When I lived in New York for a time in the 90s, I frequented for lunch neighborhood soup stands that offered brown bags of soup, a hunk of bread, and a cookie to-go. Such places were at one point immortalized in another mid-90s institution, the American sitcom Seinfeld. Remember the infamous soup Nazi episode? While I can’t say I miss the frantic noon rush and head shots of celebrity clientele, I’ve often found Prague’s lunch spots lacking in wholesome, warming take-away options that taste like they were made at home rather than bought on the fly. But a handful of Prague cafes have caught onto the soup-bread-cookie (yes, even a cookie!) phenomenon. In just about every corner of the city it’s possible to get a quick bowl of soup—and not just the brothy traditional Czech variety; soup that when paired with bread counts as a meal. We tried:
Polévkárna has one of the best assortments we came across.
It doesn’t hurt that the “soup cafe” with its patio furniture and gingham-checked walls, smells as spicy and feels as comfy as your grandmother’s kitchen.
Order a small (36 CZK) or large (57 CZK) bowl of soup, which arrives in pale blue crockery, bread not included. At 35 CZK the homemade bread selection seemed on the high end at first, but the enormous triangle of buttery flatbread that came out, akin to naan, was well worth it. Despite the fact that we arrived early, the borscht with beef and cream had already disappeared. But the excellent chicken tarragon, small bits of chicken and diced potatoes in a thick, tomato-based soup festooned with herbs, made up for it.
We also ordered the Moroccan harira soup. Packed with chickpeas and lentils and imbued with a fiery flavor and sprinkled with a spoonful of fresh cilantro, it was more of a stew than a soup. Homemade fruit-and-raisin cookies (15 CZK) were on offer alongside a selection of healthy salads. The menu is posted daily on Polévkárna’s Facebook page.
Sokolovská 97, 180 00, Praha 8
Open: Monday–Friday 7:30–18:00
Situated on a Holešovice side street, its out-of-the-way location probably isn’t doing this diminutive dining establishment any favors. Cluttered with Provençal kitsch and enlivened by a Cuban jazz soundtrack, the proprietors may have their motifs mixed up, but not their recipes for flavorful, warming soup.
Two long wooden tables along one wall and a single cafe table in the center of the room comprise the narrow dining area. We chose from a slim menu of chicken broth (29 CZK), bacon and bean (39 CZK), Mexican corn (39 CZK) and Moroccan couscous (49 CZK). The soups come in just one size, a generous bowl, and a mixed bread basket of chewy chléb and rohlíky is included in the price. The Mexican corn was, in fact, a sweet corn chowder revved up with red pepper and served with a swirl of cream. Flecked with pieces of smoked bacon and loaded with lentils and parsley, the thick bacon and bean is also recommended. Certainly a great value and we noticed a number of locals stopping by for take-out orders—hopefully, for Dobrá polévka, the word is spreading.
Na Maninách 9, 17000, Praha 7
Open: Monday–Thursday 7:30–17:00/ Friday 7:30–16:00
The perfect place for warming up with a bowl of soup in central Prague, Home Kitchen dishes up a daily menu of soups, salads, and small plates, made with fresh seasonal items and great skill by the accommodating and, dare I say, handsome staff. All of this in urban farmhouse surrounds—communal wooden tables, pepper plants in punched tin planters, and an oversized hutch stocked with massive loaves of herb-crusted bread. We arrived late in the day and missed out on the cream of pea soup with mint, but a cup of the cream of celery with bacon, potatoes, and parsley (50 CZK) hit the spot.
Soup orders come with several shards of sourdough and your choice of flavored olive oil; the fragrant garlic oil we chose combined well with the rich, smoky soup. Home Kitchen isn’t notable just for its soups. You’ll probably want to stay and linger over coffee or wine and dessert in this inviting eatery.
Jungmannova 8, 110 00, Praha 1
Open: Monday–Friday 7:30–19:00/Saturday 8:30–15:00
Polévka je Grund
I’ve always been curious about jídelna, those old-school Czech cafeteria-style places that serve all manner of Czech favorites from goulash to meatloaf in an atmosphere that’s about as spirited as a government office.
Luckily for me, Polévka je Grund is sort of a jídelna for beginners. Not just a soup joint, the menu here runs the gamut of Czech classics, and there’s a stern-faced cashier and diners hunched over steaming bowls and plates. But it’s clean and brightly painted and you can actually see through the smudge-free windows. Moreover, the soup is cheap and quite good. Available in sizable small (29 CZK) or large (39 CZK) bowls, we tasted the spinach-cream and garlic soups.
The flavorful spinach-cream combo was bolstered by pepper, and tiny pearls of gnocchi surfaced upon stirring. Nothing special, the garlic soup came topped with stale but homemade brown-and-white croutons. Two long, salted wholewheat rohlíky added an additional 8 CZK to the tab.
Myslíkova 29, 110 00, Praha 1
Open: Monday–Friday 8–18:00
Bistro Soup & Salad
Truly the definition of a soup counter, with just a few tables for leaning against occupying this cramped space, and a menu of standards (goulash, potato cream, bean, garlic) served in medium to-go coffee cups.
We sipped a traditional goulash soup (24 CZK), a nice beefy blend of onion, potatoes, tomato, and paprika while eavesdropping on a pair of tourists who seemed rather overwhelmed by the product if their loud ooh-ing and aah-ing (and slurping) was any indication.
Bistro Soup & Salad probably shines least for its soups, though. Neatly packaged take-away salads of pasta, couscous and veggies, fresh squeezed juices, quiche, and cakes make this fairly new establishment a good bet for a weekend snack in tourist-central or lunch for those who work in the area.
For dessert we recommend the cherry tiramisu (33 CZK) with Czech piškoty in place of lady fingers.
Újezd 46, 11800, Praha 1
Open: Monday–Friday: 8:00–18:00/Saturday: 10:00–16:00
I always want to like Culinaria. I like the location and the promise of food and groceries that remind me of home. But like most “American-style” places in Prague that cater to the so-called expat community, I’m always disappointed by something or other. This time it was the soup. The website bills the small station of three soup choices as a “soup” bar, though it isn’t self service and when we visited there were only two varieties available: tomato and cream of chicken, 50 CZK each, which you can dress with tiny croutons. The portion was generous and the flavor was fine; the tomato skewed brothy rather than creamy and the chicken came accented with peas. Still, if there’s anything worse than unintentionally cold soup, it’s tepid soup.
Skořepka 9, 11000, Praha 1
Open: Monday–Saturday 10:00–19:00/Sunday 12:00–17:00
So, where do you go for soup in Prague?
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