Name: Prague European Kitchen.
Chef: Jake Paradis.
Cuisine: Eastern European.
Neighbourhood: West Queen West.
Signature: Cabbage rolls, goulash, schnitzel, and smoked meats.
Price of dishes: $8.50–$17 for mains, $5–$11.50 for starters, slightly cheaper at lunch.
Open for: Brunch, lunch, and dinner, seven days a week, though it closes early on Monday and Sunday. Hours vary, so make sure to check before going.
Assessment: Much has been written about Prague’s transformation from a simple deli and food emporium (with roots in the late 1960s) to its most recent incarnation. It’s true: The bright room, replete with polished hardwood and a red-and-white theme, is somewhat stark and characterless, save for the colourful earthenware steins on the wall and an old butcher scale at the back, near the deli. But while the recent makeover may not have retained enough of the old-school charm, the revamp provided a much-needed injection of energy, not only for the menu, but the restaurant itself. Chef Jake Paradis—an alumnus of Jump, as well as his Slovakian grandmother’s kitchen—is wise to stick to the staples you’d expect from a restaurant named after the Czech Republic’s capital: perogies, cabbage rolls, dumplings, and schnitzel all make an appearance, but there’s also an emphasis on daily food and drink specials, as well as keeping the food fresh and fun (a chronic problem with stodgy old world restaurants). On a recent visit, the featured Canadian goulash (the goulash changes every week on a rotating schedule) featured a heaping bowl of succulent chunks of pork shoulder, double smoked bacon, and caramelized onions, served on a bed of rich beef-and-tomato stock and accompanied by slices of dense, fluffy knedliky (dumplings) that wouldn’t seem out of place at Prague’s legendary U Medvídků. If you’re able to stand up after your meal, take a trip to the restaurant’s deli section, which is stocked up with house-smoked meats, and jars of pickles and mustard, making for a great one-stop-shop option.
• The food might not look pretty, but it comes pipping hot, the portions are huge, and it’s great cold-weather comfort food.
• The opportunity to shop at the deli after lunch or dinner (they even sell the homemade knedliky).
• Clientele ranges from old timers to young families to Bellwoods hipsters. In other words, it’s a great place to take anyone.
• The hours are a bit odd, and, disappointingly, the meals are priced differently for lunch and dinner.
Bottom line: The lack of kitsch factor aside, the new Prague should please old fans and new patrons, alike, with its delicious, no fuss-fare.
638 Queen St. W., 416-504-5787, theprague.ca.