|The Real Deal:|
And for those (like me) who eschew tour groups and live to explore and discover things on their own, it is nice to know that a few authentic, history-soaked Czech drinking establishments like this still exist, just off of one of the most touristy thoroughfares in Europe. This is not to say that tourists don't eat and drink at the Golden Tiger; they do, but no concessions are made for them. There is no gift shop. The experience is not pre-packaged. The staff is not all smiles and condescension - in fact, they can be more than a bit cranky. Seating preference is in this order: regulars, Czechs, and everyone else. If you fall into the category of "everyone else" and you want to get a seat at night (rather than in the afternoon) you may wait for a very long time - if you even get to sit.
Here is an undercover shot Poppa took to give you an idea:
We arrived on a weeknight around 7 or 8, and it was already packed, loud, and filled with smoke. As we entered, two seats seemed to open up, and we walked towards them. Faux pas number one! We were waved away by a disgusted waiter, who pointed at the very small, very crowded bar - which had no seats. Two others - clearly regulars - were waved (with a smile) to the empty seats. A very large, very gruff bartender nodded at us, poured two beers, and pushed them at us. He mumbled something. We gave him some Czech korunas; he gave us change.
To be honest, it was Poppa who originally had his heart set on scoring a seat here, but I was soon fully on board. I am not used to drinking large quantities of beer (liquor and wine is another story!) but as I stood at the cramped bar, looking out over all of the Czech regulars laughing, eating, and drinking, I resolved to get a seat by any means necessary.
Our first breakthrough came, I believe, when I asked the cranky waiter for the bathroom - in Czech. This elicited a small smile. Score! Once back, we finished our beers and were given two more - this time they didn't ask us to pay. Hmm, were they starting a tab for us? Did they expect us to be here awhile? Things were looking up.
We stood for, I believe, an hour. Many were seated during this time, and many came in, gaped open-mouthed at the crowded space, and left. This is not a game for the weak. But finally our breakthrough moment came. A small group got up to leave - leaving one of their friends behind. He looked up, and ... Is he? Is he really? ... Yes! He is motioning for us to join him. Success!
And so we were finally able to sit at the Golden Tiger - and better yet, we made a friend to boot. Meet Radek, a Czech who was vacationing in Prague:
|Hooray for Radek!|
But now that we were all cozy, what to eat? Radek suggested the steak tartare - he said it was an excellent traditional Czech dish - and who am I to argue?
I am absolutely addicted to that fresh horseradish cream.
Sadly, by the time we got this dish, the kitchen was closed. Oh but the beer ... the beer just kept on coming. As soon as you finished one, another appeared - and Radek insisted we finish them all! And we are nothing if not obliging. Here I am, contemplating my fourth ... or fifth? Oh forget it - who's counting?
We ended up closing the place down. I suppose the only reason I didn't have a hangover in the morning is that pure, unpasteurized beer. That, or the fact that Poppa and I went to Wenceslas Square afterwards and devoured a couple more sausages. Who can say?
All I know is, all of my goals for the night were achieved. Poppa was happy:
|Look at the cool old cash register! And the guy with the tiger T-shirt is the bartender/beer slinger.|
|Amazing painting on the wall|
|Radek, with some unidentified (and from the looks of it, surprised) guy|