Prague, Vienna, Budapest Itinerary
Hi all - Thanks for all the helpful posts as I would have been somewhat lost without all the dialogue from CHs (as is typically true when I travel internationally). Would love any thoughts people have on the following options I have for meals in Prague, Vienna and Budapest, where I will be heading in a couple of weeks (for, sadly, far too short of a time). By way of background, girlfriend and I are both 30, live in NY, and are generally looking for Eastern European food (i.e., we can get world-class Italian food at home) with a mix of comfort restaurants and modern at any and all price points. We like places that cater to a bit younger of a crowd, as don't like feeling like we are the only people under 60 at a restaurant. With that as background..
Dinner #1: Lokal, U tri ruzi, or Red Pif
Dinner #2: Le Terroir or Bellevue (worried both of these are a bit too pricy for the quality -- anywhere more in the 40e range that is worthwhile?)
Lunch #1: Stierereck (already booked)
Lunch #2: Rudi's Beisl
Dinner #1: Gasthaus Poschl, Phoenixhof or Ofenloch
Dinner #2: Vestibul, Martin Stein, or Kutschker44
Dinner #3: Freyenstein (most likely) or Mraz and Sohn (probably more $$ than we want to spend)
Dinner #1: Cafe Pierrot or Csalagony 26
Dinner #2: Onyx or Costes
Dinner #3: Bock Bistro, Borkonyha WineKitchen or Rosensteins
Thanks for any further advice in narrowing these down!
I went to Budapest a couple of weeks ago. I ate dinner at Var a speiz, Bock Bistro (Pest) and Csalogany 26. Also had a lunch at Deryné. All bib gourmand mentions of the Michelin guide (best price/value). Csalogany 26 was the best, more refined and polished presentation, professional service. They are clearly working to get that first star. The space and location is somewhat dull though. Bock Bistro ticked more of those Hungarian boxes with hefty portions of meat (I had a roasted goat's leg with a spicy garlicky sauce and creamy buttery mash). Also the mangalitsa pork fat with crispy bacon to spread on the bread was divine. Also service was informal but efficient. Attentive waitstaff not shy of the odd joke. Had a decent beef porkholt with eggy noodles at Deryné but found the service too brisk and snobby. Clearly we didn't fit in with the Hungarian smoking yups on the terrace. Var a speiz was not bad but not particularly Hungarian. I.e. they had a ham flight on the menu that was Spanish and Italian ham. I had a Veal Rossini there that was expertly cooked. Do check out the different kerts as well for some bar hopping.
Sturmi is the "meister" of all things Vienna. I relied on his recommendations for a 2-week visit last September, and I will again when I return at Christmas (a challenging time, to be sure, given that many/most restaurants are closed). He's the man!
I've not been to Prague since 1990, so I'll leave that one to someone else.
Re Budapest: I love Csalogany 26. So much so, in fact, that I went there twice in one day. This year, I'll be observing my birthday there (in December). It's a gem.
- I find it an interesting twist to take lunch in the best place in town (Steirereck) and then take dinner at one of the rather down-to-earth places. Please be assured: Lunch at Steirereck is excellent, but still not as spectacular as their multi-course tasting menu at dinner time. But even after lunch at Steirereck you might rather have just a frugal supper and not a multi-course dinner. For this supper Phönixhof might be the best, since it is a rather simple place for inexpensive and simple food. A great contrast and a real experience for chowhounds !
- Martin Stein is closed. Another victim of the trend to cheap junk food...
- I think you might prefer Freyenstein over Mraz&Son. Mraz gives a rather theatrical presentation of their dishes, but the results pales in comparison to Steirereck. Freyenstein, OTOH, is a real gem, a no-frills ambiente and a simple presentation of perfectly composed dishes. The only drawback: you get what is on the menu, no changes accepted !
Vestibul is a high-end restaurant with prime food in a spectacular setup. A 3-course menu is 55, and a 4 course menu is 69 Euro.
Kutschker44 is a relaxed lounge-style restaurant, with an open range in the middle of the restaurant where you can watch the chef and owner prepare the main course. A 3-course menu is 31.70 Euro, and a 4-course menu is 37.70 ...
The main reason for the difference in prices is the location, but location and ambiente are always part of a dining experience...
If I also may ask you a question related to Vienna. We really want to go to Zum Finstersen Stern, I know you have written in the past how to contact them, but I cannot seem to find that information. Could you tell me again how to make a reservation? They do not seem to have a website.
On the Lokal topic, I prefer the Dlouha location as a non-smoker, the non-smoking section is much larger and not tucked in a back corner where service can suffer, as at the Mala Strana location. But both take reservations and English has never been a problem when I've called... definitely have a reservation.
Continuing with Prague, If you happen to find yourself at the castle and need a snack or drink give U Zavěšenýho Kafe (Úvoz 6) a try. This is a little cafe with some excellent casual food, a decent selection of wine and unfortunately a smoking establishment. You will find it at the top of Nerudova on the way up to the castle, just go past the turn to the castle and its on the right hand side. I highly recommend the venison pate if it's on the specials board.
A great casual pub in the Jewish quarter, with lots of Czech traditional dishes is Kolkovna (V Kolkovně 8), it is a Pilsner Urquell pub so you know the beer will be good, as well as the food. I've found this and it's sister pubs around the country to be the most consistent in food quality.
For Vienna, Phoenixhof is good so long as your expectations are right going in. It's a very local joint, not fancy and service can sometimes be slow if they're busy. The food is excellent but it may not be a "destination" dining spot depending on your expectations.
I'm sure Sturmi will chime in on your Vienna itinerary and provide better feedback.
I would second the Dlouha location of Lokal. Make a reservation and then you won't have to wait. They have an English menu decoder that will help you with the specials on the board - order the smoked tongue and beef cheek goulash if they have it.
Kolkovna was also very good, particularly the goose leg.
For mid-scale, you might try U modre kachnicky http://www.umodrekachnicky.cz/en/orig..., which has two locations. They focus on game dishes. Prices per person are about 1000 Kc including tip.
For Prauge, definitely Lokal. Skip U tri ruzi, red pif. Lokal and U Hrocha are the standouts for traditional Czech food and Lokal has a very cool setting. I would go early, it gets crowded and things sell out... like goulash. Goulash always seems to sell out. After Lokal walk to Vodickova for Patisserie Mysak.
I'd skip Le Terroir and Bellevue. U Hrocha all the way. As opposed to the more modern Lokal, U Hrocha is a very traditional atmosphere. I'd also eat there early, gets crowded and seats very few. After U Hrocha, I'd pick up some dessert at Cafe Savoy. The apple cake is fantastic. The babovka and kolache are really yummy too.
I am also from NY, I would skip upscale in Prague and focus on things that are harder to find in NY.