Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Follow Czech Please on Social Media

Dear readers,

I decided to stop posting to this blog at the end of 2013. The good news is that I am still posting regularly on my Czech Please FaceBook and Czech Please Twitter pages (links embedded here).

I'm still regularly posting photos and comments about my latest eating adventures, mini-reviews, as well as all the links I can find related to food and drink in Prague and sometimes beyond.

It was a great seven years of blogging, but it was time to move on to new pastures and media.

- Brewsta

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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Brewsta's Burgers 2014



"To eat well, I always disagree with critics who say that all restaurants should be fine dining. You can get a Michelin star if you serve the best hamburger in the world." Chef David Chang, founder of the Momofuku restaurant group



One year ago, I stopped writing in depth restaurant reviews to focus on social media. But the burgers never stopped. And neither has the demand to discuss them.

Yes, my seventh annual burger ranking list is here.

I've heard people say the burger craze has peaked in this town. I don't think so. Numbers don't lie. My burger posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are still the most commented upon and liked. The hunger for eating and reading about grilled ground beef on a bun appears to be widely shared.

What follows are the 26 burgers I ate over the course of 2014 -- the most ever. Eleven have been never ranked before. Some well-known burgers I've listed in the past, like those from Bohemia Bagel, Blackdog Cantina, Krystal Mozaika Bistro didn't make it this year.

Why? Because I want to live. 

I eat a number of these artery-cloggers more than once. I can't add burgers without dropping a few. If the burgers got better, worse, or changed significantly the week after I was there, that's too bad.

As always, I repeat my standard disclaimer: This is not a list of Prague's "best" burgers. It is a subjective survey of the ones I either liked or disliked, based on my personal taste.

What's my taste? I prefer beef flame-grilled or with a seared crust from a steel grill, cooked medium, seasoned with salt, light pepper, and classic, American-style construction and toppings. I like my bacon lightly crisp. I'd rather not have the toppings on the bottom, where they get hot and soggy. A bun can make or break you and it broke a few this year. The right grind of beef, coarse, not too fine, with a fat content about 20 percent, is key. 

I did my best, whenever possible, to compare bacon cheeseburgers or to keep the comparisons as similar as possible. I do not consider price as a main factor, but it does influence my thinking to a small degree.

Here we go, from my worst to my first:

26. Bruxx
This Belgian restaurant's mussels and beer have pulled in big crowds since it opened in March on Náměstí Míru. The website says its Belgian Beef Burger is made with "mature beef, au gratin with Brugge old cheese, served with grilled sweet onion, our chilli mayonnaise, home-made Bruxx fries and crispy bacon." When I had it the week they opened, there was honey mustard sauce, a buttery-tasting cheese, tomato, and red onion. The reason I disliked this burger the most: the texture of the meat. It was more like a meatloaf than straight ground beef. When I had it, the burger was 195 CZK. The website now lists it at 229 CZK. The fries were short and stubby. I can only hope they improved it when they raised the price. My advice based on this version is to stay with the Belgian classics.

25. Bejzment
This place won the top prize at the 2013 Prague Burger Fest, which its owner incidentally organized. On my last year, Bejzment's bacon cheeseburger came in sixth out of 23 burgers. So this one wins the award for the biggest fall from grace from last year. I was stunned when it arrived at my table within 5 minutes of placing my order. I questioned whether it was mine, but was assured that it was. It was barely warm. I ordered it medium, but the thick patty was rare. The quality of the meat was good, but it was bland and called out for salt to bring up the flavor. The cheddar was good and there was excellent crisp bacon. However, there was only one strip. It came with a mayo-ketchup mix, plus pickle, onion, tomato, and dark lettuce, which I do not favor. The big bun was too bready. By the time I was half way through, the meat was cold. It was very cheap at 139 CZK. Fries were 40 CZK and the greasiest of the year. I was asked if I wanted barbecue sauce, but was not told it cost 25 CZK extra. I've heard comments criticizing Bejzment for inconsistency regarding quality -- sometimes very good, sometimes very bad. That's been my experience as well.

For social reasons, I'm often at this busy restaurant. But I don't often get the bacon cheeseburger. The grind is usually too fine and they consistently overcook the patty to the point of dryness. If they paid more attention to patty and cooking temperature, they'd really come up in the world. They have a much-improved bun. I had one good burger there, but all the others were disappointing. It came with smoky, crispy bacon, decent cheese, Wigwam sauce (ketchup mixed with chili sauce), and not much else. It was not large and holds together. 169 CZK

Hard to believe, but this restaurant's burger was my favorite in 2011. Times have changed. The very salty cheese didn't taste much like cheddar and was melted all over the place. I recall thinking years ago that their cheddar was very good. The beef had a good medium grind, but the thick patty had an odd flavor. I spent the meal trying to put my finger on what that flavor was, but I could not. Whatever it was, it was not right. It was also a very "wet" burger, with copious amounts of liquid squirting out on the first bite. It came with crispy, salty bacon, lettuce, tomato, and onion under the patty. The veggies got warm and soggy under the meat. The bun was chewy and dry and the whole thing fell into pieces. I didn't finish it. My notes say, "bleh." 195 czk.

22. True Blue
Many times, I've given this diner-style Vršovice restaurant a chance. They've regularly blown it by overcooking or undercooking their burger. This year, at least the burger came medium-well instead of the medium I ordered. It was not dry as it was in previous years. It was thick and the meat was bland. I added salt. It came with lettuce, tomato, red onion, semi-soft, smoky bacon, and cheese that did not taste like cheddar. It sat on a toasted, too chewy sesame roll. There were dishes of really tasty chipotle mayo and also ketchup on side. I strongly dislike these small servings of ketchup. There is never enough to both top my burger and dip my fries in. Overall, the burger was large and hard to bite, but held together. I felt bored, but finished it. 159 CZK

21. Mozaika Burger and Co.
I was a fan of the the old Mozaika restaurant in the same location and ranked its burger pretty highly. I was looking forward to the results when they announced they'd become a dedicated burger joint. So it pains me to say that I did not like the Mozaika burger several weeks after they opened. Other reviews have been mixed. I come down in the thumbs down camp. It came with bacon, pickles, lettuce, tomato, good Swiss, smoky bacon, and an overabundance of homemade mayo. The ground beef did have a nice char flavor from the grill, but the grind was too fine. The meat had a mushy texture. It was cooked medium as requested. The crunchy bun was heavy and dense and became soaked with juice from the patty. It reminded me of focaccia. I thought it would be a better dinner roll than a burger bun. The first bite tasted good, but I had had enough of this burger about halfway through. 195 CZK and 49 CZK for potatoes.

Another past winner laid low. The Mood Classic Burger comes with smoked cheddar cheese, crispy, thick bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, sweet onion, tartar-style mayo, and curly fries. It came with way too much lettuce, most of which I removed, and also too much mayo. The baked roll was chewy. It came rare instead of medium and was too large to bite into easily. They ground the beef much too finely, rendering the texture mushy. And yet there was also some gristle in there. My notes say "not fun." I will add that I like a lot of other things on their creative menu and their back terrace is terrific in the warmer months. 230 CZK with curly fries.

Despite being a chain, I've liked this burger in the past. But I felt that this year, it wasn't as good as it used to be. Some others told me they also thought the quality dropped. It came with red onion, tomato slices, onion, green and dark lettuce under the patty where it gets warm and wilted. The lettuce fell out of the toasted bun. There was crisp smoky bacon. The very salty but indistinct cheese picked up some of the smoke flavor. The large, char-grilled patty was big, hard to chew, and dry. I asked for medium, as always, and it came well done. This burger was huge. Without exaggeration, my jaw muscles got tired. I did not finished it. 269 CZK (295 CZK at the Na Příkopě location).

18. Burger King
Yes, I'd rather have this burger than any of those before it in this survey. Burger King is included every year for several reasons. This is my version of a "control." It's a known quantity and quality that most people understand. It's burger science, if you will. The main point is this: if I like a BK burger more than the offering at a real, full-service restaurant, the owners and cooks should seriously rethink what they are doing. Another reason for its inclusion is to annoy the humorless people who take these things too seriously every year and think of this as a "best of" rather than a "favorites" list. That said, this year I had the Angus XT Bacon Cheeseburger, and it was the best I've had from them in a long time. The burger was very well put together. The bacon and cheese both picked up the smokiness of the extra thick Angus beef patty. It was well done, as all BK burgers are, but easy to bite into and chew. The soft bun held together but was a little too bready. There was a tangy barbecue sauce. Unlike last year, I actually enjoyed this one. 149 CZK without fries or drink.

17. Kofein
This burger was satisfying in a home-cooked burger kind of way. It was good that they replaced the ciabatta they used to use with a round bun. It cames with bacon, cheese, barbecue sauce, and lettuce. It was pretty messy. The issue for me was that the patty had a somewhat rubbery texture. It's always been that way. I'm not sure if it is from the grind or if they mix the beef with something else. I should add that although the burger doesn't rank very high with me, this restaurant is one of my top favorites in the city. 165 CZK with homemade potato wedge fries.
Last year, the GPS Burger did well, coming in fourth. This year, I thought they screwed it up. Only on the bar menu, it comes with red onion, pickle, tomato, lettuce, spicy chipotle aioli, and dull cheddar, mostly on top. The bun was good and held together well. The problem was one that I've seen far too much of this year. They took 30-day aged USDA prime beef and ground it into a fine puree. That's just wrong. You can see the result in the edges that were too smooth and rounded. The texture of the 170 gram patty was mushy. Even so, the well-salted, overly ground beef tasted pretty good. The standout star here was the perfectly-cooked, smoky, sweet, and salty maple-glazed bacon. Wow. I'd love to just have a big order of that. I have yet to try their 900 CZK steaks, but it's on my "to do" list. 375 CZK with very good fries - the most expensive this year.

15. Putica
The menu changed after my visit earlier this year. They now have exotic offerings like the Mexican beef burger, the Samurai chicken burger, and the goat cheese burger. Online, I didn't see a classic bacon cheeseburger like the one I had. That one came with very good ground beef cooked medium. The patty was on the small side. There was also bacon, cheddar cheese, caramelized red onions, shredded lettuce, tomato, soft, smokey grilled bacon, and garlic mayonnaise. The cheese all but melted away. The stumble here was the homemade bun. It was too doughy and dense, too tall, and hard to bite. It dominated the flavor of the burger and sat like a rock in my stomach. I spoke to the manager about it. If they changed the bread, it would be a major improvement. I paid 190 CZK for my burger, comes with fries.

I had the small 130 gram burger for 149 CZK. They also do a 200 gram version for 199 CZK. It came with rucola, tomato, a mayo-ketchup mix, and pancetta standing in admirably for bacon. It was a slightly Italian interpretation of a burger. There was no denying that the quality of the beef was good, and cooked medium, it had a lovely flavor from the grill. But they ground it too much, and the texture was too dense and chewy. I suspected that the fat content was not high enough.

I'd heard good things about what the menu bills as "Our Smokey Burger." It was decent but not exceptional. This burger was large. The patty was made with very peppery, good-quality ground beef and it was cooked medium. There was honey-mustard sauce underneath, which was strange to me. There were sweet pickles and tomato on the side, along with slaw, but nothing else. The toasted bun was stiff on the outside, softer underneath. The big defect to my mind was the so-called Irish cheddar. This big, yellow glob on top was rubbery and dull. The burger itself costs 229 CZK but they then charge 35 CZK to add bacon (which I liked) and 35 CZK to add the offending cheese. That pushes the total price, according to the web menu, to 299 CZK. My notes say it was 269 CZK when I had it.

I like this cute little place and went their often this year. The bacon cheeseburger was not easy to get my mouth around due to its size. It came with dark lettuce, tomato, red onion, cheese, mayo, and crisp bacon. The big soft bun had a unique Worcestershire-based sauce that soaked into the bun. The patty's grind was good, and it was quite thick. The ground beef was peppery, which seemed appropriate given the name of the place. The bun became soggy with the sauce and beef juices. On one visit, the cheese tasted cheddary, but on a more recent trip, it had a more buttery flavor. It was cooked medium well. 149 CZK, no fries. Given the choice, I prefer their excellent cheddar hotdog and a bowl of their homemade soup.

11. Fair Food
This is a good little place to know about not far from the Újezd tram stops. I had the smaller 125 gram bacon cheeseburger for just 89 CZK. They had a 250 gram version for 125 CZK. It came with crisp, salty bacon, great caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato, and their ketchup-mayo mix. The beef was properly ground, with a good, slightly crumbly texture. There was flavor from their steel grill and it was both salty and peppery. It was cooked medium. The toasted, large sesame roll held up well but was a little too large for the small patty. I ended up not needing or eating all of the bread, which was slightly chewy.

It took a strong recommendation from a friend to get me to leave the comfort of Prague 10 and trek to the wilds of Nebušice in Prague 6. I went by car, though I'm told buses go there. It's a unique place in the basement of a hotel and connected to a bowling alley. The cheeseburger came with decent cheddar that picked up the smokey flavor of the patty. It was patty had grill marks on it and was cooked exactly medium. There was also sliced pickle, mustard, lettuce, and diced onion. I asked for ketchup and got a small dish, which annoyed me. The bacon was good, but there was only a single half slice, which was bad. The bun was spongy and a little too dense. 175 CZK with weak fries and a good little salad.

This pricey burger has remained consistently good over the years. This year, I had the Big Cheeseburger with bacon. It came with thick, tangy cheddar, lettuce, tomato, and raw red onion. I thought it came with bacon, but when I saw it didn't I added it. They serve Heinz and French's mustard on the side. The smokey, juicy patty, a little too chewy, was served medium. It arrives on a thick, toasted brioche bun. This thing was seriously big and hard fit in the mouth. Eating it was a messy affair. It was 345 CZK. I'd actually prefer their "Classic Burger," which has a smaller patty, but does not come with bacon or cheese. When you add those, it's almost the same price as their big burger which has bacon and cheese included in the price.

This burger was very well executed. The beef was ground just right and it was cooked medium and juicy. There was a smoky char on the patty. There was real cheddar flavor in the cheese. The toppings come on the side, but the tomatoes were cut too thick. It was not too large, not too small, and held together on the toasted roll. 278 CZK with greasy limp fries.

This is one of the most popular and beloved burger places in Prague. Last year, I ranked the Classic Bacon Cheeseburger #2. I'll take some heat for this, but it dropped in my esteem. Overall, I liked it but it had some issues. The salty cheese melted off the patty and formed a hard crust around the sides. The patty, cooked medium well, was made with good beef, but it was pressed too tightly. The included combination of ketchup, mustard, and mayo overwhelmed the flavor. I say pick two, drop one. I liked the sour pickles, the three slices of crispy bacon, and the soft, steamed poppy-sesame roll. It was very sloppy to eat. 199 CZK and fries 45 were CZK extra.

6. Bad Jeff's Barbeque
This burger has potential for greatness. I had it the first week it was available at this new restaurant. A couple of issues need to be righted. One the plus side, the 200 gram freshly ground beef patty was cooked medium and topped with white cheddar that picked up the smokey flavor of the grill. The crispy bacon was a little too charred on the ends of some strips. The grind was just right, but on the down side, there was also gristle in there. The peppery patty had a classic char crust. There was mayo and French's mustard on top. A bottle of Heinz was on the table. The bun was too chewy and dense. I was told that a better bun is in the works. Overall, it was large and hard to bite. 245 CZK with good curly fries.

Browsing the food offerings at Naplavka is always fun on a Saturday. And it's extra good if Paul Day of Sansho fame is there with his mobile grill built into his old Defender. I had what he calls his "White Mama" sliders. It came with dry-aged beef, cured guanciale, and his homemade sauce. The bun was good. The cheese was good. It was juicy, rich, and delicious.
The burger was made with great beef, and it was one of the smokiest, which I love. The good cheddar picks up that grill flavor. There was lettuce, tomato, jalapeno mustard and sweet relish. They don't do bacon. It was cooked medium. The patty, with a good course grind, was thick, but it was not wide. The bun was the main weak point here. It fell apart before I finished, but the meat was the star. You wouldn't expect a fish and chip shop to have a very good burger, but Ithey defy expectations. 215 CZK with fries.

I don't like the simple, small roll they use at this butcher shop that serves a few hot meals. I don't like that it was topped with pickles, red onion, and dijon-style mustard. What I loved, loved, loved, was the perfectly ground 180 grams of beef, cooked medium rare, with just the right fat content. The exterior had charred crust from the grill. It was moist and just juicy enough to be a little messy. It was not served with a plate, just paper. It's fun to watch it grilled in front of you. I saw the cook in the open kitchen actually take a photo of my burger before it was served. Consider yourself lucky if you find a place to sit in this tiny place. The burger was not large, but it doesn't cost a lot either. 125 CZK, no fries.

I had the burger here a couple of years ago and did not like it. I was told it had changed and was urged to return. I'm glad I did. The Royal Bacon Cheese Burger was excellent. It came with bacon, caramelized onions, lots of garlic mayo, cheddar, and long slices of pickle on bottom 199 with fries. The thick, beefy 170 gram patty was cooked medium as advertised and came on a large sesame bun that holds together well. The grind was right. The cheese was very cheddary. The crispy, smoky bacon was crisp but thin. crispy but thin bacon. I asked for ketchup and, interestingly, they mix it with a little Tabasco. I had to pay 25 CZK for it, which I did not appreciate. The burger was great and it was hard to get a table there as a walk in. 209 CZK (199 CZK a few months ago) with homemade fries that aren't great.

There has never been a two-time winner of my burger ranking list. Until now. The restaurant is too small and has been overwhelmed by its popularity. Why is Dish the place I and many others return to the most? In a word: balance. They got the most things right -- the size, the textures, the flavors, the quality. The Dish Burger was made with white, tangy cheddar, slightly crispy bacon, garlicky aioli, very sour pickles, and lettuce. There was a mild homemade ketchup. The burger was put together with care. It didn't just taste good. It looked good. The toasted bun was soft and yet held everything together. It was toasted and not baked as it once was. Some complained they did not like their new bun recipe as much as the old. It didn't bother me. The burger had the right grind, the perfect amount of salt, a crust seared by the grill, sealing in the flavor. There were still some chewy pieces of meat in the grind. I'm not sure why that issue continues, but I like it so much overall that I'm willing to forgive. 189 CZK and homemade fries are 45 CZK (the last serving I had were good, much-improved from when they opened).

That's my list for 2014. Feel free to agree, disagree, or share your own rankings in the comments. 

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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Brewsta's Burgers 2013

"I would rather be having a burger and beers with my mates, but I can't do that when I know I've got to dance." Michael Flatley
'Tis the season to read about burgers. My annual burger ranking list is here.

I've decked my arteries with loads of fat and cholesterol for the last 12 months. I've eaten many old favorites, skipped some from previous years, and added some fresh meat, so to speak.

This is the sixth year of Brewsta's Burgers. Last year's list was the most read article of 2012 on Expats.cz. The hunger for burgers in the Czech Republic grows ever larger.

As always, I repeat my standard disclaimer: This is not a list of Prague's "best" burgers. It is a subjective survey of the ones I either liked or disliked the most, based on my personal taste.

What's my taste? I prefer beef flame-grilled or with a seared crust from a steel grill, cooked medium, seasoned with salt, perhaps light pepper, and classic, American-style construction and toppings. I like my bacon lightly crisp. I'd rather not have the toppings on the bottom, where they get hot and soggy.

I did my best, whenever possible, to compare bacon cheeseburgers or to keep the comparisons as similar as possible. I do not consider price as a main factor, but it does influence my thinking to a small degree.

The 23 burgers below are a record of what I ate over the course of the year. I did cram an unhealty number of burger "tastings" into the last two months. Some I had more than once, but if the burgers got better, worse, or changed significantly the week after I was there, that's too bad.

Here we go, from my worst to my first:

23. U Tří růží
I tried the U3R Burger (210 CZK) early in the year. Not a good start. The patty was dense and rubbery, with a bacon-like taste. There was way too much mayo. Not even half way through, the bun crumbled and fell apart. The ketchup was not Heinz, likely a Czech brand. Big. The toppings included raw onion, lettuce, and soft bacon. This was the first time I have ever eaten a burger with a fork and it was only because I had no other choice.

22. True Blue
I want to see this cute little Vrsovice diner-like spot with an American menu succeed. I really do. The True Blue Bacon Cheeseburger (159 CZK) has potential. Others have told me they enjoyed it. But the chef screwed it up every time I've been there. I always ask for my burgers cooked medium. The first time, it was well done, rendering the peppery ground beef dry and crumbly. The second time, someone suggested asking for medium rare, thinking it would come medium. Wrong. It was barely seared and pretty close to tartare. They used quality cheddar, and there was also lettuce, tomato, and smoky bacon with crisp edges. The generic bun was stale. I really liked the piquant chipotle mayo. If they get their act together in the kitchen, they'll jump much higher on the list.

21. Peter's Burger Pub
A number of dedicated burger restaurants have opened in the past few years. Being who I am, I think this a great thing. I went to Peter's with high hopes that there'd be another good place to stop for a bite in Karlin. In this case, I'll keep going. I had the Simply Classic Burger (106 CZK) shortly after they opened. The ground beef was the most dense I've come across. I asked for it medium, and indeed, it was pink in the middle. But even that part of the salty, peppery patty was rubbery. How is that possible? I found it challenging to tear off a piece with my fingers. The toppings were red onion, white onion, Gouda cheese, tomato, pickle, too much tartar-like sauce, soft, Czech-style bacon (otherwise known as Anglicka slanina), and two types of lettuce. Aside from the visual impact, I don't understand why they put so much lettuce there. It's just impractical. I found the bun too chewy. The best thing I can say is that they served Heinz ketchup and the price was low. I'll give it one more chance next year.

20.Fraktal
I really hated their burger last year. The management wrote to say they had a bad night when I was there and had made changes. The Fraktal Burger (185 CZK) I had this year was better, but not by much. The bun is still too big and too chewy. The bacon wasn't burnt this time, but it was soft and folded over on itself. I had to unfold it manually so it covered the patty properly. The ground beef was tasty, with a smoky flavor from their flame grill, but there was also gristle in there. It was cooked medium, as requested. It comes with lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickle, and garlic mayo.

19. Burger King
Every year, I include something from Burger King. This is my version of a "scientific control." It's a known quantity and quality that most people understand. But the main point of including this burger is this: if I like a BK burger more than yours, be ashamed. Be very ashamed. Although I like Burger King much better than McDonald's, this particular Steakhouse Burger was not enjoyable, with an overabundance of cloyingly sweet barbecue sauce.

18. Arriero Express
A South American steak delivery place near Náměstí Míru? This I had to see. Plus a good friend of mine just moved to southern Chile so I had try Arriero's Patagonia Burger. It's pretty porky. In fact, it's 60% beef and 40% pork. I'm not a fan of mixing, but this one was tasty and had a loose grind with good texture. The meat was cooked medium and actually had a light, spiciness to it. There was lettuce, tomato, and raw onion wilting under the hot meat. I prefer it on top or the side. The fluffy, untoasted bun was too large and quickly crumbled. Not good. It came with really nice pieces of fried potatoes.

17. La Bottega Di Finestra
The La Bottega di Finestra Burger (295 CZK) is an odd one. The burger was offered for just a couple of months early this year at my favorite Italian cafe. The flavor of the imported Marchigiana beef, cooked medium rare, was excellent. However, it was ground too finely, making the patty too dense. It came with an over-abundance of homemade mayo, capers, mixed leaf lettuce, tomatoes, pancetta that looked very much like bacon, red onion, and Asiago cheese. These top quality toppings sat on an amazing, toasted bun baked on the premises. It came with great crispy fries. There were so many terrific flavors in there. And yet... it didn't really work for me. This gourmet creation was just too far from the classic burger flavors to achieve a high ranking. I'm glad I tried it, but would stick to their usually impressive Italian fare on my next visit.

16. Domyno Burger
I don't generally like drive under the influence of burgers, but I got my car out and headed to Prague 4 to try the Domyno Burger Number 1 (139 CZK + 39 CZK for fries). The patty was salty, with a slight rubbery texture. I was wondering if there was some pork in there. The bacon was smoky and slightly crisp. The grilled red onion had very little flavor. I'm not a big fan of dark leaf lettuce on a burger. The "cheddar" was flavorless. There was too much mayo. The toasted bun was good, and the branded logo on it is a cute touch. The patty was juicy and cooked medium, as ordered. I had to order and pay for a side of ketchup.

15. Blackdog Cantina
Yes, this Beroun restaurant has a loyal following. It's very hard to get a seat in its tiny dining area. Many say it's the best. Once again, I'm gonna go against popular sentiment. Blackdog's burgers have the potential for greatness, but they have a major flaw as far as I'm concerned. Their menu specifically says all burgers are cooked medium unless otherwise requested. I always confirm that this is how I want it with my server. And every single time I visited (and I've been many times), the burger came well done. The thick, rounded patty was dried out to its core and hard to chew. If you haven't had this problem, well, I'm jealous. On the last visit, I had the 140 gram Black Dog Cheeseburger (105 CZK). But I had the same problem with their bigger patty, too. Their burger had lettuce, dull cheese, tomato, red onion, herb mayo, and ketchup on their bready brioche-style bun. Adding their soft, smoky bacon cost 20 CZK and fries were extra.

14. Krystal Mozaika Bistro
The Krystal Burger (189 CZK) dropped slightly in my esteem compared to last year. The salty ground beef was overcooked, but still juicy. But I'd definitely say it was chewier and I didn't enjoy it as much. It came with very good, semi-crisp bacon, and their homemade bun was lovely, as always. On it, there was lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, and an abundance of mayo mixed with mustard seed. They served it with squeeze bottles of mustard and ketchup, which tasted like Heinz. Fries were not included, but I'm not a big fan of their thin, McDonald's-style fries anyway.

13. Jáma Restaurant
I had the Cheddar Burger (175 CZK + 40 CZK for bacon). The bun was different than last year, I'd say breadier, but sturdier. The thick patty of high-quality ground beef had a good, loose grind. It was not cooked medium as requested. Despite being well-done, it was moist and didn't dry out, but it was crumbly. I recall their cheddar being quite good in previous years, but this time, the cheese had a less pleasing buttery flavor. There was excellent crispy, smoky bacon along with lettuce and tomato. Fries were included.

12. Bohemia Bagel Holešovice
I've enjoyed the Bohemia Burger with bacon and cheddar (175 CZK) many times over the years. They can be maddeningly inconsistent, but I always appreciated the strong smoky flavor of their flame-grilled beef. The patty usually tastes like it just came off a backyard barbecue. They don't overgrind the meat either, which is a mistake many places make. It came with lettuce, tomato, and raw red onion. There was smoky, ham-like bacon, which they lose points for. The so-called cheddar was flavorless, processed stuff. There was no ketchup or mayo, so I ordered some ketchup. The sesame bun was softer and not as chewy as I remember. It was not cooked medium as requested. Cooking it all the way through left it dry inside. Fries were included.

11. Café Sladkovský
I had the Baconburger with cheese (165 CZK) at this popular Vršovice hangout. Fries were extra (35 CZK). This was another burger that falls into the home-style, hand-formed category. It came with soft but smoky bacon, lettuce and tomato. The cheddar had good flavor. The bun was over-toasted and became too rigid. The medium grind ground beef was cooked exactly to medium. I really love to see a pink middle. There was light mayo on it, but I added a touch of ketchup. The server brought me a Heinz bottle on request.

10. Brown Bag Burger
This Prague 6 place is new and I dropped by a week after it opened. I had the Gourmet Cheeseburger (135 CZK + bacon 15 CZK). Former Mood chef Jeff Cohen consulted on the menu here and it shows. The toasted, chewy bun was similar to Mood's. The lightly crunchy bacon was perfect. On top, there was red onion, lettuce, tomato, and the "cheddar" was a generic slice. It came with a relish more like chopped pickle that was less sweet than the American type. The main attraction was the obviously freshly ground beef. It was on the salty side and juicy, with a good medium grind. However, the patty, cooked medium, was fairly thin and the flavor of the beef was somewhat lost under the flavor of all the toppings. Fries were extra (35 CZK).

9. Mozaika
I had the burger at this restaurant years ago and didn't like it much. This year, the Beef Burger Mozaika (195 CZK) was much different, and I liked it much better. The simply seasoned ground beef was just right and cooked medium. They don't do bacon. It had a sweet onion-mushroom mix on top that I thought was quite tasty. There was also tomato, mustard, too much homemade mayo and too much lettuce. It was not easy to eat, but the dense, homemade onion bun held together well. Fries were not included.

8. TGI Friday's
Yes, it's a chain. But it's American and they have a firm and standardized grasp of the classic flavors and construction. The Bacon Cheeseburger had a perfectly circular patty of flame-grilled beef that was ground too finely, making it too dense for my taste. They have terrific crispy bacon. The cheese actually tasted like cheddar. It came on a classic, toasted bun that crumbled a little at the very end. There was red onion, lettuce, tomato, and pickles. I asked for medium, but there was only a small amount of detectable pinkness. It was 249 CZK when I had it, but the website now says it is 269 CZK. One side note. I have a habit of always ordering their excellent chocolate shake with my burger. And every time I do, the waitress gives me a funny look and comments on the "strange combination."

7. Hard Rock Cafe
Ditto what I said above about an American chain that understands burgers. I ordered the Classic 6 Ounce Burger (235 CZK) with added bacon (30 CZK) and added cheddar (30 CZK). You could clearly taste the smoky flame grill on the Angus beef patty. I love that charred flavor. It was cooked medium, as I had asked. There was really good, crispy, smoky bacon and the cheddar tasted like cheddar. The bun was soft but strong and there was lettuce, tomato, red onion, and pickles. It came with their good fries.

6. Bejzment
I'd been hearing a lot about this place over the years. I finally got to the restaurant in Smichov. The first time I had the 200 gram bacon cheeseburger (119 CZK) I was blown away. The medium-grind ground beef had a perfect char-grilled crust. It was cooked medium. The toppings -- tomato, pickle, onion, and Romaine lettuce -- were on the side where I like them. Other factors aside, it was one of the best patties of the year. What were the other factors? This was their large patty, but it didn't look too big. The waiter forgot my request for bacon, and I couldn't get his attention again so I went without. There was too much mayo. The cheese was crumbled unevenly. The ketchup in the squeeze bottle had an odd flavor and didn't not taste like Heinz. I liked the burger so much, I went back the following week. And, sadly, it was not nearly as good. I saw the owner in the kitchen the first time, but this time, I saw him out on the floor. This second burger was overcooked and dried out, knocking the overall rating lower on my list. It did have good bacon this time, though. Fries (35CZK) were extra.

5. Mood
Right after I picked this restaurant's burger as the winner last year, the American chef left. I went back and discovered the quality dropped. Pretty disappointing, and not just for me. I went back again a few months later, and it had improved. Each time I returned, it got better. I had the Mood Classic Burger with added bacon (225 CZK). It was made with juicy, peppery ground beef loosely ground and cooked medium rare. There were some chewy bits. It had great smoked cheddar, pickled onion, and quite savory, spicy chili mayo mixed with chives. The bacon had been crispy, but most recently, it was soft and hammy. The burger needed ketchup to get flavor where I wanted it. It came with fries. Here, I'll note that a number of other items on the menu are excellent. When I am not on a burger mission, I enjoy ordering their other offerings.

4. George Prime Steak
I had the GPS House Burger (375 CZK), which was only available in the bar at this new high-end American steak house in Old Town. It was made with broiled Wagyu-style beef, smoked, aged cheddar, spicy chipotle aioli, pickle, lettuce tomato, and sweet red onion jam mixed with red wine. The medium-grind beef had a nice charred-crust exterior. It was also delivered very rare. Luckily the meat was so fine, but it needed another minute or two on the grill. The homemade sesame brioche bun was slightly stale. It came with great fries. This was the most expensive burger on this year's list and should have been larger for the price.

3. Fish & Chips
The Beef Burger (215 CZK) at this place that does mostly fish really surprised me. The quality of the thick beef, with a good grind, was top notch. It was cooked medium rare and had a delicious, smoky exterior. The toasted sesame brioche bun was the best. It came with cheddar, sweet relish, tomato, chopped lettuce, and jalapeno mustard. Bacon was not an option. It wasn't large, but the enjoyment was big. Fries and cole slaw were included.

2. The Tavern
I've spent a lot of time in this beloved American-owned and operated restaurant. It's a big favorite among expats, but I've seen plenty of Czech people enjoying themselves there. I've had the Classic Bacon-Cheddar Burger (185 CZK) many times. They use very good beef and the burgers almost always came out cooked medium. The bacon was crisp. I really like their soft, lightly sweet homemade buns. To my mind, there were several factors that kept them from the top spot. The burgers had too much mayo, mustard, and ketchup. That masks some of the flavor and also makes them quite messy to eat, with the patty sliding around in the bun. The beef was ground too finely and compressed too tightly. This handy burger trouble-shooting guide, much of which I agree with, explains those issues. Fries were not included.

1. Dish {Fine Burger Bistro}
How do I know which burger is my favorite? Quite simply, it's the one that draws me back most often. By that measure, the Dish Burger (189 CZK) was the winner. It was made with 150 grams of hand-pressed, loosely ground beef, which is topped with with cheddar cheese, bacon, homemade ketchup, garlicky mayo, sweet pickles, and lettuce. Sometimes the bacon was crispy, other times it could be soft. It was not cooked on a flame, but their steel grill gave the patties a perfect, flavorful sear. They sprinkle salt on top as they grill it in their open kitchen. I really like their sweet, homemade brioche bun, which almost always holds together. They were well constructed and even nice to look at. The patty can sometimes have small bits of gristle. Some say it is too small, but it is just right for me. The owner told me he modeled his burgers after America's very popular small chain, Umami Burger. I went to an Umami Burger in Santa Monica, California two years ago, and I'd say he came pretty close. Dish's homemade fries cost extra. It was already almost impossible to get a seat in the very small restaurant and it was sometimes completely booked days ahead. Good luck.

If you don't agree with this list, make your own. Someone else may have to do it next year. I found it seriously challenging to eat this vast quantity of burgers. I'm not sure I'll survive if I keep it up.

And now is a good time to announce that for purely personal reasons, I'm stepping back from writing regular restaurant reviews. I'll still post about what I'm discovering and eating on my Czech Please Facebook and Twitter pages. But these days now, I don't have the time to give longer reviews the time and attention they deserve. It's been a great run, and when I have something I really want to say, I'll find the time to get it out there.

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