I’ve been dancing around this topic for a while. And I feel like every time it comes up in conversation, I’m misunderstood. So allow me to properly elaborate on why I think Czech food is terrible.
When I say Czech food sucks, I actually don’t mean Czech food. Traditional Czech cuisine consists of potatoes or bread, often in dumpling form, served with some kind of meat, like sausage, beef, or pork. Sometimes the meat is swimming in goulash soup, sometimes it’s served as a whole duck.
And actually, I think that food is delicious. I love meat and I love potatoes and cabbage. And now that we’re hitting freezing temperatures, those heavy meals make a lot of sense. The problem with that kind of food is that it’s heavier than eating brick. And I don’t know if Czechs do it, but I can’t eat like that every day. I can’t even eat like that once a day.
Non-Czech food made in the Czech Republic
My problem with food in Prague is that when they’re not making delicious pillowy bread dumplings and a steaming pot of meat and gravy, their food is garbage.
The first time I ever came to Prague, long before I ever dreamed of living here, my friend and I went to a Simpsons-themed restaurant. They didn’t have an English menu (six years later, they still don’t have an English menu) so we pointed and hoped for the best. We got a grilled chicken breast covered in white cheese and topped with half a peach.
What. The. Fuck. Is. That.
I also distinctly remember going to KFC on that trip and thinking that the chicken tasted like it came from grandma’s attic. Nowadays I actually don’t think KFC is that bad compared to what I usually eat.
“Um, that’s not what food tastes like.”
I understand that the Czechs had nothing for a long time and they learned to make do with whatever they had. But big deal. Go eat real Cuban food and then give me that excuse. I also understand that they have different sensibilities so maybe they like their ketchup with cinnamon in it. But if you’re going to make Italian pizza or American hamburgers, shouldn’t you adopt the style? I mean ketchup is ketchup. You don’t even have to do anything to it. Just serve it out of the Heinz bottle. Why would you flavor it? FYI you also can’t serve tomato puree and call it ketchup.
My biggest gripe with food in the Czech Republic is that it simply doesn’t taste like anything it’s supposed to be. Take Alfredo pasta, for instance. Alfredo sauce has a very specific taste. If you make Alfredo pasta, it should taste like Alfredo sauce, not mayonnaise. And when I taste mayonnaise, I have to question what the hell is wrong with these people. You can’t just approximate the color and consistency with whatever was in the back of the fridge and call it Alfredo!
Czech food prep is lazy
I go out to eat because I don’t cook. But I don’t want to eat something that looks like some nasty concoction I would make at home. You’ll see it in the grocery stores, fast food places, and sometimes even restaurants: slices of meat and cheese draped over bread and pizza. Would it hurt to shred it? At least make it look appetizing. As much as I love cheese, seeing a stale piece of bread with a slice of cheese crusted on it makes me want to go on a hunger strike.
Not all the food is bad… only anything affordable
One of the most common responses to my complaints that I’m starving here is that not all the food is bad. And that’s true. The problem is that it’s hard to find cheap food that is good. If I had enough money to go out to a Zagat-rated restaurant every night, I would have no complaints. But I live here. So occasionally I pick up something from a place nearby. And there’s a 2 in 3 chance that it’ll be gross.
As expensive as a city like Miami is, for instance, you can go to great pricey restaurants, or you can spend $4 at a local cafeteria and eat like a king. That doesn’t exist here. Food that is cheap is also bad. If I want good Mexican food in Prague, I have to go to a nice restaurant and shell out US prices for quesadillas. Thankfully, there is good Mexican food. They speak to me in Spanish when I go to Las Adelitas, and I want to kiss them on the mouth.
But if I want our version of Chipotle, I’m going to eat dog food with salsa. (Whatever, I still love Burrito Loco. I’m not even ashamed.)
And the worst part is, you can go to a nice expensive restaurant and still be disappointed. Because you can invest a lot on chandeliers and leather booths, but the people in the kitchen are still going to be making crappy Czech imitations of better food like 50% of the time.
The Czech Republic is a great place to have cocktails and coffee. But if you’re in the market for a decent meal, good luck. On the bright side, the culinary shortcomings also make it a great place to learn to cook.