Because Czech restaurants are sponsored by different beer companies, you will always see a lit up sign outside each dining establishment advertising that particular beer which they serve there. In fact, that’s how you can tell if there will be a restaurant on that street just by looking down and seeing one of those signs. Since beer companies have a reputation they want to keep, they choose what kind of restaurants can serve their beer. You can tell what kind of restaurant you’re getting into based on the beer that they serve.
Gambrinus, Pilsner Urquell
A higher end restaurant is usually going to be serving one of these two beers. Pilsner was the first golden beer, drank by the royals, so it wants to preserve the brand of being of the highest quality. When I say “high quality,” I mean that they (the restaurants) have better service, are cleaner, and are focused on giving their customers a better dining experience.
You might think that good service is a given at any restaurant. Not true in the Czech Republic. You see, the effects of communism still linger in the culture of the “service” industry. In the west, waiters are used to working for tips, so they try to give the best service they can in hopes of getting paid more (although a study showed that good and bad waiters usually get paid the same in tips regardless…but that’s besides the point!). However, during communism, a waiter got paid no matter what. Tips weren’t even a thing back in those days. This remains to be the case in most local restaurants, especially in smaller towns.
For a foreigner who is used to smiling faces and happy service, a local Czech restaurant becomes a rude awakening! The waiters there could care less that you’re there, and they seem genuinely annoyed if you keep pestering them for your food. There are perks of those kind of restaurants, but I’ll get to that later. You don’t have to worry, a place that sells Pilsner or Gambrinus are going to have nicer customer service. They’ll actually work for that 10-15% tip that you’re going to give them at the end.
Radegast, Budvar, Kozel, Krušovice
The restaurants that serve these beers usually have lower standards than the ones mentioned above. That means they might have “rude” employees, aren’t as cleanly (bathrooms!), and tend to be a less lit. They’re the kinds of restaurants that the true local beer-drinkers go to hang with their buddies.
Not all places that serve these beers are going to be like that, but don’t have terribly high expectations. That being said, the perks of places like these are that:
A. They’re cheaper.
B. The food is still excellent- maybe even better- depending where you go.
At local restaurants, everybody knows everybody. The people you see in there likely come everyday. The cooks are serving their friends.
I always tell people this when they are visiting: Czechs are the nicest people ever. They may not look it, in fact, they might look down right depressed. That’s only because Czechs are naturally pessimists, but that doesn’t mean they want any harm to fall upon you. They just tend to keep to themselves, unless they know you. If you were to say “hi” to a Czech on the street, they would stop and ask if they know you. That all might stem from their turbulent history during the 20th century, being ruled by Nazis, then Communists. They got trust issues… But, a Czech is like an orange; tough on the outside, soft in the inside.
Definitely go out and check out one of these more local places. You don’t have to stray to far from the tourist zone to find one. The best food I’ve in the country is usually in one of these restaurants. A local might not talk to you when you get in, but they’ll have no problem if you want to join in on one of their drinking songs. The more the merrier!
So there you have it. Based on the beer brand that’s sold you can usually determine what kind of experience you’re going to have. In general, just try and avoid the tourist zone when looking for a place to drink and eat, they will almost always try to over charge you. A tourist who doesn’t know better is an easy target to exploit. Even one of the higher end local pubs will be cheaper than anything in the center. Just find a side street and wander down it for a bit until know you are a decent distance from other tourists. Then go eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you’ll likely to do it again!