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January 30, 2013

When a pub won’t do

Beer, any beer, even mediocre ones, will always taste better at a good pub. A pub that not only knows how to look after those beers, but also has that extra thing that invites you to stay at least a pint longer than you had planned, even if you are alone.

There are times, however, that a pub won’t do. Maybe you want a quieter place, maybe you want to listen to different music, watch different people, read the newspaper or, if you are a man reading this, you want to meet a lady friend who doesn’t quite like pubs. Fortunately, Prague has an abundance of nice cafés that check all those boxes. And just like with pubs, there are cafés to accommodate all tastes, from the classy, “Old-Europe” style of Louvre and Slavia to the more intimate ones hidden in some side street or another.

But what if still want to have a nice pivo? Can you still have all of the above, can you still meet your lady friend (or, if you are a beer loving girl, with your girlfriends) without sacrificing good beer too much? Yes, you can, and this is the goal of this series I’m starting today. I will try to map the nicest non-pub places in Prague where you can still have a fine beer. I know a few already (and most of them open early, a great thing for a pisshead like me), but if anyone feels like giving some tips or advice, you are more than welcome.

Anyway, for the first installment I thought it’d be proper to speak of my favourite café, Kaaba in Lucemburská.

I stumbled upon Kaaba a couple of years ago one afternoon, while walking along the border of Žižkov and Vinohrady. My attention was caught by the sign of Polička outside and, since I had some time, I decided to drop by and have a quick one. I sat at the bar and ordered Hradební Tmavé, a lovely specimen of a sadly underrated style, Tmavé Výčepní. Even before taking the first sip, I liked the place a lot. It’s small, intimate, there was great music playing, not radio, and, despite of the smoke, it had an eerily homely atmosphere.

It wasn’t until work took me to the neighbourhood with some time to kill in the mid-morning that Kaaba became one of my regular stops. I began going once or twice a week at around 9.30 to have an early pint, read something and listen to music (Cream, Zeppelin, Etta James, Dr. John, Chet Baker, Beatles, Stones, Bowie, Max Raabe, just to mention a few, all in full albums). But it was neither the reading material nor the soundtrack that would catch most of my attention, it’d be the crowd of regulars, an assorted bunch from all walks of life, and the conversations they would have among themselves and with owner (a pretty interesting bloke, himself). It seems that everybody knew each other, and I love places where it seems that everybody knows each other, you feel that you are only a casual remark away from becoming part of that everybody.

That casual remark came one day when I asked the owner the name of the of the band he was playing, and we got to talk about it a bit. A few days later I would join a conversation about TV shows and before I knew it, I was sitting at the bar, talking about my country, my city and beer, and someone would ask the owner to play “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” just to take the piss, I had become part of the everybody.

Being part of that everybody, having an excuse other than the beer to go back, that’s what makes a place special. And Kaaba is a very special place. Give it a go if you are nearby, in the meantime, let’s see what else I found around town.

Na Zdraví!

Kaaba Café a Trafika Lucemburská ( CLOSED )

Lucemburská 15 – Praha-Vinohrady
50°4’44.863″N, 14°27’15.196″E
Mon-Fri: 8-22, Sat-Sun: 9-12, 17-22

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