Best of Foreign cuisine in and around Ostrava
by Roberto, expat living in Ostrava
Ok, so now that I’ve got the restaurant service thing off my chest (last month’s blog ), let’s get back to the topic of food. In this five-part blog, I will be sharing my top choices for food in and around Ostrava for those of you who are getting fed up with all the pork and dumplings places that seem to be on every street in the city. Truth be told, I like pork and dumplings and even have a weakness for fried cheese. However, I do need a bit more variety to satisfy my curious appetite on a daily basis. So, for those of you looking for something a bit more exotic, these next four blogs will bring you closer to Italy, Mexico, the United States and, of course, the best local places for Czech cuisine.
Since I was born in Rome and love Italian food, and all things Italian best, I’ll start there. The criteria I judged on in my personal review of great places to eat in and around Ostrava are: 1. Authenticity (if they’re cooking Italian, are they using original ingredients or just making it up as they go?), 2. Fresh food (self-explanitory), 3. Service (self-explanitory), 4. Preparation (are they prepared to serve fresh dishes in a reasonable amount of time = like less than an hour?), 5. English-friendly (do they try to accommodate you when you ask for an English menu or go totally nationalist and get angry at you for asking? Yes, believe it or not, this has really happened to me..)
Every month, from now until the end of the the year, I’ll be blogging about four restaurants, one from each of the nations mentioned above. This month, I’m sharing the worst of my top picks for Italian, Mexican, American and Czech restaurants. Next month will be for third place picks, November for runners-up and in December I’ll blog my top picks. I hope it’s not all too complicated, but my aim is to cram as many great places to eat and as many cultures as possible in this small space and by the end of this year. So, just bare with me and by December you’ll all appreciate the effort when you have 16 tried and tested places to choose from. ☺
Last place on my list of Italian restaurants is only in last place because they come off as really anti-lingual. La Strada in Poruba doesn’t have an English menu or website and the staff speaks only Czech, despite being located in a culturally diverse part of town. Other than that, top scores in every other area. Fresh pasta, real rissoto, brick-oven pizza, refreshing salads, and great fish (ok, the tiger prawns may be a little over-priced at 659 crowns, but for a special occasion…) The service is fast and friendly and the place is so spacious they could afford socially distanced tables even before the pandemic. They also have a sizeable outdoor seating area (no I don’t use the word garden for outdoor seating), so you probably won’t need a reservation, especially in the summer. If you can’t read in Czech or don’t have one of those screen translator apps, here is a link to some really tantalizing photos on the menu page of their website.
My last pick for Mexican is last because its not really Mexican. However, Mr. Sushito made the list because their staple attraction is a variety of tasty burritos, albeit it ala-sushi. If you’ve never tried this healthy twist to an old Mexican specialty, head over to Mr. Sushito and treat yourself to one of about 10 different choices. I’ve had 6 and my favorite remains the appropriately named Champion. They use all fresh ingredients and are about as exotic as I’ve seen here in Ostrava. Unfortunately, Sushito also loses some English-friendly points as, like La Strada, their website is only in Czech. But their site does offer accompanying photos to provide a look into their unique style. Their on-site menu is translated and the staff, unlike La Strada, is pro-cizinec and happy to translate anything their guests need in English.
The 4th place choice for American this month is also one of my favorite overall bicycle stops. There are so many places to get a decent burger these days in and around Ostrava that sometimes it doesn’t even seem exotic anymore. Trust me, this is a very recent boom. Ten years ago, most Ostravans thought hamburger meant someone from Hamburg, Germany. Now, it seems there’s a burger place on every corner. But anytime I want a reliably great burger on the run and a feel-good chat with a server who always seems to be in a good mood, I make sure to stop by one of the great Angel Food trucks in Ostrava or Frydek Mistek. Winners of several awards for best burger, Angel Food also offer some seriously good ribs and their own, patented BBQ sauce. Although their English version website hasn’t been launched yet, their predominatly young, lively staff all seem linguistically gifted and no matter where you’re from they give you the feeling you’re at home. The only reason Angel Food didn’t rank higher on my list is that they can’t really be considered a restaurant since their trucks provide no seating.
Have I mentioned that I’ve acquired a strong taste for dumplings since moving here? No, not the ones that resemble plain white bread from back home without the crust. I mean those big, round snowball-looking ones they call “chlupaty“. And I’m almost as apt as some of my Czech friends at soaking up every bit of sauce on the plate by now (trust me, a real art form). The trouble is, how does a novice ex-pat know where to find a bonifide, authentic, Czech meal with the seemingly limitless pubs offering pork knuckle, goulash and that all time favorite they call Svickova? Practice makes perfect. Lots of eating practice. All of my ex-pat friends here have their personal favorites by now, but for those of you still lacking experience, my last place pick for tasty Czech dishes is…. Ceska Jidelna at Marianske hory. You’ll find so many traditional Czech meals to choose from that you can eat a different one every day of the week. Always fresh, poperly prepared and really cheap. Ceska Jidelna might have ranked as high as second place on my list if they offered service, but being that they are a typical cafeteria-style eatery with steady business all-year round, you’re lucky if you get your tray handed to you without any spillage. No English, no menu, just several selections complete with a sample dish display in case you’re an uneducated foreigner like I used to be..