Let’s be real, if anyone tells you they are not studying abroad for the food, they are lying. They are straight up lying to your face. Food is one of the main reasons people travel. Kim Kardashian flew all the way from California to Paris for a slice of cheesecake. This is the world we are living in. Food drives all travel plans. It’s simply a fact. While there are many incredible coffee shops and creperies, there are three yummy treats that have captured my heart, and my stomach, during my first few weeks here in Prague.
This fire cooked, cylindrical cake is a game changer. The dough is rolled into thin strips in the shape of a cone and wound around a spindle called a “trdlo”. The dough is then glazed with sugar and grilled over open coals until the dough is cooked brown and the sugar caramelized. After the cooking is complete, they are rolled in trays containing a mix of sugar, cinnamon and chopped nuts before being served.
The best trdelnik I have tasted thus far was next to the infamous Charles Bridge. Located on the other side of the river, where the Prague Castle stands tall, is an incredible little trdelnik shop where the lines are never too long and the trdelnik is out of this world. The key is to find a shop where the trdelnik is made into a cone shape, so that the ice cream or strawberries do not fall out. My personal favorite is chocolate and strawberry with whipped cream and strawberries on top. It will make you cry.
If you are having a hard time figuring out how to pronounce trdelnik, have no fear. I’ve had it three times in the last two weeks and have no idea how to say it. My friends and I have resulted to calling it “turtleneck”. So, if you ask a local where you can find a trdelnik shop and you say “turtleneck”, I’m fairly positive they will understand and will only make a comment after you have walked away.
2. Burrito Loco
Wired and can’t sleep? Leaving a bar at 3 am and hungry? Missing Chipotle or Qdoba? Burrito Loco is the place for you. I first had Burrito Loco at 12am on a Friday night and I cannot explain how utterly satisfying a chicken speedy burrito is after walking around Prague at night. The speedy burrito is the perfect size because- not too small, nor is it too big. It’s the perfect amount of food for when you’re borderline hungry. But if you’re really hungry, and it’s 3 in the morning, burrito grande is the way to go. I have also been told by an anonymous source that their quesadillas are out of this world.
The best thing about Burrito Loco is that you can never turn it down. If someone says, “let’s go get Burrito Loco”, it will be physically impossible for you to say the word “no”. It’s perfect after you have had a long, stressful weekend of traveling or after you’ve gone on a run and have burned maybe a fourth of the calories you are about to consume. Burrito Loco is only in the Czech Republic, so not only is it Mexican food, but it’s Czech Mexican food. Looks like you can have the best of both worlds!
If you’re looking for authentic, delicious Czech cuisine then goulash is the way to go. My roommate tried it our first night in Prague and still says it is her favorite Czech dish and I would have to agree. Czech food is perfect in the winter because their foods tend to be on the heavy side. With all of the dishes containing some sort of meat and sauce combo, it can be really filling. But when you try goulash, you will never complain of being too full. You will eat that bad boy up and seriously consider asking for another.
Goulash consists of beef, a delicious creamy sauce, and dumplings. When I say dumplings, I am referring to Czech dumplings which are not like the dumplings that you may be picturing. In the Czech Republic, a dumpling is a type of soft bread that sometimes may have bacon bits or onions in it. What most locals do is they dip, or even soak, the dumplings in the cream sauce then take a bite. It is incredibly delicious, and I recommend trying it even if you are a vegetarian. But be forewarned, it might turn you back into a carnivore. That’s how good it is.
To me, food is one of the best and definitely the easiest way to engage in the culture. The key is to dine at smaller restaurants that are not in the city center where all of the tourists are. Some of my most memorable interactions with Czech people have been in a restaurant setting. The best way to meet people while studying abroad, whether it is other Americans, international students or locals, is by breaking bread and sharing a meal together. So far the best conversations I have had have been at restaurants or bars, spending time with fellow students and eating delicious food.
Just remember, calories don’t count when you’re in a foreign country.