and wild game.
Best Pub Gulás (Goulash)
Old Town's boisterous U Vejvodu (tel. 224-219-999) dishes out a fine spicy goulash along with Pilsner Urquell.
Best All-You-Can-Eat Buffet
I don't know how they make any money on this, but the antipasto buffet at Pizza Nuova (tel. 221-803-308), next to Kotva, is filled with mouthwatering grilled vegetables, meats, cheeses, and fish. Add all the fresh bread and salad you can eat for just 285Kc.
Best Bar Food
It's loud and crude and filled with a boisterous mix of traveling Americans and Czechs bingeing after work, but Jáma (tel. 224-222-383) in Nové Mesto has, hands down, Prague's best bacon cheeseburger.
The appropriately named Sushi Bar (tel. 603-244-882) at the southern edge of Malá Strana consistently offers the freshest sushi in a town in the grips of a sushi craze.
Bohemia Bagel (tel. 257-218-192) at Lázenská in Malá Strana and on Masná Street in Staré Mesto (tel. 224-812-560) has filled what was a curious vacuum.
Best Hot Dog
Párek v rohlíku (hot dog in a roll) is a popular street food, and arguably the best in town are to be found at the little stand on Námestí Míru square. When strolling around Vinohrady, take a break here. There are plenty of benches.
There are now a few kosher places around the Jewish Quarter but the King Solomon Restaurant (tel. 224-818-752), across from the Pinkas Synagogue, gets it right.
Best for Kids/Best Pizza
You can please the kids and satisfy your own cravings at Pizzeria Rugantino (tel. 222-318-172), a friendly and energetic Old Town room run by an Italian family that loves kids.
Best for Vegetarians
The venerable Radost FX Café (tel. 603-181-500) still dishes out veggie burgers, burritos, and salads to the trendy postclub crowd until 5am.
The Best Beers
I can hear the catcalls already. Yes, this is the biggest brewer in the country (it's a little like choosing "Budweiser" as the best American beer), but Pilsner Urquell really might be the Czechs' best. It still wins lots of national beer prizes and the signature bitter taste and smooth follow-through of its main 12-degree lager sets the standard for beers around the world.
Possibly my personal favorite, since I like beers to have a slightly sweet (but not too much so) taste. By the way (and no slight to the good folks in St. Louis, Missouri), this is the original "Budweiser" and hails from Ceské Budejovice (known as "Budweis" in German).
Prague's home brewery would never have made this list in the old days -- the quality was too inconsistent. But "Staro" is now owned by the giant InBev group (which also owns Bass Ale and Stella Artois, among other big names) and surprisingly it's gotten better, not worse.
This bitter brew has long been a favorite of Prague's rowdy expat drinkers, who admire the brand's signature label depicting a goat just as much as the taste. Now Kozel is owned by the Pilsner Urquell group and has lost a little of its cachet. The standard Kozel golden lager seems to be getting harder and harder to find, but the very good Kozel dark is available at nearly all Pilsner Urquell pubs.
This is another decidedly bitter brew that seems to divide beer drinkers down the middle between those who love it and those who can only tolerate it. Count me among the former. It's brewed in the middle of hop country and seems to taste all the fresher for it.
Naturally, this list could go on and on and doesn't even begin to crack the smaller regional breweries, of which there are nearly 100 around the country. To find a good selection of hard-to-find bottles from smaller brewers, check out Galerie Piva in Malá Strana.
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