Dining Out: Stejkárna

The Bubeneč branch of this Prague steakhouse pleases with prime cuts (but hold the sauce!)

Stejkárna

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Long before the gourmet burger came onto the scene, it became de riguer for Prague pubs and restaurants to have a “beefsteak” of some sort of other on their menus – usually for an extortionate price. And all too often those steaks, which can cost in the hundreds of crowns at some places, would be rendered bruised and battered pieces of meat, the afterlife pounded out of them and any hint of juice sucked dry by too much salt.

Building upon this came the high-end steakhouse, such as Cowboys (RIP), Midtown Grill and George Prime Steak, which to varying degrees of success and with a seemingly sky-is-the-limit pricing policy profess to offer a cut above the rest. There is also a middle range of steak places that offer good value, and the aptly named Stejkarna, which has a branch in Bubenec and one in Holešovice, covers this middle ground skillfully enough, except for one glaringly frustrating oversight: overcooking the namesake steaks, despite having an entire page in the menu dedicated to explaining to customers the differences between “rare,” “medium” and well-done.”

The kitchen would do well to give this a glance, as only one of six steaks ordered recently as part of the degustation menu (649 CZK, 600 grams) arrived at the requested medium, with four of the others being decidedly well-done and one, the top blade, blushing away much closer to rare. And we weren’t even asked for any preference for the cheeseburger (229 CZK), which came out an even well-done.

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photo: www.stejkarna.cz

That said, though, dining at Stejkárna was still a pleasant experience. It has a beautiful back garden of seating, with a fountain, lush trees and lamps, and an outdoor bar and grill, presumably for events, and quality is clearly a priority. The restaurant is part of a hotel but manages to keep enough independence in its brand, and indeed, the terraced second floor makes for a quaint backdrop in the leafy garden. Stejkárna’s location, just across from the historic pub Na Slamníku and Stromovka Park just beyond, is also ideal for a late-summer/early autumn visit. Despite a recent rainstorm, the garden was open for business: The staff were quick to dry off tables and offer cushions (and, later, fleece blankets). The soundtrack got a bit tired on a recent evening visit, however: There are only so many times one can listen to the Blur song “Country House” on repeat.

Drinks are reasonably priced, making it a good pit stop after a stroll in the park. Staropramen 11-degree is 37 CZK per half-liter, and one of the house reds is the smooth Cab ernet Morava from Kobylí, one of the wine region’s better red varietals, at 55 CZK per 1.5 dl (the other house red, a Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, is the same price). We also had a Bonaqua (31 CZK for 250 ml).

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photo: www.stejkarna.cz

The menu is concise, with the focus, unsurprisingly, on steaks, with beef from the United States and South America. There are several pork, chicken and salad options, as well, and a pasta and risotto for herbivores. Starters are a bit slim pickings, with just three to choose from: beer tartare (139 CZK, a larger portion of which is available as an entree for 229 CZK), beef carpaccio (149 CZK) and grilled goat cheese (85 CZK).

The latter proved an adequate appetizer, particularly for the price. Grilled to slight melting point over four triangles of crisp white toast, the goat cheese was light and tangy, nicely helped by a cranberry compote. The wedges were served over a pile of lightly balsamic-dressed lettuce.

Chicken wings were a good deal at 139 CZK for a dozen, with a choice of either buffalo, sweet and sour, or BBQ sauce. They were a meaty bunch, and were juicy on the inside and crisp on the outside, with several layers of sauce applied at different stages. We tried the buffalo sauce, which carried a firey, piquant kick that wasted no time on the burn. They were incredibly messy, though, and the bright red sauce stained a beard or two, but were worth it.

The cheeseburger (229 CZK), which comes with real cheddar and quality smokey bacon on the regular menu and a rotating list of other toppings (such as fried egg or grilled hermelin) as a lunch item, was surprisingly good, if hopelessly messy from the heavy slathering of a peppery mustard-mayo mix. The bun was fresh and made a valiant effort at holding up, and the beef was very tasty, with a nice grind to it and a light char flavor. It comes with french fries or steak fries and tartar sauce, and the steak fries in particular were memorable – thick-cut, British-style chips that almost stole the show.

On a separate lunch visit, the lunch burger with grilled hermelín  (149 CZK) was a surprise hit, with the seemingly unlikely combination of beef and mild, soft-ripened cheese. This burger also came with less of the messy sauce, which made it manageable.

Another lunch item proved perfect for a sunny day and would do well on the regular menu: a skewer of bell peppers, onions and beef marinated in a lovely red wine, garlic and tarragon mix. For 149 CZK, it included a side, of which I got the grilled corn on the cob, a lovely full one with char marks and buttery, well-salted kernels.

All of the steak items come with a sauce of choice (the degustation menu comes with two), but none of them left much of an impression – which ended up not being an issue given the flavorful cuts of beef but might be a letdown for anyone looking for a good peppercorn or mushroom sauce. At one instance, we had ordered the BBQ sauce but were brought a bland, creamy herb sauce that was surprisingly indistinguishable from the peppercorn.

The degustation menu was more than enough for two people, and is perfect for sampling the variety of Stejkárna’s cuts: 100 grams each of U.S. top blade, U.S. ball tip, U.S. flank steak, and the South American beefsteak, rib-eye and rumpsteak. The top blade was disappointingly chewy with gristle, but the others shone, in particular the grassy rib-eye and the bouncy rumpsteak, which was cooked to a perfect medium. They were all juicy and expertly salt-and-peppered, and went well with a side of fresh green beans with bacon (45 CZK) and garlicky, sour-cream dolloped roast potato wedges (40 CZK), both of which were large enough to share between two people.

Not everything at Stejkárna is perfect, but it works out to good value (our dinner for four, with a few wines and beers, came out to 1800 CZK), and the garden is one of the nicest in the area. The inside seating area pales in comparison; Stejkárna is just the ticket for an Indian summer’s afternoon of grilled meats, without the hassle of firing up a barbecue in the park.

Stejkárna
Schwaigerova 59/3, Prague 6-Bubeneč
Tel. 220 400 844
Open Mon.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Fri. 11 a.m.-midnight, Sat. noon-midnight, Sun. noon-11 p.m.
Non-smoking

**

Who serves Prague’s best steak?

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