Written by Laura Baranik
Healthy-eating vegetarian newcomers to Prague might feel a lump in their arteries when they discover that their soundest meal choice at the local restaurace is smaženy sýr s tatarkou (fried cheese with mayonnaise). Without doubt, the Czech Republic has a long-standing love affair with all things meaty; you only need to know the meanings of tatarský biftek (steak tartare, or seasoned raw beef), tlačenka (headcheese), and vepřové koleno (pork knee) to know that the passion for maso still burns deep in local hearts. But fear not, soy dependents: Prague has an ever-ripening vegetarian and healthy-lifestyle community, and the restaurants to prove it. Here follows a selection of the Golden City´s best.
This warmly-lit, minimalist north Indian restaurant just off of Old Town Square offers hearty and healthy vegetarian food at rock-bottom prices. 78 Kč will get you a plate of sabji (stewed vegetables), basmati rice, dhal (a stew of beans or lentils), raita (yoghurt sauce), and a small soup and salad; add 15 Kč more and your meal will come with chutney and dessert. If you have a few minutes to wait, try the made-to-order dosas (rice lentil crepes filled with vegetables, 85 Kč) or vegetable fried noodles (73 Kč). Filtered water comes free, but Lavazza coffee, chai, and various fresh juices are also on offer. Take your plate to the serene outdoor courtyard when the weather is warm. Note: Those accustomed to truly spicy Indian cuisine may be a little disappointed by the food´s mild flavoring – most ethnic restaurants in Prague have adapted to suit the more subdued local palate.
Country Life is ideal for those who like to try a little bit of everything – the restaurant is self-service and food is priced according to weight, so you can make your plate as random as you please. The salad bar and hot meals are both 22.90 Kč /100 g, and the food selection varies daily. Soup of the day (20 Kč) and veggie burgers (29.50 Kč or 41.90 Kč, depending on size) are also on offer, as are freshly-squeezed juices and a selection of healthy desserts, including homemade fat-free ice cream. Also check out their chain of health-food stores and their take-out bar at Jungmannova 1.
Soukenická 27, Prague 1
Tel: 224 816 016
Open Mon-Fri 11-17:00
Na Hrázi 5, Prague 8
Tel: 284 823 805
Open Mon-Fri 12-18:00
The first all-vegetarian restaurant in post-Revolution Prague, the Hare Krishna-run Govinda opened its first location at Palmovka in 1991. Since 1993, they´ve also been raking in the lunch crowds at their Prague 1 restaurant with their low-cost and delicious Indian fare. Their changing daily menu features a set lunch of sabji, rice, soup, raita, and chutney (60 Kč small plate, 80 Kč large). The delicious pastry desserts include home-made baklava, chalva, and burfi. Free jugs of water are placed on every table in the homey and simple dining room. Eat downstairs to relax in the light-filled lower level sitting room; incense wafts in from the adjacent Indian boutique, and if you prefer, you can eat cross-legged at one of the low tables.
One of the most recent additions to the Prague vegetarian scene, Lehká Hlava has already gained its fair share of local devotees, who adore its funky space-age design and yummy salads, pastas, and soy dishes. Favorites include the eggplant tartare (90 Kč), tempeh sauté with bulgur risotto (130 Kč), and green tofu salad (125 Kč). For a pleasant jolt to your muddled head, suck down the “Heart Core” juice cocktail (25/35 Kč), a combo of freshly-blended apples, carrots, and ginger. Take your pick of the three small rooms – each with a different décor – or sit pretty in the tiny courtyard´s bamboo grove. Reservations are recommended.
Though this Hradčany hideaway isn´t strictly vegetarian, Malý Buddha deserves veg cred for its flavorful, Asian-influenced non-meat dishes. Much-loved menu items include the colorful vegetable soup with glass noodles (45 Kč) and the excellent vegetarian steamed spring rolls (106 Kč). The atmosphere is warm and cozy – cozier still if you snuggle up next to the Buddha shrine in the candle-lit back alcove. Choose from a wide selection of teas and exotic juices to accompany your meal.
Klub Radost has been a fixture of the Prague club scene since the early 1990s, and its adjoining vegetarian restaurant is no less popular. The décor is funky and the menu is decidedly international, ranging from fettuccine Alfredo (140 Kč) to taco salad (175 Kč) to Thai noodle soup (175 Kč). Brunch served on weekends. Open late.
This tiny, vaguely Asian-influenced all-veg restaurant near the Dejvice post office is certainly sparse, but for those who prefer soy meat to ground beef in their spaghetti Bolognese, Vegetka will definitely do the trick. All of their food is prepared without preservatives, glutamate, or artificial additives. And the prices are more than fair: soy-meat goulash is only 47 Kč, tofu with shiitake mushrooms 69 Kč, and soy balls in sweet and sour sauce 85 Kč.