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Spicy Sausage and Bun Fastfood

Most Czechs remember where they were when the first McDonald’s opened its doors in Prague. Of course, before the grand opening there were months of discussions and debate—it was seen by some as the beginning of the end. Czechs know what it is to be conquered. The Hamburgs did it, the Nazis did it, the Communists did it, and now the Americans were starting to do it. Everybody knows what happens when you let the first McDonald’s or Walmart into your town: it won’t be long till there is one on every corner.

The push of progress won over those that wanted to keep the American cuisine out. What can little Czech do? Its national animal, the double-tailed lion, has no chance against the persistent pecking of the mighty eagle.

The first McDonald’s in Czech had freshly pressed tablecloths and cushions on the seats. You ate off real plates and used stainless steel utensils. It was a night out for the whole family. Parents wanted to see what the Communists had been denying them, and the kids wanted to eat the same food Brad Pitt eats.

It did not take long for the magic to fade. The tablecloths and plates disappeared. Parents went back to their goulash, and kids ate there only because their parents didn’t.

As predicted by the conservatives of old Czech culture, McDonald’s cracked open the door and let everybody else in. KFC and Burger King are within eyesight of every McDonald’s. Pizza Hut tried but failed to catch on—the Czechs’ Italian-style light and thin pizza is too entrenched to be usurped by the thick and greasy pizza served by the chain. Subway and Dairy Queen are planning to attack with full force.

But all is not lost. If you are stuck and your only option is McDonald’s, you can still experience a little Czech culture. Order a fried cheese sandwich with a pint of Pilsner Urquell beer to wash it down.

You know that if there is a Coca-Cola banner above a street food stand, you are not at a fine-dining establishment. It is even worse when the establishment is sitting in a passageway between two tourist traps. Consider these food stands to be made-for-tourists hotdog stands with rickety walls to keep the flies away. They do not represent the Czech diet any more than cotton candy at Disneyland represents the diet of residents of California. The only time a local would consider eating anything from these food stands is at 4 a.m. when all sense of reason is lost to the influence of one too many.

Wenceslas Square is littered with these fast-food street vendors. I have no idea what the sausages are composed of, but they are unique to these stands. You cannot buy them in a deli. As long as you don’t look inside them as you eat, you should be fine.

Instead of succumbing to the glowing Coca-Cola sign and the sound of burgers sizzling, walk a block away from the stand. Look for a ground-floor deli embedded in a 100-year-old building. Chances are this deli has been around for 100 years, and for 100 years, the locals have been buying their meat there. They do not speak English or drink Coca-Cola, but in this deli they know how to make sausages.

Most delis have one or two small round tables at which you can eat your order. Nobody will look at you funny if you order just enough for you—there’s nothing wrong with one bun and two slices of ham. (Ham and salami are ordered by weight in decigrams. So if you want 100 grams of ham, then show 10 fingers or say ‘decet’ ten.)

Buns you buy at the deli contain no preservatives, so they last only a few hours after purchase before they get mushy. That is why in Europe you always see people walking around with pastries—they have to get them every day.

My personal favorite quick meal is a bun with ‘palivi’ (spicy sausage). You have a bun in one hand and sausage in the other. Bite the sausage and chew out the juice then follow quickly with a bite of the bun. If timed correctly, the bite down on the bun will be dry in the mouth, but as the bun is compressed flat, it absorbs the sauces of the sausage. The airy crispness of the bun combined with the spicy mush of the juice creates every sensation your mouth can experience. You might look like a performing monkey alternating your bun hand and your sausage hand, but at least you are not one of the fools a block away eating at a rickety hot dog stand.

Am I Being Helpful?

I hope you find this website helpful. I created the website because I love Prague, I enjoy writing about it, and I get a weird kick out of helping you make your trip to Prague more enjoyable.

I wrote a book about local travel in Prague. The book is my pride, my joy, my unbiological offspring. It was written with a passionate heart. If you find this website helpful consider reading my book. You will receive an entertaining book full of useful tips that will instil in you the confidence to wander the local streets of Prague. The book is also included in the popular Prague Local Explore Kit Bag.

Thank you,
Roman : Prague 2017

Prague Local Travel Book