From the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:
“The History of every major Galactic Civilization tends to pass through three distinct and recognizable phases, those of Survival, Inquiry and Sophistication, otherwise known as the How, Why and Where phases.”For instance, the first phase is characterized by the question “How can we eat?” the second by the question “Why do we eat?” and the third by the question “Where shall we have lunch?”
Where should you eat lunch? When you’re a gluten-free vegetarian, and living in a country like the Czech Republic where bread and meat are staples, you might need some guidance. Also, eating out is a great social thing to do in another country: you get to know about the cuisine and culture, and if you have a dining companion, you’re both spared needing tons of language. Topics will be easy to come by (menu, manners and of course, food!).
Zdrava Basta is a nice spot for lunch. Light and airy inside, it’s typical of Czech restaurants, as they make a few dishes in the morning, and you order from the choices they have. And as luck would have it, one of the co-owners lived in Ohio for five years, and was nice enough to walk me through the menu. They have rotating staples and a visual code to explain what is vegetarian, gluten-free and vegan. I really enjoy their salad, soup and potatoes; plus, they have a juicer for fresh juice. Try the carrot juice— it’s wonderful.
Also off the main square is Bazalka, which I’ve written about before. The one off the main square is actually the smaller one. Though they’re smaller, they carry Czech-style gluten-free pizza, along with pre-made salads, pastries and cookies. Look for the labels that say “bez lepku” (Czech for gluten-free.) In addition, they carry a ton of gluten-free products like flour, bread and snacks, along with tofu and tempeh.
The bigger Bazalka is about a 5 minute walk from Adalbertinum, the bus stop near the city square, and is another great lunch spot. Like Zdrava Basta, they make a set number of dishes in the morning, and you order from their ever-changing line-up. My usual method of ordering: I point to something on the menu, make sure it’s gluten-free, and pay for it, as all their entrees are vegetarian.
If you’re in the mood for a hot lunch that’s heartier than soup and salad, check them out. (Note: There’s also a larger grocery store, with gluten-free, vegetarian and organic products. The restaurant is around the corner from the grocery store, past the car shop, and through the apartment building’s archway.)
If you love pasta (like me) Cook and Look is an excellent stop for lunch— or dinner. Těstovina is Czech for pasta, and the first section on their menu is all pasta with veggies. Make sure you order the gluten-free version— it is a few crowns extra, but worth it. Cook and Look is also off the main square, as is the next restaurant.
Knihomol is Czech for bookworm— and the inside is decorated with books and typewriters. Plus, they have an English menu, which makes ordering a bit easier. They have roasted veggies and a variety of potato dishes, as well as vegetarian pasta dishes (not gluten-free, sadly.)
Salieri Cafe has good salads— I like their take on the cucumber and tomato salad I fell in love with in Turkey. Instead of feta, they use a different cheese, which isn’t as strong, but but a richer, creamier flavor than feta.
Another great salad place is Bazar Cafe. I love the way it’s decorated inside; I love the English menu even more. (Having the menu in both versions helped teach me how to order in Czech, actually.) I’ve tried all of their salads, and they’re all tasty— and since they come with egg and cheese, they’re also filling. (The middle one is a bit spicy.) Plus, they make good potato pancakes.
My final lunch/dinner suggestion is Mexita, which serves both Mexican and Italian food. They have pretty good tacos— and an extensive menu in both Czech, English and German— but one cultural difference: as an American, I’m used to being able to order things the way I want it. Things on the side, substituting this for that. When my Czech dining companion asked the waitress if they could use corn tacos for the veggies burritos, instead of wheat tortillas, she just said no. However, when I grabbed the arm of the passing waiter who spoke English, I managed to talk him into it. (Which is worth noting, if you need something to be gluten-free.)
Which I’m pretty sure is a cultural thing. We’ve all gotten used to Subway’s model of complete control, and when we can’t, we’re baffled. On the flip side, while ordering at Cook and Look, I noticed it took my Czech friend much, much longer than me to order, with much more confusion and explanations. I asked, and apparently, he was really confused when the waitress asked what kind of pasta— spaghetti, fettucine, macaroni— he wanted. Wasn’t the choice already decided by the cook?
I’ve also learned another food ordering trick: frequenting the same places. (This is also by necessity, as they’re aren’t tons of vegetarian restaurants here.) More importantly, after I’ve been to a place a few times, the restaurant staff seems much more happy to deal with my terrible Czech and hand gestures.
Also: all of these places have the advantage of being near Adalbertinum, the main stop near the town square.
One note: while both Salier Cafe, Knihomol, and Bazar Cafe have great food, they also allow smoking. As a former smoker, I immediately take my clothes and fling them into the laundry bag when I get home. However, Bazar Cafe does have outdoor seating.