A True Underdog Story
Check out any travel or foodie blog that talks about Karlín, and you'll notice a familiar trend. "Rags to riches". "Off the beaten path". "Not a great neighborhood". "Rough". Basically, before the turn of the century and during the height of the communist era, Karlín was a bit of a downer. Birth place of Czechoslovak Communist Party and hot-spot for neo-Nazis and Romas in the 80’s, it's hard to imagine the Karlín we know today, tucked away between the Vltava River and Zizkov District, as anything other than Prague's most "up-and-coming" neighborhood. So how did Karlín reinvent itself? How did it gain its new reputation as "Little Soho", "Little Berlin" and a cultural, hipster paradise? Well...floods. Lots and lots of water. Anti-climactic, right?
In 2002 the banks of the Vltava flooded like crazy, leaving most of Karlín underwater. And in true biblical fashion, it re-emerged bigger and better than ever- wiping away the sins of the past And the beer is flowing my friends. Oh, yes. But that might be the one thing that's always been true.
I live in Prague 3 (Zizkov), so this past July I decided to break out of my comfort zone and venture "over the hill" (Vitkov Hill) to explore. And I was not disappointed. First stop...
Lokál Hamburk, is the perfect twist on your traditional Czech beer pub. As mentioned by Taste of Prague, this location across form the main square "has been there for ages, and was recently remodeled and opened as another branch of Lokál pub".
Serving up fresh Pilsner and a variety of classic, homemade Czech cuisine, Lokál is clearly a hot spot for locals of all ages. You can grab a table the dining room, hang out by the bar at one of the high-top tables, or stand outside with the smokers. With fresh Pilsner from the tank you really can't go wrong.
I also recommend trying the chicken schnitzel or the 6 week ripened fried cheese and tartar sauce. Hey, I didn't say Czech food was "healthy". But luckily Lokal also offers some lighter selections, including soups, salads and a vegetarian menu.
Bad Flash Bar
Like craft beer? Like to drink craft beer? Wish you were drinking craft beer at this VERY moment. Good. Then make your way over to Bad Flash Bar- Karlín. With 12 taps and over 300 bottles from all over the world, Bad Flash is the place to go to try something new or find an old favorite. There is literally something for everyone.
What I love about Bad Flash is the history. Originally two separate pubs: Kulový Blesk (Ball of Lightening) and Zlý časy (Bad Times), the owners decided to branch out into the world of brewing and distributing; hence the name Bad Flash. Currently Bad Flash Brewery operates as a "flying brewery", meaning they do not have a home base, but instead travel to brew while collaborating with other local breweries. They offer a basic range of 7 beers throughout 3 seasons. As for the wholesale business, Bad Flash imports from beers from Germany, Holland, Belgium, Italy, England and the USA and distributes to customers and small Czech breweries.
What started as a storefront, Bad Flash Bar- Karlín (Prague 8) and its sister pub, Bad Flash Bar- Krymská (Prague 10) are staples in the beer scene. Bad Flash Bar- Karlín also offers a full lunch and dinner menu consisting of Czech favorites.
Czechs are some pretty resourceful people. Give them an empty space in the courtyard of an old army barrack and they will turn it into a family friendly summer hangout. I give you Kasárna Karlín.
A transformed oasis in the middle of Prague, Kasárna Karlín is really unlike anything I've ever seen before. Complete with yellow beach chairs, plenty of makeshift tables, volleyball courts, pingpong tables and an open air cinema, it is the perfect place to hang out with a group of friends on a Friday or Saturday night. It is also extremely family friendly, with lots of space for kids to run around. And run around they did...
My friend and I grabbed a beer (or 5) and relaxed until the sun was down and the nightly movie program began. Unfortunately as far as food goes there aren't many options so I suggest B.Y.O. snack or making this the last stop of your evening. It can also be a bit tricky to find so have your Google Maps ready and look for the big, black iron gate. Or just follow the crowds.
Kasárna Karlín is also home to the creepiest, most satanic rocking house I've ever seen.
Diego Pivní Bar
If you're looking for a good dive bar, look no further. Diego Pivní Bar is 100% my style. Gritty, dark and no bullshit. In what was once a basement or cellar of some sort, Diego is located down a narrow staircase below street level. Once inside, I recommend grabbing a seat at the bar and trying one of the 7-8 craft beers on tap. There is also some seating outside.
During my visit, Diego had options from several local Czech breweries including Pivovar Raven and Pivovar Clock. The staff was extremely friendly and the atmosphere reminded me of some little dive in New York City or Philadelphia were you good get lost from the world for a few hours and just enjoy some f*cking good beer!