We're back from two weeks in Prague, Krakow and Vienna and are happy to report that we had an absolutely amazing time. Many thanks to the Chowhounds who posted in my threads and others. Our experiences were a mix of great recommendations, a couple of travel books, a couple of TV shows and just our random wanderings and gut instincts. We didn't have a bad meal and almost every meal was great.
Also, while this is a loooong trip report, my wife is also working through the trip on her blog (with many pictures!) but in more bite-sized chunks. Her blog is called Tasty Trix, in case your curious. We did photograph pretty much every thing we ate and drank but obviously there's going to be lot of work involved processing all those shots. Anyway, on to the report!
VIENNA (a short stopover) and PRAGUE:
Our itinerary dropped us in Vienna for lunch with my mom who retired there earlier this year before training it to Prague. While Chowhound extraordinaire Sturmi suggested ditching the immediate area around Wien Meidling for more meal-worthy areas, there is no luggage storage at that smaller station and one of our luggage wheels was already broken, so we settled on GASTHAUS AßMAYERECK, which was just what we needed: A total neighborhood joint with solid food and cold beer. I had their special which was served in a skillet with dumplings, sausage, eierknockerl, white creamy sauce and a really, really fresh fried egg on top. My wife got a burger, which cracked me up since (a) it's an uncharacteristic choice and (b) the last time we were in Vienna we were almost vegetarian, but I guess the long flight left her needing something hearty. Anyway, it was a really good burger. We also split a rich and stomach-warming leben knodel soup. After being warned that the neighborhood was a culinary wasteland we were glad to have found such a place. Does a Chowhound need to go out of their way to eat there? Probably not, but if you have time to kill before a train you can rest assured that their beer is cold and their food is tasty.
Satisfied with our hearty lunch we hopped the train to Prague. On arrival we checked walked up Wenceslas Square to the old town (utterly destroying the busted wheel on the luggage), checked into our outstanding pension (The Green Garland) and headed out to Dlouha street for what we decided would be our first meal: LOKAL. We wanted to start there because it's traditional Czech food but in what we'd read was a slightly easier to navigate setting: Friendly, young staff, sleeker room. We wanted to ease into what we thought might be a tough-to-penetrate local food scene.
Lokal was terrific. The big barrel-shaped pilsners were ice cold and boldly, richly bitter. We split a plate of three spicy sausages with mustard (a subtle heat and a lovely, seasoned flavor) and Prague ham with horseradish cream. This was one of our favorite dishes of the trip with its paper-thin slices of melt-in-your-mouth ham and the bite of the horseradish. I love any society that values horseradish.
We then had a plate of goulash with bread dumplings and roast beef in carrot cream sauce with cranberry. The rich goluash sauce accompanied tender beef that was portioned out very reasonably: No unnecessary monster piles of food here. I particularly loved the bread dumplings, which I discovered were really more like compressed slices of steamed bread. Good thing I liked them since they were on a lot of the plates that we got over the next week. The roast beef was a more original flavor for us since the sweetness of the sauce was unexpected. Both dishes were exactly what we wanted. We put Lokal on our mental list for a possible return visit and headed back to the hotel to pass out.