Monday, May 30, 2016

Follow Czech Please on Social Media

Dear readers,

I decided to stop posting to this blog at the end of 2013. The good news is that I am still posting regularly on my Czech Please FaceBook and Czech Please Twitter pages (links embedded here).

I'm still regularly posting photos and comments about my latest eating adventures, mini-reviews, as well as all the links I can find related to food and drink in Prague and sometimes beyond.

It was a great seven years of blogging, but it was time to move on to new pastures and media.

- Brewsta

Read the full post

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Brewsta's Burgers 2015

"It requires a certain kind of mind to see beauty in a hamburger bun." - Ray Kroc
When you eat 30 different burgers in search of the Holy Grill, certain things become apparent.

First, there is clearly something wrong with me. This mad annual quest, my eighth, is the definition of an unhealthy obsession.

Second, although I hit my new record for burgers sampled in a year, I did not achieve greater burger wisdom. My goal has always been to eat fewer lousy burgers. Despite my best efforts -- reading online reviews and following recommendations -- I ate too many space wasters.

I must always remind readers that this is not a list of Prague's "best" burgers. I don't think anyone can credibly claim something is the best for everyone. Rather, it is a subjective survey of the ones I ate and either liked or disliked, based on my personal taste.

So, what does that mean? I prefer beef flame-grilled or griddled with a seared crust, cooked medium, and seasoned with salt. I prefer lightly crisp bacon. Toppings are better on the top or the side. On the bottom, they get hot and soggy. Buns matter. A lot. They must hold together but not be too dense. Proportionate construction counts. The most important factor is the right quality and grind of beef, coarse, not too fine, with a fat content about 20 percent.

If the burgers got better, worse, or changed significantly the week after I was there, that's too bad. They are rated as eaten. If you have a different opinion, that's great, but remember, you didn't eat the burger I ate on the day I was there.

Almost half this list is burgers that have never been ranked before. Many well-known burgers ranked in previous years had to be dropped so that a non-lethal number could be eaten. This year, I went in new directions in more ways than one.

Here we go, from my worst to my first:

Their American Classic Burger is quite un-American. The overseasoned, salty meat was served on the strangest bun. It was more like a pita, and it fell to pieces. There were whole pickles, sliced in half, and processed cheese. It also had lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, mustard and ketchup. The bacon had little flavor and the cheese was bland. The included fries were soggy. It took one hour to reach the table, and we were the only ones in the place. On the bright side, service at this Prague 7 spot near Letna was friendly, if glacially slow. We did get a warm reception from the resident pit bull, Lotar, who obligingly helped finish the last quarter of the burger I didn't want. 175 CZK.

They say the menu is "American influenced" and, indeed, it is filled with options like mac and cheese, a club sandwich, a Cobb salad, and wings. I haven't tried those, but the Classic Globe Cheeseburger I had back in May was under the wrong influence. The thin patty had the consistency of meatloaf. Its soft texture was like beefy mashed potatoes. The bun was wide and similar to those found at Burger King. It had good, crispy bacon, plus lettuce, tomato, red onion, and a slice of processed cheese. It came with good fries. 180 CZK.

I tried the bacon cheeseburger shortly after the opening of the new Prague 1 location. The loosely-packed patty was barely warm and mostly raw. The grind was too fine. They served it on a small, sad, Tesco-style bun. The bacon was the worst -- overcooked and dried out planks. It came with lettuce, tomato, onion, ketchup, and mustard. One positive point was the great, smoky cheddar. But the restaurant was also filled with terrible, smoky air. 189 CZK, plus 39 CZK for fries.

For years, this location served a top-tier burger with smoky beef and a classic American style. This year, some genius decided to improve it, but ended up ruining it. The flame-grilled flavor was gone. The patty was very dense, salty, and cooked all the way through. Some of the smoky bacon was crisp and some was cooked to tooth-aching hardness. The burger was taller than wide and not possible to bite without modification. There was a super-thick wedge of iceberg lettuce that I pulled out and discarded. Inexplicably, there was also a wad of radicchio. It had a hard chewy disk they called a Parmesan chip. There were cherry tomatoes sliced in half that had to be tossed aside. It was slathered with mayo. The cheddar was good, and I like the lightly sweet bun. When I asked for ketchup, the waitress replied, "Sweet tomato sauce?" I thought she was just confused, so I said yes. But that's exactly what it was, and they charged me an astounding 35 CZK for that nonsense. Good fries were included. I've heard the Dejvice location still does the burger right, but the one I had was mostly wrong. 278 CZK.

The BBQ Burger had all kinds of things mixed into the thick, large patty. Mainly, I tasted garlic. The grind was too fine, giving it a dense texture. Some unpleasant gristle remained. It was cooked past medium. The bun was stale and chewy, making it hard to bite. It was topped with hammy, smoky bacon, decent cheddar, lettuce, tomato, red onion, and pickle slices. The relatively new restaurant on Vinohradska looks nice enough, but my notes on the burger say "not terrible" and "not again." 189 CZK.

25. Le Burger
This dedicated burger spot in Smichov has its fans. Not me. The ground beef in the Bacon Burger Classic, cooked medium-well, was tough and tiring to chew. There was only a hint of pink. The grind was too fine. I found nothing remarkable about the flavor. When I picked it up, copious amounts of clear juice squirted out. Yet, the patty was oddly dry inside. It was too big to bite easily and a total mess to eat. A quarter of the bun was soaked through at the end. There was too much lettuce. There was also soft, smoky bacon, tomato, and pickle, and ketchup. The homemade "ketchup" tasted almost exactly like marinara sauce. The overall flavor was anything but classic.

24. Bohemia Bagel in Holešovice
I liked this burger a long time ago. One reason was the flame-grilled flavor. That taste was no longer present on the Bohemia Hamburger with bacon and cheddar. The great bacon was crispy, but placed in a skewed way that could cause someone to lose an eye. The red onion, tomato, and lettuce were also awkwardly placed. The patty was cooked medium, but still hard to chew. The grind was OK, but I think there was not enough fat. The bun was among the hardest and stiffest I came across. There was no mayo or ketchup at all, making the dryness more noticeable. I ordered ketchup and received some Heinz in a dish. This annoys me because I must ration the condiment between the burger and the fries. 189 CZK with fries.

23. Joy Burger
This was the first burger I tried in 2015, not long after Joy Burger opened on Celetna. I didn't enjoy this international interpretation of an American icon. The menu said the Cheddar Beef Burger came with bacon, but it was more like lardons -- little chunks of pork. Confited cloves of garlic and super spicy chipotle mayo were on top. I like spicy food, but the level of heat was startling. The patty's flavor was OK, but the meat was ground too fine, and there was some gristle. It was cooked medium. The bun was baked in an oven, causing the outer layer to flake off. I asked for extra ketchup and received a small dish that cost me 35 CZK. My notes say the burger was 179 CZK and the fries were 70 CZK. However, the online menu says the burger is 249 CZK and fries are 65 CZK.

22. Putica
The densely-packed patty of the Classic Burger was perfectly round -- too puck-like perfect. It had great flavor from the grill, and the cheese picked up the smoky goodness. Unfortunately, the grind was too fine and it was cooked well done. This made it too tough. It was tall and hard to bite. It had crisp, smoky bacon. There was lettuce, tomato, and nice, sweet pickle. However, the pickle was diced and fell out on the plate. There was a sweet, spicy barbecue sauce. The bun was the biggest fail. It was stale and like chewing on a rag. 200 CZK.

21. Burger King
Burger King is included on this list every year. This is my version of a "control." It's a known quantity and quality that most people understand. This is my message: If I like a BK burger more than the offering at a real, full-service restaurant, the owners and cooks should rethink what they are doing. It is also on the list to annoy the humorless people who take these things too seriously. I went for the Angus XT this year. It was less good than last year's entry. I did not enjoy it much. The patty was dense, overcooked, and dry. 149 CZK.

20. Fair Food Burger Bar
This burger does not win a prize for looks but tasted pretty good. It came with cheddar, soft smoky bacon, grilled tomato, and very sweet, caramelized onions. There was too much lettuce that fell out and a mayo-based dressing. The grind on the patty was good, and it was juicy. The quality of the meat was above average. The cheese was rather generic. It held together but was very messy to eat. 125 CZK.

19. Cafe Sladkovsky
The peppery beef had the right grind and salt level. Cooked a perfect medium, it gushed a lot of juice on the first bite. On top, the bacon was more like a slab of pork belly. It was overcooked and a bit like biting a tongue depressor. The sesame bun was burnt black on the inside and bottom. It was soft but strong and held together. There was tangy cheddar, sweet mayo, lettuce, and tomato. This was a very mixed bag of good and bad. Great potential, poor execution. The quality patty is really what kept it above the BK line. 170 CZK plus 35 CZK for fries.

18. Riegrovy Sady Beer Garden
Look, I'm as shocked as anyone that I liked the Riegr Burger. I'm pretty sure I wasn't too drunk but thought it paired very nicely with beers, a bench, and the evening air. The shack that sold it wasn't open all summer. While it was there, the salty meat they cooked to medium over a fire tasted like the backyard barbecues of my childhood. The grind was good and the beef was smoky, though not the highest quality. There was some gristle. The bun was cold and too dense. The bacon was hammy and practically raw, with little flavor. It was topped with awkwardly placed lettuce, onion, tomato, mustard, and ketchup. I was both frustrated and amused that the menu offered a bacon burger, a cheese burger, but not a bacon cheeseburger. 100 CZK.

17. Naše Maso
Last year, I ranked this burger at #3. This year, two things changed. They didn't cook it as well, and I was far less impressed by its unconventional construction. Yes, the meat from this often-too-crowded little butchery was great. It was also too rare, even though it was both griddled and finished in the oven. They serve it sliced in half, and it was too much like tartare in the middle. As always, it came with pickles, mustard, and onion on a little Czech roll. The bread was a bit burnt, but I don't like it in general. It's not even round. The burger was wrapped in paper, but messy to eat. This burger is definitely worth trying in an off hour when it is not crowded, but I feel no need to stand in line for it. The spell was broken. 129 CZK.

16 Nejen Bistro
I know there are those on the Prague Burgers Facebook page who like Nejen's Black Angus burger above all others. It would rank higher with me if it had been cooked medium. Mine had a cool, raw interior. It's understandable that it was hard to cook this 180-gram patty more thoroughly. It looked small, but it was quite tall. It was hard to fit this burger into my mouth without applying serious compression. Their Josper grill gave the meat and the cheese a lovely smoked quality. It had caramelized onions, mayo with bits of pickle, thinly-sliced tomatoes and, unfortunately, radicchio. In my view, red lettuce does not belong either on or under ground beef. There was no bacon, and it was not an option. The grind was great and not too tightly packed. The bun, with black sesame, was good. It was a real mess to eat, which detracted from the pleasure. They got extra points for giving me a bottle of Heinz on the table. That tradition seems to be disappearing. 195 CZK with great fries.

15. The Tavern
I ordered The Tavern's Classic Bacon Cheddar. I was stunned when it came in about five minutes. The thin patty, served medium, must cook quickly. The meat had great flavor, which was enhanced by a healthy amount of salt. The bacon was top-quality, perfectly crispy. The steamed bun was very soft but held together. There were sliced pickles, shredded lettuce, and a basic cheddar. Red onion was on the side. It's hard to eat without toppings sliding out the back. The downside of this burger was condiment overkill -- too much mayo, ketchup, and mustard, which overwhelmed the flavor. I've had this issue before, but I keep forgetting to ask for it with only ketchup. 209 CZK and add fries for 49 CZK.

14. Mad Dog Bistro
Hot dogs dominate the menu here, but they do a good burger, too. It came with cheddar, mayo, lettuce, sweet/sour pickle, and onion. There was tangy, grated cheddar. The salty beef, slightly overground, was cooked medium and tasted right. It came on a lightly-toasted bun that had a little sweetness, and was just the right size. I asked for bacon but it was forgotten. I mentioned the omission after I finished and was given a donut in compensation. 124 CZK, fries not included.

13. U Kurelů
Now this is interesting: I liked The Tavern Classic Bacon Cheddar Burger at U Kurelů more than I did at The Tavern itself. Of course, they are owned by the same people, and the burgers have essentially the same ingredients and construction. But it just goes to show that, on any given night, no two burgers are made the same way. In this case, the bacon was just a little better (and placed better on top), and the mayo, mustard, and ketchup were just a little lighter. The burger also came with shredded lettuce, nice sour pickles, and red onion. It was well-constructed and held together to the end, despite the very soft bun. The thin patty was cooked past medium. It was easy to bite this burger. 209 CZK, fries not included.

12. Mozaika Burger and Co.
Last year, I didn't like it. This year, I did. They fixed the issue I had with too fine a grind. The meat and the texture were much improved. The juicy patty was quite thin (more on that later). The Krystal Burger came with crispy, salty bacon, Swiss cheese, sour pickle, and homemade mayo. Overall, it was a little too much on the savory side. I added some of their homemade ketchup for balance. It came with what looked like a custom-made bun. It was pretty good, just a little bready on top. The bun was baked, which made it warm overall, but also dried out the exterior. It cracked a bit. There was also a unique experience worth mentioning. I asked for my burger cooked medium. The waitress came back and told me it was not possible. It had to be either medium rare or well done. I was incredulous, and she was apologetic. The chef delivered my burger, so I also asked him why. Neither gave me a very clear answer, something about the nature of the meat. In the end, I just figured the patty was so thin, it must be hard to nail it at medium. I was rather annoyed by this at the start of the meal, but I liked the burger in the end and wound up being somewhat amused. 195 CZK plus 49 CZK for fries and 25 CZK for ketchup.

11. Bejzment
I've been to this restaurant a fair number of times in the past few years. It veered wildly between good and bad, and I've heard the same from others. Last year was bad. This year was good. As always, I had ​D Bejkn Čyz Burger. The meat was the star with a medium grind, loosely packed, cooked a smoky medium. The cheese picked up the flavor of the grill. The bacon was tops, crispy and smoked, but they also lose points because there was only one piece. The soft bun was branded with the name of the restaurant but not really toasted. Ketchup and mustard squeeze bottles were provided -- a very nice touch. On the side of the plate were lettuce, tomato, onion, and one small pickle slice. Pro tip: Avoid ordering the caramelized onions for an extra 20 CZK. They were cold and tasted like congealed, old cooking oil. 149 CZK plus 45 CZK for crispy homemade fries.

10. Argument
A decent grind, delicious, grilled flavor, and well-balanced composition were the laudable qualities of the Argument Burger. The slightly less positive qualities were the hammy bacon, the messiness of this juicy creation, and the thickness, which made it hard to bite. The toasted sesame seed bun held up under the weight. The patty was topped with smoky cheddar, red onion, paper-thin tomatoes, mayo, and a spicy barbecue sauce. The fries that came with it were sad and limp. Worth mentioning: When I complained my beer was flat and not cold, I was told, "Most people order wine here." Good burger, weird attitude. 285 CZK.

9. Cafe Palanda
The Royal Bacon Cheese Burger had a thick patty with the right grind and cooked a perfect medium with a hint of grill flavor. There was lots of lightly smoked bacon, but it was a little chewy. It also had sweet, roasted onions, very sweet mayo, homemade ketchup, chili, and pickles. The big, shiny, sesame bun was also quite sweet and was too large for the patty. This big burger was hard for me to get my head (and mouth) around. There was a lot of quality in there, but the flavor gets away from classic. The main culprit in my view was the homemade ketchup, which tasted like Worcestershire sauce -- too vinegary. 209 CZK with sides, 169 CZK without.

8. BlackDog Bar and Grill
We drove out to Beroun, and I had the American Dream burger. It came with thick, smoky bacon, cheddar, red onion, tomato, homemade pickles, and mayo spiked with Sriracha. The beef had a great grind and it was cooked a perfect medium. The loosely-packed patty was tall and round, with a bit of gristle. The cheese was rather creamy and not too cheddary. The soft, sturdy, brioche bun was excellent. It picked up some flavor from the grill. I had problems in the past with BlackDog overcooking my burgers, but for the past two years, it's been great. 165 CZK.

7. Meat and Greet Burgerhouse
This place was started by alumni of Dish {Fine Burger Bistro}, and it shows. The restaurants were quite similar, and the quality was high. The MAG Burger had a thin patty with a good grind and was cooked medium. It picked up nice flavor from the grill. The burger came topped with tomato cooked to softness which I was dubious about, but it worked. There was also lots of garlic mayo, lettuce, ketchup that I didn't taste, and crunchy, salty bacon that was too hard in places from overcooking. The sesame bun held together and was slightly too large for the meat. Some bread was left over at the end. 179 CZK plus 40 CZK for crunchy but too short homemade fries. Dull homemade ketchup cost 29 CZK.

6. Dish {Fine Burger Bistro}
Dish was the winner for 2013 and 2014. Although almost consistently great, they slipped a bit this year. The Dish Burger I had came with the usual garlic aioli, pickles, lettuce, and their sweet homemade ketchup. The bacon was chewy and smoky. I've loved this burger for its balanced construction, and that was maintained. It's easy to hold and eat all the way through. It lost its top spot because on the visit I chose to rate them, the patty was rather bland, lacking salt, and it didn't have the good sear from the grill that it usually had. 195 CZK plus 45 CZK for fries (I highly recommend their sweet potato fries when they have them listed on the chalk board).

5. Mr. Hot Dog
I debated whether to include these bacon cheese sliders on the list and decided in favor because they were just so right. Why discriminate based on size? They don't serve a full-size burger, but bite for bite, these sliders stand toe to toe with the big ones. About half the size of a regular burger, the grind was great, with the beef sourced from the Amaso butchery. The bacon was crispy and chewy. There was also shredded lettuce, diced white onions, tangy mayo, and great sour pickles. The toasted little buns were perfect and held it all nicely. They get the usual bonus points for squeeze bottles of ketchup (Heinz!) and mustard on the table, plus a condiment bar with onion, relish, Sriracha, and more. If you want classic American taste, give these a try. 169 CZK for two plus 45 CZK for a big basket of McD-style fries.

4. Fish and Chips at 21 Dlouhá 
A fish and chips shop near the top? I truly love the char-grilled, perfectly ground beef in this burger. The fat content was on the low side, so it was a little on the dry side. It was cooked exactly medium. I loved the American-style relish on top. There's no bacon option, but I didn't miss it here. It did have smoky cheddar, one tomato slice, chopped onion, shredded lettuce, ketchup, mayo, and spicy mustard. That's a lot of ingredients, but there was a light touch on the condiments, except for the relish. It felt well balanced. The toasted sesame bun was a fine platform. Overall, it was a great combination of salty, sweet, soft, and crunchy, with an onion twang. It did a good job evoking backyard barbecue memories. 185 CZK plus 45 for fries.

3. Burger Bar
I trekked out to Prague 6 - Nebušice this summer, and I was glad I did. I didn't expect to have such a great burger at this somewhat isolated spot under a hotel and connected to a bowling alley. The beef had just the right grind, not too fine. It tasted flame-grilled, like it just came off the barbecue. It was topped with three slices of excellent bacon, peppery cheese, lots of ketchup, mustard, lettuce, onions, and great sour pickles. The bun was much better than I remembered from the previous year. It was softer and more brioche-like. The patty was juicy, but not dripping too much. My hands did get a bit messy. I didn't get a great picture of it, but this burger was well-composed, balanced, and tasted great. 175 CZK, fries and small salad included. Extra ketchup for fries was 20 CZK.

2. Bad Jeff's Barbeque
This American-run restaurant served up a classic American burger. There was great attention to detail, from the homemade pickles to the bespoke bun from Mannson's Bakery. The bun had just the right combination of softness and strength. The bacon was as crisp as it should be, thin and quite salty. The meat was ground perfectly in-house, a blend of cuts with an 80/20 fat content decided by the chef and owner, Jeff Cohen. The patty had that smoke flavor I dream about and the cheese picks up some of it. Lettuce, thinly-sliced tomatoes and red onions were kept away from the hot meat until the moment of closer at the table. The top of the bun also had mayo and French's mustard. 259 CZK and includes curly fries.

1. BlackDog at Smíchovská náplavka
This was, no question, the best burger I had all year, even if it is not served regularly or year-round. Yes, the offering from BlackDog's restaurant was rated earlier. But the burgers they made at their stand along the river at Naplavka were a different animal, so to speak. This was from a festival on the Smichov side. The quality ground beef, cooked to a perfect medium over an open flame, was out of this world. It had a charred, smoky crust on the patty, excellent bacon, red onion, and shredded lettuce, on a brioche bun that cradled it. The cheese melted so nicely into the patty. I think it was about 100 CZK.  Whatever it cost, it was more than worth it. Keep an eye out for them at Naplavka and other festivals when the warm weather returns. I know I will!

That's my list for 2015. Feel free to agree, disagree, and/or share your own rankings in the comments.

Read the full post

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Brewsta's Burgers 2014

"To eat well, I always disagree with critics who say that all restaurants should be fine dining. You can get a Michelin star if you serve the best hamburger in the world." Chef David Chang, founder of the Momofuku restaurant group

One year ago, I stopped writing in depth restaurant reviews to focus on social media. But the burgers never stopped. And neither has the demand to discuss them.

Yes, my seventh annual burger ranking list is here.

I've heard people say the burger craze has peaked in this town. I don't think so. Numbers don't lie. My burger posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are still the most commented upon and liked. The hunger for eating and reading about grilled ground beef on a bun appears to be widely shared.

What follows are the 26 burgers I ate over the course of 2014 -- the most ever. Eleven have been never ranked before. Some well-known burgers I've listed in the past, like those from Bohemia Bagel, Blackdog Cantina, Krystal Mozaika Bistro didn't make it this year.

Why? Because I want to live. 

I eat a number of these artery-cloggers more than once. I can't add burgers without dropping a few. If the burgers got better, worse, or changed significantly the week after I was there, that's too bad.

As always, I repeat my standard disclaimer: This is not a list of Prague's "best" burgers. It is a subjective survey of the ones I either liked or disliked, based on my personal taste.

What's my taste? I prefer beef flame-grilled or with a seared crust from a steel grill, cooked medium, seasoned with salt, light pepper, and classic, American-style construction and toppings. I like my bacon lightly crisp. I'd rather not have the toppings on the bottom, where they get hot and soggy. A bun can make or break you and it broke a few this year. The right grind of beef, coarse, not too fine, with a fat content about 20 percent, is key. 

I did my best, whenever possible, to compare bacon cheeseburgers or to keep the comparisons as similar as possible. I do not consider price as a main factor, but it does influence my thinking to a small degree.

Here we go, from my worst to my first:

26. Bruxx
This Belgian restaurant's mussels and beer have pulled in big crowds since it opened in March on Náměstí Míru. The website says its Belgian Beef Burger is made with "mature beef, au gratin with Brugge old cheese, served with grilled sweet onion, our chilli mayonnaise, home-made Bruxx fries and crispy bacon." When I had it the week they opened, there was honey mustard sauce, a buttery-tasting cheese, tomato, and red onion. The reason I disliked this burger the most: the texture of the meat. It was more like a meatloaf than straight ground beef. When I had it, the burger was 195 CZK. The website now lists it at 229 CZK. The fries were short and stubby. I can only hope they improved it when they raised the price. My advice based on this version is to stay with the Belgian classics.

25. Bejzment
This place won the top prize at the 2013 Prague Burger Fest, which its owner incidentally organized. On my last year, Bejzment's bacon cheeseburger came in sixth out of 23 burgers. So this one wins the award for the biggest fall from grace from last year. I was stunned when it arrived at my table within 5 minutes of placing my order. I questioned whether it was mine, but was assured that it was. It was barely warm. I ordered it medium, but the thick patty was rare. The quality of the meat was good, but it was bland and called out for salt to bring up the flavor. The cheddar was good and there was excellent crisp bacon. However, there was only one strip. It came with a mayo-ketchup mix, plus pickle, onion, tomato, and dark lettuce, which I do not favor. The big bun was too bready. By the time I was half way through, the meat was cold. It was very cheap at 139 CZK. Fries were 40 CZK and the greasiest of the year. I was asked if I wanted barbecue sauce, but was not told it cost 25 CZK extra. I've heard comments criticizing Bejzment for inconsistency regarding quality -- sometimes very good, sometimes very bad. That's been my experience as well.

For social reasons, I'm often at this busy restaurant. But I don't often get the bacon cheeseburger. The grind is usually too fine and they consistently overcook the patty to the point of dryness. If they paid more attention to patty and cooking temperature, they'd really come up in the world. They have a much-improved bun. I had one good burger there, but all the others were disappointing. It came with smoky, crispy bacon, decent cheese, Wigwam sauce (ketchup mixed with chili sauce), and not much else. It was not large and holds together. 169 CZK

Hard to believe, but this restaurant's burger was my favorite in 2011. Times have changed. The very salty cheese didn't taste much like cheddar and was melted all over the place. I recall thinking years ago that their cheddar was very good. The beef had a good medium grind, but the thick patty had an odd flavor. I spent the meal trying to put my finger on what that flavor was, but I could not. Whatever it was, it was not right. It was also a very "wet" burger, with copious amounts of liquid squirting out on the first bite. It came with crispy, salty bacon, lettuce, tomato, and onion under the patty. The veggies got warm and soggy under the meat. The bun was chewy and dry and the whole thing fell into pieces. I didn't finish it. My notes say, "bleh." 195 czk.

22. True Blue
Many times, I've given this diner-style Vršovice restaurant a chance. They've regularly blown it by overcooking or undercooking their burger. This year, at least the burger came medium-well instead of the medium I ordered. It was not dry as it was in previous years. It was thick and the meat was bland. I added salt. It came with lettuce, tomato, red onion, semi-soft, smoky bacon, and cheese that did not taste like cheddar. It sat on a toasted, too chewy sesame roll. There were dishes of really tasty chipotle mayo and also ketchup on side. I strongly dislike these small servings of ketchup. There is never enough to both top my burger and dip my fries in. Overall, the burger was large and hard to bite, but held together. I felt bored, but finished it. 159 CZK

21. Mozaika Burger and Co.
I was a fan of the the old Mozaika restaurant in the same location and ranked its burger pretty highly. I was looking forward to the results when they announced they'd become a dedicated burger joint. So it pains me to say that I did not like the Mozaika burger several weeks after they opened. Other reviews have been mixed. I come down in the thumbs down camp. It came with bacon, pickles, lettuce, tomato, good Swiss, smoky bacon, and an overabundance of homemade mayo. The ground beef did have a nice char flavor from the grill, but the grind was too fine. The meat had a mushy texture. It was cooked medium as requested. The crunchy bun was heavy and dense and became soaked with juice from the patty. It reminded me of focaccia. I thought it would be a better dinner roll than a burger bun. The first bite tasted good, but I had had enough of this burger about halfway through. 195 CZK and 49 CZK for potatoes.

Another past winner laid low. The Mood Classic Burger comes with smoked cheddar cheese, crispy, thick bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, sweet onion, tartar-style mayo, and curly fries. It came with way too much lettuce, most of which I removed, and also too much mayo. The baked roll was chewy. It came rare instead of medium and was too large to bite into easily. They ground the beef much too finely, rendering the texture mushy. And yet there was also some gristle in there. My notes say "not fun." I will add that I like a lot of other things on their creative menu and their back terrace is terrific in the warmer months. 230 CZK with curly fries.

Despite being a chain, I've liked this burger in the past. But I felt that this year, it wasn't as good as it used to be. Some others told me they also thought the quality dropped. It came with red onion, tomato slices, onion, green and dark lettuce under the patty where it gets warm and wilted. The lettuce fell out of the toasted bun. There was crisp smoky bacon. The very salty but indistinct cheese picked up some of the smoke flavor. The large, char-grilled patty was big, hard to chew, and dry. I asked for medium, as always, and it came well done. This burger was huge. Without exaggeration, my jaw muscles got tired. I did not finished it. 269 CZK (295 CZK at the Na Příkopě location).

18. Burger King
Yes, I'd rather have this burger than any of those before it in this survey. Burger King is included every year for several reasons. This is my version of a "control." It's a known quantity and quality that most people understand. It's burger science, if you will. The main point is this: if I like a BK burger more than the offering at a real, full-service restaurant, the owners and cooks should seriously rethink what they are doing. Another reason for its inclusion is to annoy the humorless people who take these things too seriously every year and think of this as a "best of" rather than a "favorites" list. That said, this year I had the Angus XT Bacon Cheeseburger, and it was the best I've had from them in a long time. The burger was very well put together. The bacon and cheese both picked up the smokiness of the extra thick Angus beef patty. It was well done, as all BK burgers are, but easy to bite into and chew. The soft bun held together but was a little too bready. There was a tangy barbecue sauce. Unlike last year, I actually enjoyed this one. 149 CZK without fries or drink.

17. Kofein
This burger was satisfying in a home-cooked burger kind of way. It was good that they replaced the ciabatta they used to use with a round bun. It cames with bacon, cheese, barbecue sauce, and lettuce. It was pretty messy. The issue for me was that the patty had a somewhat rubbery texture. It's always been that way. I'm not sure if it is from the grind or if they mix the beef with something else. I should add that although the burger doesn't rank very high with me, this restaurant is one of my top favorites in the city. 165 CZK with homemade potato wedge fries.
Last year, the GPS Burger did well, coming in fourth. This year, I thought they screwed it up. Only on the bar menu, it comes with red onion, pickle, tomato, lettuce, spicy chipotle aioli, and dull cheddar, mostly on top. The bun was good and held together well. The problem was one that I've seen far too much of this year. They took 30-day aged USDA prime beef and ground it into a fine puree. That's just wrong. You can see the result in the edges that were too smooth and rounded. The texture of the 170 gram patty was mushy. Even so, the well-salted, overly ground beef tasted pretty good. The standout star here was the perfectly-cooked, smoky, sweet, and salty maple-glazed bacon. Wow. I'd love to just have a big order of that. I have yet to try their 900 CZK steaks, but it's on my "to do" list. 375 CZK with very good fries - the most expensive this year.

15. Putica
The menu changed after my visit earlier this year. They now have exotic offerings like the Mexican beef burger, the Samurai chicken burger, and the goat cheese burger. Online, I didn't see a classic bacon cheeseburger like the one I had. That one came with very good ground beef cooked medium. The patty was on the small side. There was also bacon, cheddar cheese, caramelized red onions, shredded lettuce, tomato, soft, smokey grilled bacon, and garlic mayonnaise. The cheese all but melted away. The stumble here was the homemade bun. It was too doughy and dense, too tall, and hard to bite. It dominated the flavor of the burger and sat like a rock in my stomach. I spoke to the manager about it. If they changed the bread, it would be a major improvement. I paid 190 CZK for my burger, comes with fries.

I had the small 130 gram burger for 149 CZK. They also do a 200 gram version for 199 CZK. It came with rucola, tomato, a mayo-ketchup mix, and pancetta standing in admirably for bacon. It was a slightly Italian interpretation of a burger. There was no denying that the quality of the beef was good, and cooked medium, it had a lovely flavor from the grill. But they ground it too much, and the texture was too dense and chewy. I suspected that the fat content was not high enough.

I'd heard good things about what the menu bills as "Our Smokey Burger." It was decent but not exceptional. This burger was large. The patty was made with very peppery, good-quality ground beef and it was cooked medium. There was honey-mustard sauce underneath, which was strange to me. There were sweet pickles and tomato on the side, along with slaw, but nothing else. The toasted bun was stiff on the outside, softer underneath. The big defect to my mind was the so-called Irish cheddar. This big, yellow glob on top was rubbery and dull. The burger itself costs 229 CZK but they then charge 35 CZK to add bacon (which I liked) and 35 CZK to add the offending cheese. That pushes the total price, according to the web menu, to 299 CZK. My notes say it was 269 CZK when I had it.

I like this cute little place and went their often this year. The bacon cheeseburger was not easy to get my mouth around due to its size. It came with dark lettuce, tomato, red onion, cheese, mayo, and crisp bacon. The big soft bun had a unique Worcestershire-based sauce that soaked into the bun. The patty's grind was good, and it was quite thick. The ground beef was peppery, which seemed appropriate given the name of the place. The bun became soggy with the sauce and beef juices. On one visit, the cheese tasted cheddary, but on a more recent trip, it had a more buttery flavor. It was cooked medium well. 149 CZK, no fries. Given the choice, I prefer their excellent cheddar hotdog and a bowl of their homemade soup.

11. Fair Food
This is a good little place to know about not far from the Újezd tram stops. I had the smaller 125 gram bacon cheeseburger for just 89 CZK. They had a 250 gram version for 125 CZK. It came with crisp, salty bacon, great caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato, and their ketchup-mayo mix. The beef was properly ground, with a good, slightly crumbly texture. There was flavor from their steel grill and it was both salty and peppery. It was cooked medium. The toasted, large sesame roll held up well but was a little too large for the small patty. I ended up not needing or eating all of the bread, which was slightly chewy.

It took a strong recommendation from a friend to get me to leave the comfort of Prague 10 and trek to the wilds of Nebušice in Prague 6. I went by car, though I'm told buses go there. It's a unique place in the basement of a hotel and connected to a bowling alley. The cheeseburger came with decent cheddar that picked up the smokey flavor of the patty. It was patty had grill marks on it and was cooked exactly medium. There was also sliced pickle, mustard, lettuce, and diced onion. I asked for ketchup and got a small dish, which annoyed me. The bacon was good, but there was only a single half slice, which was bad. The bun was spongy and a little too dense. 175 CZK with weak fries and a good little salad.

This pricey burger has remained consistently good over the years. This year, I had the Big Cheeseburger with bacon. It came with thick, tangy cheddar, lettuce, tomato, and raw red onion. I thought it came with bacon, but when I saw it didn't I added it. They serve Heinz and French's mustard on the side. The smokey, juicy patty, a little too chewy, was served medium. It arrives on a thick, toasted brioche bun. This thing was seriously big and hard fit in the mouth. Eating it was a messy affair. It was 345 CZK. I'd actually prefer their "Classic Burger," which has a smaller patty, but does not come with bacon or cheese. When you add those, it's almost the same price as their big burger which has bacon and cheese included in the price.

This burger was very well executed. The beef was ground just right and it was cooked medium and juicy. There was a smoky char on the patty. There was real cheddar flavor in the cheese. The toppings come on the side, but the tomatoes were cut too thick. It was not too large, not too small, and held together on the toasted roll. 278 CZK with greasy limp fries.

This is one of the most popular and beloved burger places in Prague. Last year, I ranked the Classic Bacon Cheeseburger #2. I'll take some heat for this, but it dropped in my esteem. Overall, I liked it but it had some issues. The salty cheese melted off the patty and formed a hard crust around the sides. The patty, cooked medium well, was made with good beef, but it was pressed too tightly. The included combination of ketchup, mustard, and mayo overwhelmed the flavor. I say pick two, drop one. I liked the sour pickles, the three slices of crispy bacon, and the soft, steamed poppy-sesame roll. It was very sloppy to eat. 199 CZK and fries 45 were CZK extra.

6. Bad Jeff's Barbeque
This burger has potential for greatness. I had it the first week it was available at this new restaurant. A couple of issues need to be righted. One the plus side, the 200 gram freshly ground beef patty was cooked medium and topped with white cheddar that picked up the smokey flavor of the grill. The crispy bacon was a little too charred on the ends of some strips. The grind was just right, but on the down side, there was also gristle in there. The peppery patty had a classic char crust. There was mayo and French's mustard on top. A bottle of Heinz was on the table. The bun was too chewy and dense. I was told that a better bun is in the works. Overall, it was large and hard to bite. 245 CZK with good curly fries.

Browsing the food offerings at Naplavka is always fun on a Saturday. And it's extra good if Paul Day of Sansho fame is there with his mobile grill built into his old Defender. I had what he calls his "White Mama" sliders. It came with dry-aged beef, cured guanciale, and his homemade sauce. The bun was good. The cheese was good. It was juicy, rich, and delicious.
The burger was made with great beef, and it was one of the smokiest, which I love. The good cheddar picks up that grill flavor. There was lettuce, tomato, jalapeno mustard and sweet relish. They don't do bacon. It was cooked medium. The patty, with a good course grind, was thick, but it was not wide. The bun was the main weak point here. It fell apart before I finished, but the meat was the star. You wouldn't expect a fish and chip shop to have a very good burger, but Ithey defy expectations. 215 CZK with fries.

I don't like the simple, small roll they use at this butcher shop that serves a few hot meals. I don't like that it was topped with pickles, red onion, and dijon-style mustard. What I loved, loved, loved, was the perfectly ground 180 grams of beef, cooked medium rare, with just the right fat content. The exterior had charred crust from the grill. It was moist and just juicy enough to be a little messy. It was not served with a plate, just paper. It's fun to watch it grilled in front of you. I saw the cook in the open kitchen actually take a photo of my burger before it was served. Consider yourself lucky if you find a place to sit in this tiny place. The burger was not large, but it doesn't cost a lot either. 125 CZK, no fries.

I had the burger here a couple of years ago and did not like it. I was told it had changed and was urged to return. I'm glad I did. The Royal Bacon Cheese Burger was excellent. It came with bacon, caramelized onions, lots of garlic mayo, cheddar, and long slices of pickle on bottom 199 with fries. The thick, beefy 170 gram patty was cooked medium as advertised and came on a large sesame bun that holds together well. The grind was right. The cheese was very cheddary. The crispy, smoky bacon was crisp but thin. crispy but thin bacon. I asked for ketchup and, interestingly, they mix it with a little Tabasco. I had to pay 25 CZK for it, which I did not appreciate. The burger was great and it was hard to get a table there as a walk in. 209 CZK (199 CZK a few months ago) with homemade fries that aren't great.

There has never been a two-time winner of my burger ranking list. Until now. The restaurant is too small and has been overwhelmed by its popularity. Why is Dish the place I and many others return to the most? In a word: balance. They got the most things right -- the size, the textures, the flavors, the quality. The Dish Burger was made with white, tangy cheddar, slightly crispy bacon, garlicky aioli, very sour pickles, and lettuce. There was a mild homemade ketchup. The burger was put together with care. It didn't just taste good. It looked good. The toasted bun was soft and yet held everything together. It was toasted and not baked as it once was. Some complained they did not like their new bun recipe as much as the old. It didn't bother me. The burger had the right grind, the perfect amount of salt, a crust seared by the grill, sealing in the flavor. There were still some chewy pieces of meat in the grind. I'm not sure why that issue continues, but I like it so much overall that I'm willing to forgive. 189 CZK and homemade fries are 45 CZK (the last serving I had were good, much-improved from when they opened).

That's my list for 2014. Feel free to agree, disagree, or share your own rankings in the comments. 

Read the full post