For almost 100 years, Jan Paukert deli served signature open-faced sandwiches (chlebičky) from its famous Národní Street location. Looming bankruptcy and health code violations led to its closing last year, but a new eatery bearing the Paukert name quietly re-opened in a Karlín a office park in late 2015.
The brand has been acquired by a trio of investors who aim to franchise their concept bistro throughout Prague and the Czech Republic. The new Jan Paukert, complete with table-top ordering system (not working on our visit) bears little resemblance visually to its First Republic predecessor, although a timeline of famous patrons, including T.G. Masaryk and Václav Havel, has been implemented into the decor.
With its vast cases of chlebičky and confectionery counter, the former lahůdky was a nice spot for introducing visitors to the local cuisine. But if you seek a slice of veka bread with a mountain of potato salad and salami, you won’t find it here. Like everything else, the one-bite wonder invented by Paukert has gone upmarket with toppings like blue cheese and plum decking out massive slabs of sourdough.
For anyone who recalls the dumpling-and-sauce canteen of the former establishment, the food here is a vast improvement: my dilled tilapia on a bed of puy lentils (145 CZK) was well-made and fresh, my lunch companions enjoyed their hearty lasagne bolognese (135 CZK), though wished there was a lot more of it.
The meatless options (potato soup and halušky) were sold out before 1pm and the lone vegetarian among us patiently tackled a large bowl of lentil salad (40 CZK) and an open-faced egg salad sandwich (35 CZK).
Pre-packaged salads and sandwiches are there for the office set and, in an interesting twist, the place has bagel sandwiches with lox or roast beef, though good luck trying to buy a plain bagel (I succeeded and must say that the poppyseed bagel was a delight; if only they would sell them at quantity with the other bakery items)!
The new Paukert, split into a restaurant, bakery, and open kitchen, is already winning notice for its slick modern design. It has just started serving dinner, though given its Rohanské nábřeží address, pulling in foot traffic seems all but impossible.
We left feeling a bit nostalgic (and a bit hungry!) for bygone chlebičky, though hopeful that if expansion is in the works, Jan Paukert, even in its modern incarnation, will live on in a more convenient location.