Thursday, May 24, 2007

Wenceslas Square Sausage Stands

It's rarely mentioned in any books, but St. Wenceslas is also known as the Sausage King. He is the patron saint of the klobása.

In his honor, every day and night, there is a sausage fest on Wenceslas Square. Top to bottom, on every corner, you will find crowds of people gathering around sausage stands and paying homage at these altars of indigestion.

I, myself, have made the pilgrimage many times. And I'd say some of the sausages are pretty good. That's not to say they are good for you. But, given the right circumstances, the right amount of hunger, and perhaps a little impaired judgment, they are a great, quick bite.

I much prefer the two stands at the very bottom of the square, the one on the corner Vodičkova or the one on the corner of Štěpánská. This is mainly because they are a relatively new design, with stainless steel exteriors, the larges variety of sausages, and easily viewable work and grilling areas.

One stand has a sign on it that says "Euro Food," but other than that, they don't really have names or identifying signs. They are apparently all run by a company called DMJ. It has a small website with a limited look at the menus and some pictures of the stands.

There's just one small table nearby, where you can stand while you eat, if you don't want to take it on the run. You'll probably have to share it with a hoard of hungry tourists during the day.

For a long time, I favored the German sausages in a bun (Německé klobásky v housce) for 40 CZK. They put five of these little links in the bread. I get it with mustard (hořčice) and fried onion (cibule).

Not long ago, this item cost 30 CZK. Talk about inflation.

I was pretty disappointed with these sausages after a recent visit. They had been sitting on the grill for far too long, and a lot of the fat in them had been cooked off. They were dried out and almost hard.

This is the one of the problems with these places. They don't pay much attention to the cooking. The sausages might be overcooked. Or they might be undercooked. It partly depends on the ebb and flow of customers. The people who cook and serve the stuff don't seem to watch the grill too carefully.So, on another visit, I decided to be different and get the Prague sausage (Pražská klobása). This special one is a little pricer than the rest and goes for 50 CZK.

It is redder in color than any of the others and has a bit of a spicy kick.

It has a thick casing and a nice snap when you bite it.

After I took my first bite, I thought I saw big chunks of fat. But when I looked more carefully, I saw what appeared to be pieces of garlic in it. I didn't really get much garlic flavor from them, but I was happy it wasn't fat.

I'd say this was my favorite sausage of all, and I'll probably get it again.

I also liked the Bavarian sausage on a roll (Bavorská klobása v rohlíku) for 40 CZK. I got it with mustard and asked for sauerkraut. There is a jar of cold kraut next to where you order. The first time I asked for it, the lady put it on for me. The second time, a different lady just handed me some tongs.

It was well cooked, not too fatty, and had a nice pork flavor.

One problem with all these sausages is the bread. First of all, they are not of great quality to begin with. But the main problem is that the keep them all in a warming tray, I suppose, to keep them from going stale. However, they end up turning into rubbery, chewy things instead.

For the final experiment upon my stomach, I tried Wenceslas's sausage on a roll (Václavská klobása v rohlíku) for 40 CZK. This was my least favorite, mainly because it was the most greasy and fatty. It was big, but tasted more like a hot dog than a sausage.

I did not get a chance to eat the Moravian sausage. And I must confess I have not tried any of their other offerings, such as the fried chicken cutlet (smažený kuřecí řízek) or the fried cheese (smažený sýr).

I know people who swear by the fried cheese as the perfect stomach-lining snack when you are on a bender. That may be. It's just not my thing.

One more thing -- a couple of people on Prague discussion boards complained about being short-changed. It's never happened to me at one of these places, but it does seem there has been something of a short-change epidemic in the country. It's happened to me three times this year at places like gas stations and Christmas markets. Always count your change.

I leave you with the words of Good King Wenceslas -- who, unlike me, really loved all sausages equally and enjoyed nothing more than sharing a big spicy one with his queen:

Bring me flesh, and bring me wine, bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine, when we bear them thither

The Sausage Queen


Anonymous said...

nice article...
one thing about Vaclavska klobasa - I tried it twice and it had inedible chunks in it and also it is very long and looks funny in a roll. so when you eat it on such crowded place as Wenceslav square, people first laugh at you and your stupid long sausage in a short roll and that turn away in disgust when you start spitting out those chunks :-(

Brewsta said...

It is a bit hard to believe people laughed at you for eating a "stupid long sausage" on a short roll.

But since you gave me a compliment, I'll try to give you a serious answer.

I think it depends on which klobasa stand you go to (there are many others beside the four I mentioned), and also which type of klobasa you order.

For example, it's hard to imagine inedible chunks in the white (German or Bavarian style) sausages. It's never happened to me.

The other types can be fattier, but, again, I didn't have your issues at the stands I went to.

I have, however, eaten very bad klobasa at a number of other places in Prague and beyond.

Anonymous said...

according to their menu it was probably XXL Hot Dog and not the Vaclavska klobasa. the stand was at the bottom part of the square.
and it WAS long and stupid :-))
take care

Brewsta said...

The Vaclavska was my least favorite. Didn't try the hot dog.

People really laughed?

Pivní Filosof said...

Finally someone who addresses a real gastronomic issue in Prague without any snobbery. The sausage you got for 50Kc is, i think, the hungarian čabajka, and it is indeed the best stuff they have on offer. I presonally love them. I remember when I moved to this city, and was almost broke, a klobasa in vaclavak was my daily lunch for a couple of weeks (they were 25Kc back then), and i survived. It is a bit of hit and miss, but after awhile you learn to recognise the good ones and point them to the seller.
Oh! and the Smažený sýr sandwich. It is indeed the best thing you can eat AFTER a bender. When I was single I used to go out and get seriously drunk far more often than now. I would get one of those buggers and they will suck up all the alcohol i had in my stomach, sober me up enough to remember my name and give me energy to get my ass back home, (or so it felt back then), anyway, if it is way past nidnight, and you have the munchies, nothing beats a stand in vaclavak.

Anonymous said...

Off the sausage point, i know, but i gotta mention the řízek they serve, if for no other reason than it is freshly fried to order. Great with a pickle or two.

Anonymous said...

How cool that you mentioned the "Wenceslas Dogs," as my husband and I called them when we lived in Prague. It seriously is a nice cheap treat. As for the chunks, I noticed them too but learned that if I didn't look at the inside of the sausage after I took a bite, it went down like butter. :)

The brats are the least at the stand close to the Mustek stop.

Anonymous said...

it is a great place to eat when everything else is already closed after some party or on a late way to your home. the staff there is usually ukrainian and the whole thing is owned by maffia, but this doesn't change anything on the final experience. what i don't like is the steamed bum as well, ut ruins the whole taste and make you feel like you have a chewing gum instead of a roll. anyway, this place is once of those must-visits in prague :)

Anonymous said...

Oh no, no, no. Having a Ukrainian/Russian partner I have heard about those stands from the people who work them. Tales of sausages that go green but are still cooked and sold - tales that seem to be true. Ick.

Brewsta said...

That's disturbing. I didn't eat at one for at least 6 months, then I had one last week. It was really bad -- cooked so long it was all dried out and hard as a rock.

Natalia said...

When I lived in Prague, back in the early 90s, the klobasa looked nowhere near as good!!!! Might be worth trying again...

Karen McCann said...

Hi, I just wanted to let you know I quoted you in a post last week. Here's the link:
I'll be in the Czech Republic next summer, and I really appreciate the info in this article. Thanks!
Karen McCann