Jeff and I have gone out for a typical Czech lunch a few times lately. Many restaurants in Prague and elsewhere in the Czech Republic have a special lunch menu (usually called polední menu), which is valid during a specific time period – e.g. from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. – and consists of a limited number of menu items that are often smaller in quantity and cheap. Very cheap. You can get a full meal for under 100 CZK (3 – 4 EUR, 4 – 5 USD) even if the restaurant charges two or three times more for a dinner course. The point is to attract people from nearby offices to come down on their lunch break. The lunch menu usually changes during the week, so you don’t find the same selection every day.
Some restaurants keep their lunch menus focused on the cuisine in which they specialize. For example the lunch menu of a Thai restaurant may consist of smaller and cheaper versions of pad thai or curry dishes. Others follow the Czech tradition and create menus that include popular Czech standbies like roast pork with dumplings and sauerkraut, goulash, Viener schnitzel with boiled potatoes, meatloaf with mashed potatoes, fried cheese with fries, fried mushrooms with fries, fried cauliflower with fries… And soup. Czechs love their soup and the chefs know it.
I had my fair share of these typical Czech lunches back when I had a nine-to-five job in the Old Town. I’ve eaten fried mushrooms with fries too many times. But that was ten years ago and I’ve almost forgotten about the convenience and comfort of a quick Czech lunch. The steaming soup is brought to your table two minutes after you order it, the beer is nice and fresh and the pork chops with rice taste exactly how you remember them from your school cafeteria.
Jeff and I have decided to explore the restaurants in our neighborhood and see what their lunches are like. So far we have made several promising discoveries. I’m starting to wonder, why cook at home when you can get a perfectly fine meal AND fresh beer at a restaurant, you don’t have to do the dishes, and the soup costs 70 cents?
(The bill in the picture above is for two soups, a 0.3 liter Hoegaarden beer, a mineral water and two main courses. The total came to 193 CZK – about 9 USD/7 EUR).