Sunday, March 16, 2008

Date Night #13 - At the Tomcat

Date Night 13
-March 3, 2008
Temperature: High - 50 °F/10 °C; Low - 35 °F/2 °C
Location: Pubs in Prague's "Mala Strana." (Click here for map)

The Mala Strana neighborhood at the foot of Prague castle is normally bustling with tourists - but this Sunday night, it was strangely quiet. Prague minus the tourists is a rare, and almost magical experience. If you time it just right, you can have the place almost to yourself, as we did tonight. Lamplights glistened on the cobblestones, and our footsteps echoed in the narrow alleyways snaking between the ancient buildings. The very oldest building in the United States would probably count as "recent construction" in this part of town, where the average building is over four hundred years old. A few steps off the main street, and you're transported back in time!

We had a hankering for good Czech "soul food" the other night, and figured that a real Czech pub would hit the spot. Despite being located smack dab in the middle of Prague "tourist central", most pubs in Mala Strana neighborhood are the real thing - hard wooden chairs, a simple menu heavy with dumplings and pork, cheep beer, and an ice hockey game blaring on the TV. Taking furtive peeks at our tourist guidebook, we headed first to "U Hrocha" (at the Hippo). Unfortunately, the four tables of the hippo were already full, so we wandered down the alleyway to "U Kocoura" (at the Tomcat).

We quickly settled on plates of ham and pork, piled with dumplings, cheese and cabbage. The bill is calculated on a slip of paper on your table. The price for each item gets jotted down as your order is taken. You use a shorthand for beer - a quick hash-mark on a horizontal line each time another 1/2 liter is dropped off. Non-smoking dining is a concept that hasn't yet reached the Czech Republic, especially in Czech pubs. But the food was good, the Bernard Beer excellent, and the ambiance a slice of real Czech life. Total damage? Just under 300 Crowns ($18)

We moved on for desert to U Kostela (at the Cathedral) at Malostranska Namesti just a couple blocks away. This place had a live pianist, and decent deserts and coffee, but it was a definite tourist trap, and its prices proved it! We paid as much for desert as we did for our entire pub dinner! Another date night on the books - so many places to visit - so little time!

No comments: