Flatiron Lunch: Cafe Prague is All About the Goulash
Now that Downtown has its very own section of the site, what are we going to post on Fridays at 10am? Answer… how about a new column devoted to those lunches just south of the ML boundaries. Every week we’ll post about a lunch in Murray Hill south, Gramercy, Flatiron, and everything in between… or as we’ll call it from now on: Flatiron Lunch.
Hidden away on 18th Street off of 5th Avenue, Cafe Prague is easy to miss. Even if you notice it, the small cafe can easily be mistaken for a generic deli. I almost walked right by it until I saw the signs promising Czech dishes like goulash and “Prague Hot Dogs.” How could I pass that up?
Walking in, you’ll see the counter and display crowded with stacks of pre-made sandwiches and panini just like at delis all over town. The thick slices of roast pork in the Cuban certainly are appealing, but it sort of looks like it could be anywhere else. I paused when I saw all that and almost left. Good or not, it’s not particularly exciting. It was the sounds of Sinatra songs and 80′s pop tunes being sung in Czech told convinced me that something interesting here.
The weather may not be quite right for stewed meats and piles of starch, but when I saw the goulash lunch plate on the menu, I had to sweat it out and give it a try. The meat is tender, but not so soft that it falls to pieces. Mixed in with the gravy and a scoop of rice, it’s a satisfying meal that almost makes you wish it was still chilly (for full appreciation). I had the beef, but pork is also available.
On my second visit, I was excited to order the Prague Dog. I imagined a fat, smokey sausage served beer hall-style with spicy mustard and kraut, so I was understandably disappointed when it turned out to be just a hot dog (albeit, in a nice house-made bun.) The bun really is rather good. It’s fluffy and chewy and soft, but firm enough. In fact, it would be the perfect bun to house a real sausage along with a pile of spicy mustard and kraut. (What can I say? I’m still bitter.)
Most of the other Czech options on Cafe Prague’s menu are other varieties of goulash and soups that I just can’t bring myself to try during the summer. Most that is, except for the Prague Chicken Spaghetti, which tops a plate of pasta with a chicken cutlet, bacon, onions and tomato sauce. It sounds wacky and is on the top of my list to try on my next visit.
- Eastern European food is hard to come by, grab it when you find it.
- Goulash on rice or in a stew on a cool fall day is going to be great.
- There are plenty of delis serving the same sandwiches, how about more Czech food?
- What’s up with the hot dog being so much smaller than the bun?
Cafe Prague, 2 West 19th Street off 5th Avenue. 212.929.2602.