** This Bohemia Bagel outlet closed down on October 10, 2008
"In terms of fast food and deep understanding of the culture of fast food, I'm your man." Bill GatesI am always on the hunt for a quick takeout lunch near Wenceslas Square. I don't do fast food like McDonalds or KFC. But I do need my food fast.
I have a rather encyclopedic knowledge of the area's options and can tick off the pros and cons of a myriad of choices.
Recently, I've been going often again to Bohemia Bagel Express at Tylovo námestí, near I.P Pavlova tram and metro stops.I wrote a post more than a year ago about some of the bagel sandwich options from this unassuming little shack. My views on those still hold. They do a nice chicken salad with sun-dried tomato and red onion.
But in recent days, I've been going deeper into the menu and, with a few caveats, I've liked what I've found.
I've really gotten into their Philly cheese steak sandwich. They used good quality beef, fried on an electric grill, along with onions and green peppers and the cheese melted into the large, toasted roll.The only issues were that the bun is too spongy and chewy, and I'd like it more if the onions and peppers were cooked longer. The peppers had too much crunch for my taste. But if you want your food fast but also cooked to order, concessions must be made.
I thought it was a good deal at 85 CZK. They also offered a double meat version for 145 CZK. I tried that once, but really, the single was enough unless you are very hungry.
I also really liked their bacon cheeseburger. It was nothing super special, but it hit a lot of the right notes.The beef patty was not especially thick, but still substantial enough that one satisfied me for lunch. It gets some decent flavor from the grill. It had a big bun that held together well.
The price of 65 CZK made it taste even better, especially considering the skyrocketing prices of other burgers in Prague. They also had a burger without bacon or cheese for 55 CZK. Nice.
This may sound like a strange complaint, but I thought it had too many toppings. They were all appropriate -- lettuce, tomato, and onions. But I always got way to much lettuce, and even the number of tomato slices were over the top.
And sometimes they were on the bottom. Once, there were tomatoes on the top and the bottom of the patty.
The bun was also too chewy for me.
Now, a word about the service from the folks behind the window. Not so good.
I put the phone number for Bohemia Bagel Express into my phone so I could call ahead and save time. I called ahead for a burger. The woman asked me, in Czech, what kind of bagel I wanted it on. I said I didn't want a bagel, I wanted a hamburger bun. Conversation ends.
I get back to the office and, lo and behold, my burger was on a bagel.Perhaps I didn't understand every word she said. But I clearly said what kind of bread I wanted. At least she chose sesame for me. Not a bad choice.
Here's a look inside.There was a lot going on in there. Which was a particular problem when served with a bagel because everything shifted around and fell out more easily.
Example #2: I once asked for a little ketchup on my cheese steak (yes, it's true). When I unwrapped my sandwich at the office, there was no ketchup.
But that miscommunication pales in comparison to another one I had with them.
Which leads me to Example #3:
Again, I ordered a burger over the phone. I was in a big hurry to meet someone for a ride out of town. Plus, it was raining, and I had no umbrella. Plus, I was starving.
Warning: I'm dangerous when I am hungry, late, and wet.
I got to the window as the person ahead of me got his food and walked away. I asked for my order and by the look on the two faces in there, I knew immediately what had happened.
"You gave my burger to that guy!" I had murder in my eyes. "WHY DID YOU DO THAT!!!"
"He ordered the same thing! We didn't know it wasn't you." the woman said. "Sorry! Sorry! Sorry!"
She said in Czech that he also called, indicating that was why they were confused. But I could see the grill. There was no other food cooking.
"Then why isn't there another hamburger cooking?!?" I was getting ready to lunge through the window and give them a non-verbal grilling.
"Sorry! Sorry! Sorry! I'll make another one very fast," The man said in English. I would have walked away and told them to forget it, but given my state of hunger and the prospect of hours in a car with no food, I decided swallow my anger and wait. The burger came out very rare, but still edible.
For one lunch, I tried the turkey club (99 CZK). It was fairly ordinary, processed smoked turkey, bacon, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, mayo, and mustard.It was huge. Again, overstuffed with the toppings. It was not possible to eat without making a mess. I saw that the bacon came from a heating tray, rather than being fried on the grill. It was soft, not crunchy.
While doing some hard chewing on the roll, I had an epiphany. The roll had just about the same density and consistency of a bagel. It was just stretched into a different shape.
Since they make their own bagels, why not make their own rolls with the same dough? I could be wrong, but that's my theory. I didn't think it was a good thing. The size and shape were perfect, but I personally think bagels don't make great sandwich material.
That said, my colleague Major Dan liked the bagel sandwich he had for dinner one evening. He was headed off to KFC, and I talked him out of it. I sent him to Bohemia Bagel Express, fearing more for his arteries than he did.
He picked up a hot pastrami bagel (99 CZK). It comes with bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, mustard, mayonnaise, melted Swiss cheese.They call it "pastrami," but it really was more of a processed deli meat. It didn't taste bad, but didn't resemble real pastrami like you'd find in New York.His one negative comment: Too much lettuce.
And then there is dessert. I'm hooked on their brownies (25 CZK). They are very, very fudgy and sweet.They can vary in size. Sometimes, they have been more cake-like than fudge-like. Whatever. I've been eating them for years.
And on the occasion when no brownies are available, I go for their chocolate chip cookies. The one I had the other day was just right -- a little crunch around the edges, and soft in the middle.Maybe it was on the thin side, but still a very satisfying end to a lunch at my desk.
I should mention that I rarely pass up the chance to pick up some cinnamon raison bagels (11 CZK each). I take them home, freeze them, then toast them in the oven as needed.It's nice now that Philedelphia brand creme cheese is available in Prague. But it's not cheap.
I found a decent, cheaper alternative. I think it is called Tesco Soft Cheese Natural. Something like that.
Being no billionaire, I always like to save a few crowns when I can. Bill Gates? Not so much.
He may have served billions and billions in his line of work. But when it comes to a deep understanding of where to get some decent and fast food around Wenceslas Square, I'm your man.
Bohemia Bagel Express
Tel. (+420) 603 196 636
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