The Czechlist: Storrs vs. Prague in food

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(Daniel Cohn/The Daily Campus)

(Daniel Cohn/The Daily Campus)

Stemming from the title, you may not think this is a fair fight, and you’re right. It would make the most sense to compare two locations of equal weight, like you would with a boxing match. You wouldn’t compare New York City to Hartford, that’s not fair. Storrs is a college town, whereas Prague is one of central Europe’s biggest cities. It would make more sense to compare Prague to Philadelphia, my hometown and a city of comparable size. However, The Daily Campus represents Huskies, not hoagies. Additionally, I won’t be comparing Czech food, because come on. We all know Storrs wins that matchup.

Let’s see if Storrs can David the goulash Goliath that is Prague.

BURGERS: PRAGUE

Don’t get me wrong, Mooyah is solid. During that four-month span where I was adamant about doing Pocket Points in lectures, I must have gotten a burger on a weekly basis. The Dog Lane burgers are pricey, but spectacular for a splurgy dinner. I’m pleading the fifth on blended burgers.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t really close. Prague knows their beef better than a dysfunctional family, and it shows in their burger joints. When you’re walking the streets of Old Town (center of Prague), it feels like every other block has a hipstery-yet-approachable (basically what I try to be) burger bar, and I’ve tried a few. They’re great. I have yet to have a subpar one yet, excluding the McDonalds I had at a mall once. America wins American fast food, obviously, but you probably knew that. Prague wins real burgers.

SEAFOOD: STORRS

The Czech Republic is a landlocked country, but that doesn’t disqualify it from having some delicious fare from neighboring waters. Europe is so interconnected that a cod caught in Copenhagen at dawn can be served in Prague by dinner. Even so, historically Czech cuisine tends to lean away from highlighting fish in its traditional meals, instead showcasing meat and starch. Don’t get me wrong – meat and starch are where it’s at, but it was much easier to get fish in, say, London or Paris than in my current home. The one time I’ve had it so far was pretty good.

“Pretty good” is the absolute floor for seafood in New England. Even in the dining halls of UConn, seafood is routinely great, assuming you get a wormless portion. Whenever I tell that to my friends at inland schools like Penn State, they look aghast – their dining hall seafood would be something a freshman eats on a dare, not something people line up for. And don’t get me started on the off-campus options. The poké at EatJoy? The lobster bisque at Dog Lane? Easy choice. Storrs all the way.

PIZZA: TIE

In the three weeks I’ve been here, I’ve had some quality pizza, and it makes sense – the Czech Republic is just one country away (Austria) from its motherland, Italy. One of the best dinners I’ve had over here was a pepperoni and ricotta pie just down the hill from where I’m staying. However, pizza isn’t just the sit-down pies. It’s the Blaze you get between cram sessions in Homer Babbidge. It’s the Sgt. Peps you get as you stumble out of Nickel. And that’s what makes this a tie. Because no matter how classy Czech pizza can get – something Storrs really can’t touch – UConn smacks Prague at cheap slices.

Not to be cheesy, but I really miss Sgt. Peps right now. Someone mail me a pepperoni slice, I’ll pay for international shipping.

MEXICAN: PRAGUE

This one hurts.

If this was “15 minutes in any direction of UConn” instead of Storrs, it might be a lot closer, because Willimantic has some quality joints. Shout out Tacos La Rosa! Unfortunately, the Mexican microscope is locked on places within walking distance of our fair university, and there really isn’t much to offer. Moe’s is average at best, and at least one step behind Chipotle in quality. And that’s pretty much it, barring the occasional dining hall south of the border treat. Mexican fare is one of my favorite food genres, and if I could change one thing about Storrs, it would be adding an authentic taqueria in Storrs Center.

I can’t say I expected “hole in the wall Mexico City cantina” level options from the Mexican food here in the Czech Republic, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised! There’s a burrito chain here called Burrito Loco that easily wins the one-on-one battle with Moe’s, which I’d consider an upset considering the distance from their locations to Mexico. On top of that, there are a number of quality sit-down places here, some of which I have yet to try, that my friends here say can go toe-to-toe with places in the US.

If these 200-ish words can get Storrs to put in a legit Mexican place, my time here was worth it.

CONCLUSION

If I sat here and compared every flavor of food between the town and metropolis, we’d be here a while, and food isn’t about comparison anyways. I’m not sitting down to eat thinking about how my meal is going to be better than someone else’s on the other side of the Atlantic. No, I’m looking over my shoulder every time I see waitstaff at the slight hope that it’s my dinner. Sure, Prague may have the edge in a variety of cuisines just by being 84 times the size and outpacing Storrs’ relatively few number of selections. Objectively, it would win whatever match this is.

But it’s more complicated than that. I miss the restaurants that make Storrs great, as few as they may be. Storrs isn’t great because there’s just one non-chain café. Storrs is great because Dog Lane starts to feel like home after a couple months.

No matter where my classroom is, I always know I can get a good bite after lecture. That’s what really matters.


Daniel Cohn is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at daniel.cohn@uconn.edu.  

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