It’s easy to OD on museums, castles, and cathedrals in Europe. But I must eat every day, and when I don’t have to prepare it and it doesn’t cost too much, then call me a happy glamper. We rarely eat out in Switzerland, mostly because of the cost, but also because I haven’t been tempted by too many restaurants.
However, our ten days in Central Europe were a perfect excuse for eating out, eating well, and eating inexpensively. The Czech Republic is known for its beer, otherwise known as liquid bread. As soon as you sit down, they want to know what you’ll have to drink. The food comes as a second thought. Without overwhelming choices, I usually ordered “a dark beer, please.” That meant a half-liter of deliciousness. For usually around 39 CZK or about $1.60, I could be happy for the whole meal.
We enjoyed our Czech Budweiser, not to be confused with Anheuser-Busch brand. Read about the differences here.
In this restaurant we also ate some of the best dumplings, ever. It was our last day in Prague, and without any dumplings to that point I became obstinate in my request to find a restaurant with some. One restaurant we went to had them on the menu, but wouldn’t let us order any. I’m not sure why. I ordered a chicken dish, and then requested a side order of potato dumplings. No, I was told, you can have mashed potatoes, but no dumplings. It reminded me of Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi. “No Dumplings for YOU!”
These little gems, when I finally got them, were worth the wait. Filled with ham, they sit on a bed of cabbage, sweet cabbage with fried onions on top. Drool.
Czech food is heavy on the meat and one of my friends here recommended a Buddhist restaurant called Clear Head when we felt too full of Fleisch. Accompanying the soup of the day (tofu and mushrooms) and the vegetarian burrito, we sipped warm cups of mead – a honey wine – that left us feeling completely satisfied.
It’s tucked away on a side street, but worth the search.
A meal that came with a good story is the one I ordered in the Budapest Central Market Hall. After we pushed our way through the throngs of people (how we judge whether we should eat any place is by how crowded it is…), I started pointing to what I wanted as fillers in this savory crepe. I was easily swayed by the man who put it together for me and said “yes” to many items.
Here he is putting it all together to grill.
About $20 and a very heavy plate later, I carried off something that lasted for several meals and part of one blog post. It was not easy to eat, and the leftovers not easy to carry around. I recommend sticking to 3-4 items as fillers.
H had the more traditional Lángos and shared a bite with me. I don’t think his came anywhere near $20, and it was just as good as mine. Next time, I will know better and have one of those.
Hungary is not the beer-drinking country that the Czech Republic is. It is more of a wine place, but I also tried the traditional Pálinka, a fruit brandy, in the plum variety.
Two days in Budapest was not nearly enough to sample the various foods. Next time, more days.