Review: Pardubická Pivnice U Járy
A Žižkov pub that offers all the basics in a classical setting and nice service, too
Posted: February 20, 2013
Pardubická Pivnice U Járy serves a range from the Pernštejn brewery as well as a weekly guest beer.
By Max Bahnson
FOR THE POST
Pardubická Pivnice U Járy is an old-school pub that keeps to a minimum the thick cigarette smoke hanging in the air and the unpleasant smells emanating from the kitchen. The radio, however, is hopelessly tuned into one of those ubiquitous pop stations, the kind that plays the same songs over and over to the point where you could set your watch to them: Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise" again? Time to catch the bus.
In a sort of square in lower Žižkov, an area quite thick with old-schoolness, U Járy also offers the unpretentiousness of a good neighborhood boozery. You'll get the dark wood - loads of dark wood - and, more importantly, an atmosphere that, even when the place is empty, makes you feel like you've found your shelter from the ills of the world.
Jeronýmova 2, Prague 3-Žižkov.
Tel. 777 597 733. Open Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m. -10 p.m. Smoking permitted; credit cards not accepted. Pivniceujary.cz
If all that isn't enough to make you feel comfortable, the service should. On one visit, I was sitting in a corner, the farthest from the bar and out of sight from it, too, and yet the waiter always showed up whenever I needed something, usually a refill. Though not too giving as far as smiles, he was attentive, professional and efficient. A few days later, the service was equally good, but also came with a bright, honest smile that only someone enjoying her job could have. I was with a friend whom I hadn't seen in ages, and we were catching up, leaving the menu open in front of us. The server came over a couple of times to see if we were ready to order. Each time we explained that we were talking about nothing; each time she responded with that patient, honest smile.
When we finally did order, we weren't too hungry, so we stuck with the beer snacks nakládaný hermelín and ďábelské topinky. The best way to approach the spicy mix topping the topinky is perhaps with willful ignorance, but whatever it was made of, it checked all the boxes a proper beer snack needs to: rich, filling, greasy, inexpensive (50 Kč) and plentiful. There was so much of it the molecular structure of thick slices of fried brown bread could barely hold the thing together. But all praise should go to the hermoš: At 38 Kč a piece, it must be the best in town in terms of price/quality. Both the cheese and the onions that topped it had the perfect point of marination, and soaking bread in the remaining oil was decadently pleasant.
A lunch stop was pretty satisfactory, too. The daily menu is limited only to a couple of choices and a soup. The beef broth with liver dumplings on that day was remarkable only because it needed salt (really!), but it did the job it was meant to do just fine. The main course, however, was brilliant: roasted beef with spinach and potato knedlíky. Like the soup, the sides were just there to do their job; the beef, on the other hand, was almost perfect. It was incredibly tender and flavorful, though almost on the dry side - no problem, there was plenty of the juice from the roasting pan to take care of that. It came to just 85 Kč, and you could pay a lot more for a lot less in this town.
When it comes to pubs, of course, atmosphere, service and food make for nice bonuses, but they are rarely the main draw, and certainly not the whole draw.
As the name implies, U Járy stocks the beers from Pernštejn, the Pardubice brewery. With the exception of the outstanding Pardubický Porter, I've never been a fan of that brand, but now I have a soft spot for the unfiltered Kvaňák 12º and its rather intriguing note of strawberry candy. It goes down so politely well that my friend and I didn't feel the need to even bother with the rest. A perfect pub beer, well-tapped, in tip-top shape and at 29 Kč a pint.
The list is completed by Vilém (26 Kč/0.5L), an 11º pale lager, and Granát (26 Kč/0.5L), a 14º dark amber that tastes like the little sibling of the heavy-hitting Porter 19º (sold in 0.4 and 0.2 measures at 32 and 16 Kč, respectively), which is far from a session beer but a nice pudding nonetheless. U Járy also hosts a guest beer that rotates on a weekly basis; Únětice and Bernard are just two of the names I've noticed during my visits.
While we were there, my friend told me about a Friday concert of what he described as "trampské country" that had people leaving their tables to dance. Even though he's not precisely a fan of that musical genre, he confessed the evening was still a lot of fun. We talked about many other things over our beers and our snacks. We felt comfortable, pleased and at ease, and we lost track of time a little, but that's what being at any good pub will do to you.
Pardubická Pivnice u Járy is a little gem in a neighborhood that has no shortage of good, or even great, pubs. It may not be the sort of place you'd want to take a date, but it's certainly the sort of place where you'll want to meet your mates.
Max Bahnson can be reached at email@example.com
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