Slideshow: Snapshots from Prague: 10 Must-Eat Foods

Koleno
Koleno
Koleno, short for pečené vepřové koleno, is roast pork knee (or knuckle), a dish that's also common in German cuisine. It is a rustic, comically oversized piece of meat—it's nearly impossible not to attract some amused attention when this cutting-board platter is set before you at a restaurant—but despite its caveman appearances, it's absolutely delicious: a mix of fall-off-the-bone tender pork, crispy skin, and fat underneath it. The meat is usually marinated in dark beer and herbs, roasted, and then served bone-in with a serrated knife and a number of accompaniments. This one came with a pile of pickles and pickled vegetables, dark Czech bread, and a side of mustard, horseradish, and sour cherries for dipping. Also necessary: a beer ("pivo" in Czech). You'll likely down a few waiting for this dish to come out, as it generally requires about 45 minutes of the kitchen to prepare.

Klášterní šenk: Markétská 1/28, Praha 6

Vepřo-knedlo-zelo
Vepřo-knedlo-zelo
Vepřo-knedlo-zelo is short for roast pork (vepřová) with bread dumplings (knedlíky) and stewed cabbage, or sauerkraut (zelí), a classic Czech dish that feels lighter than some other traditional meat-and-dumplings fare, likely thanks to the stewed cabbage, which adds a nice tangy sweetness to the plate. Pictured are the standard-issue houskové knedlíky (bread dumplings) as well as three bramborové (potato dumplings), both of which proved ideal for mopping up the aromatic gravy.

Lokál: Dlouhá 33, Praha 1

Tatarák
Tatarák
Similar to the French steak tartare, tatarák (short for tatarský biftek) is fresh, minced raw beef mixed with egg yolk, diced onion, mustard, salt, pepper, paprika, maybe some diced cucumber, and usually Worcestershire sauce or ketchup. It is served either pre-mixed or with each of its components separate so that you can mix it to taste (like this) and it's usually accompanied by delicious topinky (fried bread) with garlic. For the desired effect, cut a garlic clove in half and rub the cut end over the crispy bread; the sharp edges grate it nicely into a pungent spread that goes well with the seasoned beef. Terrifically light and fresh, tatarák is a nice foil to the heavier meat dishes we ate, and quickly became one of our favorite appetizers in the city.

U Pinkasů: Jungmannovo náměstí 16, Praha 1

Pivo!
Pivo!
What, you thought we'd talk Czech food without mentioning beer? Impossible! Pivo, or beer, and Prague have been inseparable since 1842, when a certain bottom-fermented golden lager from the Bohemian city of Plzeň (Pilsen) was developed, and pilsner was born. In Prague today, be on the lookout for tankovna (tank pubs) which use tanks instead of regular kegs—that's where you'll find the goods: fresh, unpasteurized pilsner, with characteristic spicy hoppiness and a smooth, clean finish. Also be sure to drop into the city's stable of brewpubs. We loved Klášterní pivovar Strahov, the brewery on the grounds of Strahov monastery, and get to know the newer craft beers coming out of the Czech Republic at spots like the Prague Beer Museum (which is actually a pub) and Zlý časy, a beer bar devoted to indie breweries.

Klášterní pivovar Strahov: Strahovské nádvoří 301, Praha 1

Prague Beer Museum: Dlouhá 46, Praha 1

Bramboráky
Bramboráky
Golden-fried potato pancakes are not uniquely Czech, but they're quite popular here. Traditionally a greasy street snack, bramboráky are also pretty common on restaurant menus in Prague, and make a great vegetarian side dish (sometimes written as the diminutive bramboráčky). Occasionally restaurants will throw in a few bramboráky next to the standard bread dumplings on a popular meat dish like guláš (goulash), which isn't a traditional presentation but offers some tasty variety.

Klášterní šenk: Markétská 1/28, Praha 6

Nakládaný hermelín
Nakládaný hermelín
A classic Czech pub snack, nakládaný hermelín is pickled cheese, "hermelín" being the cheese in question: soft and Camembert-like with an edible rind. The cheese gets pickled for several days in oil, peppers, garlic, and spices, usually including paprika and something a bit fiery. It's typically served with peppers, onions, and a healthy dose of oil alongside dark Czech bread or topinky (crunchy fried bread, sometimes with garlic). Pungent and creamy, it's a dish you can't go wrong with, especially when you're chasing it with a good beer, as we did at a popular brewpub.

U Fleků: Křemencova 11, Praha 1

Svíčková na smetaně
Svíčková na smetaně
Some Czechs claim this is the only dish that's truly unique to the Czech Republic, and not influenced by any of its neighbors. Beef sirloin is doused in a vegetable-laden gravy (typically made with herbs and root veggies like carrots, celeriac, parsley root) and topped with cranberry sauce (or jam), a slice of lemon, and cream, and then served with bread dumplings. Sound bizarre? It is, but it's also somehow familiar. The combo of meat, cranberry, and gravy is vaguely Thanksgiving-y. When good beef is used, it's a really pleasing mix of creamy, sweet, tart, and meaty.

Sokolovna, Slezská 22/821, Praha 2

Palačinky
Palačinky
These thin Czech pancakes are a popular sweet akin to French crepes, but made with a different batter and cooking method. Traditionally they are served rolled up, but nowadays you'll often see them folded into a triangle or piled into an artful, delicious mess. They usually come with some mix of jam, fruit, sweet cheese, ice cream, whipped cream, and occasionally nuts. This one was filled with Quark creme (a sweet, fresh curd cheese) and topped with raspberry ice cream, a pile of whipped cream, sliced strawberries, and powdered sugar. The pancake itself was soft and chewy, a perfect vessel for the fast-melting sweetness spread over it. It probably goes without saying, but I'll say it since you're in Prague: pair this one with coffee, not beer.

Kavárna Slavia: Smetanovo nábřeží 1012/2, Praha 1