Though Prague is much better known for goulash and svíčková, burgers are fast becoming big business in the city. Over the past two years the number of new restaurants specializing in burgers has shot up, and the trend shows no sign of slowing as new burger restaurant openings continue to be announced.
At Burgerfest, thousands of dedicated burger fans waited in line for an hour or more, many in the pouring rain, to sample burgers from 15 of Prague’s burger joints. Mainstays like TGI Friday’s, Jáma and Bohemia Bagel were joined by newcomers including Dish, Rock’n’Beer Bar and Zephyr, with a total of 15 restaurants participating this time compared to just six at the first Burgerfest in 2012.
Some who attended last year’s festival, held at Břevnov Monastery in Prague 6, recalled that getting anywhere near a burger in the small, crowded festival space was a near impossible feat, and had voiced their expectations that there would be similar organizational problems at the second Burgerfest, held at Náměstí Míru in Prague 2.
Unfortunately, the skeptics were proved right. Long lines once again prompted many hungry festival goers to give up and look elsewhere for their burger fix as, according to organisers, over 30,000 people descended on the festival over Saturday and Sunday, while some 23,000 burgers were sold.
“I’ve got burgers on the brain now, and I can’t get one anywhere.” complained one Canadian visitor on Saturday afternoon, who said he’d waited in line for half an hour before trying unsuccessfully to get a table at the packed Dish restaurant, just a short walk from Náměstí Míru.
Despite participating last year, the Tavern, the popular neighbourhood burger bar in nearby Zizkov, didn’t make an appearance at this year’s Burgerfest. The festival still seemed to have been good for business, however – staff said customers had been arriving from the festival throughout Saturday afternoon, some having waited an hour or more in line before heading for the Tavern.
Despite this, Burgerfest’s organiser Zdenek Strizek said this year’s festival was “very successful”.
“Organization was very difficult, and we are happy that everything was great – of course with some problems,” he told The Prague Post.
Strizek is also the owner of American Pub Bejzment, which won the Burgerfest “Best restaurant” award as well as “Best special burger” on Sunday afternoon.
“When I saw the result from the judges I was really shocked,” Strizek said. “I didn’t have any idea what was going on. I didn’t want to win, because it’s going to create some questions about fair play, but I can tell you from my heart it was surprise.”
Strizek said the competition judges were independent and didn’t know which restaurant the burgers they tasted came from.
Plans for Burgerfest 2014 are already underway, and Strizek said his team is working on making improvements.
“I have hired a production company for next year, and they have many goals for organizing Burgerfest,” he said. “We know for sure that we need to rent all of náměstí Míru, including side streets, or move the festival to a bigger location. Our plans are really big, and we already have some contracts with our partners for next year.”
Burgerfest 2013 Best Restaurant award winners
3rd. Blackdog Cantina
Best Special Burger award winners
2nd. Tom’s Burger
3rd. Fasty ‘s Burgers and Pizzas
Best Ordinary Burger award winners
2nd. Blackdog Cantina
3rd. Tom’s Burger