"Starbucks says they are going to start putting religious quotes on cups. The very first one will say, 'Jesus! This cup is expensive!'" Conan O'BrienIt's been talked about for a long time, but Starbucks™ has finally arrived in Prague™ . Two mega-brands, together at last.
Using its own particular brand of black coffee magic, the international chain's first store appeared almost overnight in the Czech capital. Not long ago, the restaurant, Square, occupied the same space. That fancy food spot had taken over what had been a history and memory-laden coffee house in the Palác Grömlingovský at Malostranské náměstí.
I went to the Starbucks™ grand opening party. The place was packed when I got to the door. But that's as far as I got."I'm sorry, sir," said the man with the posh British accent. "This is a VIP only party. We would love to have you come by and visit us tomorrow."
I didn't know it was going to be a gala event, but I'm not the type to go to watch the invited press suck down freebies, anyway.
I am the type to press my nose against windows. Or my camera. So, I took some photos and observed omnisciently.
There was a particularly rich scene out in front. I witnessed an old Czech woman ripping angrily into the clipboard-wielding PR guy.
She was basically saying "There used to be a Czech coffeehouse here. This fancy new Starbucks™ doesn't belong here! Take it away!"
Clipboard man was saying coffee was being served again as it was in the past. Isn't that great?
This did nothing to appease the woman. She kept up her one-woman battle to rid historic Prague of this incursion by modern messiahs of the macchiato.
"I'm sorry. There's really nothing I can do," the man said.
He threw up his hands and walked away. But she wouldn't give up and kept at him. Again, he walked away. She zealously went after him again.
Finally, after sensing the clock could not be turned back, and the man kept turning his back, she gave up hoping that the old coffee house could be resurrected.
Inside, there was a mad scene of a different sort at the ordering counter.
VIP guests looked like commodities traders, signaling furiously to the baristas for their coffee futures. Perhaps it was because they didn't have pay to serious cash for immediate delivery of their grande caramel cappuccinos.
There was some music to keep the hopped up guests entertained as they consumed their half-caf, no foam, cinnamon-dusted lattes. And muffins.I'm sure this place will pull in tons of tourists, given their lack of familiarity with the value of the local currency and the store's prime location.
It might also attract some local eye candy looking for a place to pause and pose.Now, if you follow the expat discussion boards on the arrival of Starbucks™, the sentiment is heavily on the negative side.
As for me, I have enjoyed a Starbucks™ plain iced coffee on occasion on a hot day in New York. I won't deny it.
However, I have never enjoyed long lines. These are a regular feature at U.S. Starbucks™, and I have never stood in one.
Even more, it was hard for me to enjoy a coffee drink when it cost around $5 in New York. A 100 CZK cup in Prague™ isn't going to do a lot for my penny-pinching soul.
But because I care about you, the reader, so much, I dipped into my hard-earned savings for an exploratory visit. After deciding to compromise my wallet, I had to compromise on another long-standing principle, as well.
There was a decent-sized line when I got there. Yes, I stood in it.Perhaps there were ten people ahead of me at around 6 pm.
The average price for coffee drinks was around 100 CZK. The price for many of the desserts and sandwiches was also around 100 CZK.
Ordering a coffee here is no simple matter. Here are some instructions.I got to the counter in about ten minutes and ordered a grande Iced Caffè Americano(70 CZK) and a chicken pesto ciabatta (109 CZK). It took another 10 minutes or so to get my drink and sandwich.An investment of 20 minutes and 179 CZK, altogether.
Starbucks™ describes the Iced Caffè Americano this way: "Rich, full-bodied Starbucks® espresso is combined with cold filtered water and ice for a crisp and refreshing drink."
Cold filtered water? I watched the barista throw the espresso into the cup of ice and then hold it under a tap in the sink to top it off.
The result? Watery. Plus, I forgot to ask for milk, so I sucked down several gulps and filled the space with milk from a jug at the other counter.
The sandwich was served warm. The ciabatta seemed to have come from a factory. It was more spongy than crunchy.The fresh basil leaves were a nice touch, and the pesto was good. But the sliced, roast chicken had a bit of a musty, aged taste that was accentuated by the reheating process.
If I really need a sandwich, I'd rather go a block down the street to Subway.
There are a couple of different rooms upstairs with some big, very comfortable chairs. But because they take up so much space, there aren't a lot of them.There is also a pretty big space downstairs with a mix of big chairs and smaller wooden ones. There were more open tables down there.Of course, you can buy bags of Starbucks™ coffee to make at home, if you like. There are also expensive souvenir Prague™ Starbucks™ coffee mugs.
I happen to walk by the store again later in evening, around 8:30 pm. There was no line.
In the future, I may venture again into a Prague™ Starbucks™ under certain conditions.
Like if I'm in the area, it's hot outside, I'm in the mood for iced coffee, there's no line, I just hit the bank machine, and I'm feeling flush with cash.
They do charge an ungodly amount of money.
Malostranské náměstí 28
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