Thursday, April 19, 2007

Hergetova Cihelna

It's not what you know, it's who you know. And I happen to know the author of "Grant's Prague Bike Blog." It's a small world for bloggers in Prague.

Grant writes and posts photos about the many challenges, adventures, and beers he's had while taking his life in his hands and cycling around this great city and beyond.

But he's not just all about the bike. This is a guy who likes to eat out, gets excited about new restaurants, and knows how to tell a story. Unlike me, he's actually been paid to write restaurant reviews. In an actual newspaper.

So, I offered him the opportunity of a lifetime: To be the first guest poster to appear on Czech Please.

Without further ado, Grant takes it from here:

I'm a regular reader of Czech Please, and an unexpected visit to one of Prague's finer restaurants last weekend got me to thinking about Brewsta's recent posts about the best hamburger in Prague.

And then I stopped thinking and started eating.

And now it's time to start writing something about what I was eating and thinking.

I've tried the hamburgers at TGI Friday's, at Jama, at Mozaika and Potrafena Husa. Haven't tried Fraktal's yet.

And I agree with Brewsta that PH's burger is both delicious and also way too expensive, at 297 crowns. But sometimes you just need a burger, a good burger, an authentic American burger, and you just have to say, "Check, please!" and get on with it.

I've splurged quite a few times on the PH burger, I must admit. Plus, the fries are very, very good, too.

My girlfriend, Daisy, and I had dinner the other night at Hergetova Cihelna in Malá Strana. In addition to a cool interior design, attentive service, and an eclectic menu, Hergetova Cihelna boasts what is arguably the city's best restaurant terrace, right along the Vltava, with an unbelievable view of Charles Bridge and the Old Town's spires and domes.

I think the view is better at Hergetova Cihelna than at the ritzier-and far-more-expensive Kampa Park, right next door, because it affords diners a less-restricted perspective on the bridge and the city.

And the evening we were there, the weather was stunning.

I've had the burger at Hergetova Cihelna before and liked it very much. But it had been awhile since I'd been back. I ordered it again. In fact, we both ordered it. Medium. With a bottle of South African Nederburg cabernet sauvignon (700 CZK).

And I think I can now make a pretty good argument that Hergetova Cihelna has the city's best hamburger, all things considered. That is, taking everything -- flavor, price, portion size, fries, accompaniments, and atmosphere -- into consideration.

The Cihelna burger is 295 crowns.*** That's two crowns cheaper than at Potrafena Husa. That's still one expensive hamburger and fries, but the price says more about Potrafena Husa than it does about Hergetova Cihelna.

Potrafena has a lot of nerve charging more than Hergetova for a simple hamburger. At Hergetova, you're dining in stylish surroundings and rubbernecking to see what celeb might be at the next table.

Plus, you get That View. That View is worth at least 100 crowns per burger, in my book.

I'd say the Cihelna burger itself is as good or better than the one at PH. The huge slab of quality ground beef is served under a warm blanket of four wide slices of bacon. The burger was perfectly cooked and had a nicely charred flavor. The burgers at HC are served with a small basket of crispy fries, and an array of condiments -- pickles, tomatoes, mayonnaise, ketchup, onions, lettuce, and cole slaw. The only quibble? The tomatoes are diced.

I think the Cihelna burger is also much easier to eat, physically, than the PH burger. I always find myself giving up and resorting to knife and fork about halfway through the PH burger. It's just too big, even for my mouth, and everything starts squirting out the back. The HC burger and bun have a lower profile, without sacrificing any substance.

As for Kogo at Slovansky Dum, I agree with Brewsta. I, too, think it's probably the best all-around dining experience in Prague -- when you consider food, prices, service, atmosphere, and that ineffable quality that makes you just happy to be there.

But now that it's fresh in my memory, I'd say Hergetova Cihelna runs a close second. Prices for entrees start at a very reasonable 225 crowns for the spaghetti with mussels. A half-liter of Pilsner Urquell will set you back 65 crowns, compared with 55 crowns for a .33 glass of Budvar at Kogo.

And unlike Kogo, it's got That View.

*** The Cihelna Burger now acutally costs a whopping 395 CZK.

You can read my review of the burger and restaurant here.

Hergetova Cihelna
Cihelná 2b
Prague 1, Mala Straná
Tel. (+420) 296 826 103


Anonymous said...

Oh my...

These yanks are a funny bunch. They visit an upscale restaurant, serving some really sophisticated haute cuisine dishes but they order ... a burger!!!!

Jay said...

Anonymous has obviously never had a good burger.

Thanks for the review... it's nice having the guest blogger.

Nomes said...

Oh no!! Don't do that.

After Brewsters Fraktal review, and having read many other people's take on their burgers, I went last night.

I was sorely disappointed. I've just had better burgers.

However, it did spark a 'burger off' in our flat. So, silver linings and all that.

Tonight we recreate pizza (toppings war, all hands on deck for base) - tomorrow: burgers.

Anonymous said...

I like a good burger out too. Have never had HC's burger, but will try it sometime.

Nomes raises a good point, though. Making a burger at home is not that hard ... Just get the best ground beef you can find and the best toppings on offer. Grill and eat ... After being disappointed numerous times by what's on offer in the restaurants, I usually just make them at home now ..

Brewsta said...

There have been debates about the quality of Fraktal's burger on other discussion boards. Opinion seems strongly divided.

I liked it for the price. Fair enough it doesn't rank as good for everyone. I've only had it once, so I can't speak about the level of consistency.

What I really miss when making burgers at home is the taste of cooking over flame -- something not so present in the Fraktal Burger, but strong at Potrefena Husa (and at Hergetova Cilhelna, Grant says). I do pull out the grill in summer.

Also, I've had a hard time finding a good source of hamburger meat near my flat. I really enjoyed a burger I made once from meat that was a mixture of pork and beef.

Anonymous said...

What a great blog! Now you uses guest authors, Brewsta! You are getting more and more creative!

I was at Hergetova last summer. I found the restaurant quite pricy, but worth it. I washed the good food down with 0,5 litre pilsner urquell. The location is scenic.

Now as the summer is approaching: what is the best scenic restaurant in Prague when it comes to food, view, beer/drinks?

I'm not a Prague resident - but with my limited experience - my vote go for Hergetova.

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous has obviously never had a good burger."

It is not the point whether there can be a good burger. Of course there can be a good burger.

Just as there can be a good hotdog, good ham-and-eggs and good fried dumpligs with Vysočina. But nobody of some style would even think of ordering these dishes at HC or La Perle de Prague, even if they offered them.

But burgers are not an issue for Amies... :-)))

Brewsta said...

Putting Hergetova Cihelna's menu on the same level as La Perle de Prague's, in any context, is laughable.

In fact, Mr. Anonymous, the whole comment is laughable.

One point of the post was that you could enjoy the view, have a great burger, and not blow a hole in your wallet.

Why get all jingoistic about it? Who could possibly take seriously a crack about style from someone so obviously lacking in class?

But if you are trying to win the competition for biggest snob, then OK, I concede. You win.

Anonymous said...

The people who knock burgers are usually the same ones who order beef tartar.

Go figger.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, That made me laugh! Thanks.

Actually, I had another thought about this blog. Maybe Brewsta, it's time to cut away from the well-worn expat path and take us to some places I and other readers have never been to. Kogo, HC, Tiger Tiger, Orange Moon, Fraktal, and many of the others here are staples in any expat's diet. Maybe it's time to rename the blog "Star Czech" and boldly go where no dining bloggers have gone before ... just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Not a bad idea, but please don't mention [CENSORED] because it's crowded enough already.

Brewsta said...

Kava, it is a good idea. Hopefully, if I can keep this going long enough, I will hit many places off the beaten path.

Sure, I'm mostly visiting places familiar to myself and much of the expat community. My goal, in part, is to build something of a post database that will be helpful to visitors.

If it gives expat and Czech readers ideas, so much the better. Certainly, it has started a few debates, which is a good thing, too, if people don't start insulting each other.

Also, to be honest, the familiar and/or my neighborhood restaurants are just plain easier to do.

Moanfunky -- I know what you are saying. There's a guy on the Prague Trip Advisor forum who knows way more restaurants than I do and he makes it a policy when helping visitors not to give away the names of his favorite gems.

The first time we visited Wigwam, it was half full, and now it is totally packed every time we go. I joked to my friends that it was because I blogged about it. I really was joking-- I got a laugh. The emptiness on the first visit could have been a fluke, but there's no real way to know.

That said, I'd still have a hard time believing that this blog would have a big influence one way or the other.

Brewsta said...

Interesting post in NY Times Diner's Journal blog:

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I have never been to HC or La Perle. I could not afford it. Or, better said, I could technically afford it but not mentally - paying more than CZK 150 for a meal would bring painful qualms to me.

And sorry again, but everyone in Europe (even those who don't pay more than CZK 150 for a meal) considers hamburger as a pitiful American fast food to be grabbed from a street stall when one is really hungry but has no time to eat properly. This is how Europeans understand the concept of burger, no matter the quality of materialising it naturally varies.

Brewsta said...

Thank you for explaining how everyone in Europe feels about hamburgers. I had no idea.

Pivní Filosof said...

Great idea that of going off the beaten track and exploring hospody a restaurace located where not many expats would venture.
Problem is that many, if not most of those places, won't have their menus in English, which is something that seems to drive not few expats mad.
I have double feelings about it, though. Many expats and tourists seem to be oblivious to the fact that the official language here is Czech, and I don't know if I would like to have that kind of people driving the waiters crazy at my favorite neighbourhood places. This blog is really popular, I think, and I'm really happy about you that it is, Brewsta.
Now, if you decide to carry on with this one day. Let me give you an idea to make it more fun. When reviewing a place, give just the name, and maybe the district of Prague, not the address. Let those who are really interested in knowing the place, find it.

Anonymous said...

I find that I have become kind of habitual in my dining out choices. I return time and time again to a trusted few places, and that universe feels like it's getting smaller, not larger. That's why I asked Brewsta to head out into uncharted waters a bit. Prague feels stale to me, yet when I walk the streets I see new places all the time ... I need someone to push me out of my comfort zone!

Brewsta said...

We all need that. Found a good place off the beaten track today -- Vrsovice/Nusle area. Sophisticated menu with prices lower than the center. Great alfresco patio. Stay tuned.

Anonymous said...

Here's 2 "new" places for you, both serving Plzensky Prazdroj from the tank ('tankové pivo'), in up-and-coming Smíchov:

- Zlaty Klas, Plzenska 9 (opposite Ibis Hotel); good service, above-average food, attractive interior
- Plzensky Restaurant Andel, Nadrazni 114 (opposite Apple store); outstanding Czech food incl. great steaks, even had ostrich on the menu last weekend. Pleasant beer garden at the rear

Sean said...

Very interesting article! Unfortunately I haven't taste hamburger the same as in the picture! But looking very delicious! I taste only traditional Czech cuisine- garlic soup, bouillon with vermicelli, roasted sirloin beef in sour cream sauce with dumplings! I have been in Prague once! I really enjoyed my holidays! We booked in Prague accommodation in historic center, with nice view on old city!
And I liked traditional Czech beer! I tasted 6 or 7 sorts of beer! They are very good!