Isaac Starobin came to Prague 10 years ago. “I was working as a chef in New York and had always wanted to live abroad, but I was totally focused on my career and it seemed absurd to drop everything and disappear,” he says.
Like many of us, Starobin intended to stay in Prague for just six months but, “One thing led to another and I’m here.”
Prague’s expat community is certainly glad he stayed. The young chef’s initial foray into the city’s culinary scene, Vinohrady cocktail bar Dirty Dog, morphed into a thriving catering business and one of the city’s first burger stands, a true pioneer in what has become a rather crowded food-truck culture in the Czech capital.
Today Starobin helms Dirty Dog Street Food, a barbecue joint and catering company, with regular opening hours at Manifesto Market’s Florenc location that serves up brisket, ribs, and pulled pork with their signature barbecue sauce.
When it comes to satisfying his occasional craving for a taste of the USA Starobin says Prague’s food scene has a lot to offer (“I love the donut revolution that has happened over the past few years.”).
He’s still waiting for somebody, however, to do a real milkshake, and also misses authentic deli sandwiches:
“I’m not talking about a foofy combination of small-batch prosciutto and hand-picked arugula, but the mess of thinly sliced ham and salami with provolone and Italian dressing that you can get 24 hours a day at every little corner deli in New York,” he says.
The New York native also finds the Czech capital a little lacking in the pizza department: “My Italian friends swear that pizza originated in Naples, but we all know it’s really from Brooklyn. A combination of minerals in the water and naturally occurring yeast in the air means that the flavor and texture of real New York pizza are inimitable anywhere else.”
But there’s one American tradition Starobin will happily swap for a Czech one: beer. “Czech beer and American food is a great combination. I think that meaty, vibrantly-flavored American food needs a strong, hoppy ale to stand up to it. I love any of the seasonal IPAs from Raven Brewery with a nice big rack of ribs.”
We asked Starobin to share his tips for where to find authentic American eats in Prague, from finger-licking ribs best washed down with a Czech pint to that American standard, the burger. Here’s where he goes for a taste of home:
“They started the burger fetish that swept Prague over the last 5 years, and even now that there’s a burger joint on every corner, they’re still one of the few who make a burger that tastes just like they do back home. My personal favorite, the Blue Smoke, is made with a smoked beef patty and blue cheese.” www.thetavern.cz
Bad Jeff’s BBQ
“They make the second-best ribs and pulled pork in the city, after my own Dirty Dog Barbeque of course.” https://badjeffs.cz
Hua Long Zhai
“A tiny little dim sum joint in Vršovice that reminds me of places in Chinatown in Queens.” Facebook
QQ Asian Kitchen
“I love the authenticity of ethnic food in New York. Because of our huge immigrant population, it’s not just a mediocre copy made by somebody who watched a few YouTube videos. That’s what the QQ boys bring to Prague — truly authentic pan-Asian food made with top-notch technique.” www.qqasiankitchen.com
The Candy Store
“[When cooking at home for myself] I generally buy raw ingredients and make what I want. But when I need some Frank’s Red Hot for buffalo wings, I get it from the Candy Store.” www.candy-store.cz
Check out Dirty Dog Barbecue Street Food and Catering at Manifesto Market, Florenc, every Monday-Sunday 11:00-22:00. For menu information visit www.ddbbq.cz.
To discover more authentic cuisine in the Czech capital, visit our Food and Drink directory.