Editor's note: Today's burger review comes from AHT reader Lizy Yagoda, a junior at Vassar College who is currently studying abroad in Prague. When she's not hitting the books, she's scoping out the burger scene. Will she find a decent burger? You can follow her Prague adventures at her blog, An American in Praha.
Masná 2, 11000 Praha 1, Czech Republic (map); 224 812 560; bohemiabagel.cz
Short Order: Passable burger, however dry and bland. Bacon and cheese a must
Want Fries with That? Yes. And please figure out what that spice is for me!
Prices: Hamburger, 135kc (approx. $6.75); cheeseburger, 145kc ($7.25); bacon cheeseburger, 155kc ($7.75)
Notes: Mon. to Fri., 7 a.m. - 11 p.m.; Sat. to Sun., 8 a.m. -11 p.m.
In honor of Obama’s recent inauguration, I decided to begin my burger tour of Prague. I had surprised my friends and family by deciding to spend the spring of my junior year in Prague—not so much because of the language barrier or the remnants of communism, but because of the assumption of the lack of decent burgers. Although I had prepared myself to spend four months without a decent burger, my recently bolstered patriotism inspired me to find the taste of America.
After one of my Czech classes last week, I set out for Bohemia Bagel with two classmates. Bohemia Bagel was founded in 1996 because, according to the website, “[the founders] had a feeling that more health-conscious offerings would appeal to the Czech people and would be appreciated by the huge influx of tourists arriving in the 'Golden City' after the Velvet Revolution of 1989.” Walking in, I heard the familiar sounds of unaccented English; the shop was filled with Americans. According to my companions, this was the only place in the city where one could get a decent bagel. If Bohemia Bagel could make a good bagel, a feat unachieved in many American restaurants, I imagined they would serve a passable burger. Bohemia Bagel also seems to pride itself on its burgers, with posters claiming they serve the best burger in Prague.
Bohemia Bagel offered three options: a hamburger, a cheeseburger, and a bacon cheeseburger. The menu made note of the use of American cheese, which set my burger senses tingling. The burger comes with a side of salad or french fries. In keeping with my renewed faith in America, I chose fries. I was not, however, asked how I would like the burger done. Oh no. While I am rarely asked how I want my burger done at any establishment, it did not bode well.
The patty was basically flavorless. It had obviously been frozen at some point in its tragic life, and now had been cooked through and through, sapping all the innate beefiness that a burger should possess. This poor slab of ground beef had been killed twice. It did have a nice char though, which provided its only flavor.
I always prefer my burgers done rare—I will often ask it to be cooked the shortest time allowed by law. So, naturally, I was disappointed by the lack of pink. It was even more distressing that the disk was dry and uniformly gray.
I returned to Bohemia Bagel a few days later and noticed another patron who had ordered a burger. After she took a bite, I saw that her burger had been cooked to medium rare. I felt surprised and betrayed. Should I have specified the degree to which I wanted my burger cooked, or was their method of cooking extremely varied?
The bun was quite good; it tasted flavorful and fresh. When the burger first arrived, I noticed how tall and fluffy the bun was, but it squished down quite easily and delightfully. My only qualm was that it seemed to be a bit too toasted, which, combined with the dry patty, created a stacked sandwich rather than a burger.
I ordered my burger with American cheese and bacon. The burger also came with lettuce, onions, and tomatoes. Now, I hate tomatoes more that any food in the world—it’s something about the texture. As soon as I got my burger, I removed the tomatoes. Or so I thought. When I took my first bite, I felt something liquidy spill out the back of the bun. In a moment of hope, I imagined beef juices seeping out of the burger, soaking the bun. But no; it was the leftover tomato water. That water and the water from the lettuce (which really should have been patted down) provided the only moisture in the burger.
The thick, flavorful, and chewy bacon was incredibly awesome. It sat between the patty and the cheese, which made the bacon even more succulent. However, the distance between the cheese and burger deprived the patty of even more taste.
While I was initially put off by the excessive salt in my fries, I soon noticed a subtler layering of flavors that made the fries memorably good. When I asked what they were flavored with, I was told it was simply salt and pepper, but I suspect there was a main spice that I just couldn't place.
Walking away from Bohemia Bagel, I was struck by how decidedly average the burger was, reminiscent of what I might get at a college dining hall. My companions enjoyed their meals (a breakfast sandwich on a bagel and a chicken Caesar sandwich on a bagel). It seems that the presence of a burger on the menu was simply to cater to the ex-pat clientele.
When I returned another time, looking for a quick bite before a tour, I ordered a bagel with butter. It was far better than the burger. While I may not have found a burger to satisfy my desires, I at least found a lovely bagel place.