During these cold and dreary global pandemic days nourishment can come in many forms: a hot cup of tea, a good book, or, for those who are venturing out of the office for breakfast or lunch, a quick-and-easy meal that can be enjoyed in solitude from a single container.
If the latter is what you’re craving and you happen to work in Karlín you’ll be happy to discover — as we were — a newly opened lunch (and breakfast) counter that’s devoted to the most wholesome food you can think of: oatmeal.
Opened just a few months ago near the busy Křižíkova metro plaza, The Oat Bar is a small window-front cafe tucked into an office building on Thámova street.
It’s got just five or six seats and an equally limited menu. But what it lacks in expansiveness the The Oat Bar makes up for in the bold yet comforting flavors found in its sweet and savory oatmeals and oat-based desserts.
The venture is owned by Hungarian expat Anita who moved to Prague six years ago to work in marketing but eventually ditched her job and went traveling for six months instead. Her trip inspired a complete shift in career gears.
“I’ve always been a foodie and very much into healthy lifestyle, so the direction was kinda given,” says Anita. Looking to create something of value on the Prague food map, she settled on organic whole-wheat groats, which she considers the perfect blank culinary palette.
“It can be eaten like rice or any other porridge, a very variable food to play with,” she says.
While Czechs share a semolina porridge tradition with Hungarians, as well as a love of ovesná kaše topped with fruit and cocoa or cinnamon, Hungarian culinary tradition often incorporates tangy add-ins like sheep’s milk cheese and sausage into its porridges and polentas. But Anita says The Oat Bar’s menu wasn’t specifically influenced by any one culture.
“I wanted to shake up the boring childhood oatmeal recipes and also create a menu that is actually healthy,” she says, adding “I was looking for interesting options for locals like our goat cheese-beetroot-pistachio savory oatmeal; Czechs seem to like this taste combination.”
Across multiple lunchtime visits we sampled several of the savory oatmeals including a “TexMex” with guacamole, bacon, and cheddar as well as the aforementioned goat cheese with beetroot, pistachio, chives and olive oil. Fresh and well made, both varieties hit the spot.
The sweet oatmeal offerings include an apple-pie oatmeal with steel cut oats, handmade house granola, organic apple sauce, and cinnamon. We also tried oats with homemade peanut butter, banana, and chocolate.
All oatmeal bowls are customizable and, if you’re choosing from the sweet menu, oats can be substituted for farm-fresh skyr, another unique item on The Oat Bar’s menu.
“Skyr, which is by the Icelandic definition cheese,” says Anita, “is even more nutritious than yogurt and full of protein and nutrients.” She first tried it in Iceland where her boyfriend is from and says she fell in love there twice. “After that I couldn’t find a [store-bought] skyr in Prague of the same quality so I looked to a local farm.”
The entrepreneur developed a skyr recipe together with a Czech farm resulting in the creamy organic product served exclusively at The Oat Bar.
On one of our visits we tried skyr — the large portion was so filling we had difficulty finishing it — with cream, granola, and raspberry jam.
The Oat Bar’s oat-based baked goods — granola bars, oatmeal “bliss balls,” and sweet and salty peanut butter bars made with bio chocolate and sweetened only with dates — are equally difficult to resist. Other desserts include a rotating menu of skyr cakes with an oaty base, sprinkled with everything from blueberries to chocolate chips.
“I make all the sauces and all desserts in-house fresh every day mainly from organic and bio ingredients without using white sugar or flour,” says Anita of what she calls her “clean food concept.”
The concept seems to work well for the Karlín which she says is a vibrant location that’s perfect for her target group. “It’s cosmopolitan enough to accept such a new-wave concept and needs more healthy options for takeaway,” she says.
Surges in customers take place in the mornings and early afternoons (on one of our visits it was so busy there was no seating available). But if you can find a spot it’s a shame not to eat in — the oatmeal is served in deep, beautifully painted ceramic bowls.
Future plans include possible cooperation with gyms, delivery apps, and catering, but Anita says at this point the most important thing is to “sow my oats and have more and more happy customers so our base can grow.”
What’s your favorite breakfast, brunch, or lunch spot in Karlín?