In an attempt to provide future Presov tourists with some useful information, here's some reviews of restaurants around town. I'm not a professional food critic, but I am a prolific complainer, which I think qualifies me to pass a little judgment.
RYCHLA STRAVOVANE FAST FOOD
This place is great if you are low on time and cash, and have a cast-iron stomach. It is the closest thing to fast food that Presov has, and in my opinion is quite convenient. Here's some pics from the time I ran into Mishka there. First, you choose your selection from the board of daily specials, and give this nice lady your money:
Next, you take your receipt to the steam table, where they set you up with your meal. You can take all the napkins you want, which is great for people like me:
Finally, you find yourself a seat and wolf down your food. Eastern European restaurants, particularly "fast food" style "cafeterias" like this one are interesting because strangers sit together at the tables. I once had an old man sit next to me who proceeded to go at his soup like a jet-ski engine, while occasionally cursing at no one in particular which would cause bread crumbs to fly from his mouth into my halusky. Memories!
Food: Hit or miss. The halusky is tasty, and dare I say even creamy, while the "breaded meatball" made me apprehensive due to my complete inability to even guess what the meat could be. The sauerkraut and sausage soup is good, although it is so greasy that it will(did) permanently stain your(my) clothes.
My suggestion? Go with the chicken and rice, nice and easy. Rating: 2 goats (out of 3)
Ambiance: A nice family feel, if your family was a bunch of random ladies with babushkas. Rating: "Homey"
Service: I was never cursed at once, nor did I have any soup thrown in my face. Rating: 5 stars (out of 7)
Value: You can get soup, a large piece of breaded chicken, some nice steamed, unidentified vegetables and a drink for about two bucks. That is a good deal. Rating: "For the thrifty"
Free Bread? I'm afraid not
GOVINDA VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT
I read about Govinda in my trusty Czech Republic/Slovak Republic tour book (which devotes about 10% of the pages to Slovakia), and I was surprised and perhaps a bit skeptical about a vegetarian Indian restaurant in the heart of East Slovakia. When I first went and found out that it was run by Hare Krishnas, I was double skeptical. However, this place is the bomb, so good that I actually considered converting (Krishna Krishna!!). In the end I declined because I couldn't bear not being able to wear jeans, but I admit that I am a frequent visitor for lunch.
This nice lady was nice enough to pose with the food, and allowed me to take some pictures of the place:
I've been told by the locals that people are often prostetilyzed to by the staff, but of course this isn't a problem for me as I still can't speak or understand Slovak for squat.
Food: Govinda is only open for lunch, but is open until 5, so if you're a Midwesterner like me you can sneak in before they close and get an early dinner (I know, it's pathetic).
Each day there is a special menu, where they offer soup, rice, a vegetable, a main dish and some little samosas. One day it was shaved carrots, a chick-pea red cabbage mix, yellow pea samosas and tomato chutney. Here is a poorly lit picture:
I never considered myself a vegetable person, but this stuff is consistently great. The main dish often has some type of pumpkin, and I hate pumpkin, but I love this pumpkin. That has to mean something. Rating: "Culinary Enlightenment"
Ambiance: After you hear the Hare Krishna song enough, it starts to grow on you, like watching "My Super Sweet 16" on MTV. A lot of people dig the song for the music, but as with Dylan's work I prefer the lyrics. Rating: 3 tambourines (out of 3.5)
Service: Always friendly, which is not surprising from a group of people who believe that the goal of life is to " re-awaken our original pure love for God, Krishna." And if you want, you can take up a tambourine with the hand you're not eating with and go to town. Rating: 16 smiles
Value: The daily menu is always 75 koruna, which is about two bucks. An absolute steal. Rating: "immorally cheap"
Free Bread? No, but you can have all the samosas you want. And I want them.
AZTEC MEXICAN RESTAURANT
If you like food than this probably isn't the place for you. I love Mexican food, and like to think that I grew up in a region of the U.S. that has the best Mexican food in the world outside of New Mexico. But I'm not a Mexican food snob, I just want some beans, some meat, some reasonable cheese and a tortilla. I do not want pita bread filled with ketchup and hepatitis C, I could get that at Chi-Chi's. But I digress.
When I learned that there was actually a Mexican restaurant in Presov I was ecstatic, and begged the locals to go with me. I should have paid more attention to their increasingly desperate attempts to brush me off, citing "homework", "allergies" or "bad knees". I eventually convinced an American who was visiting to go, and we blindly set off for the other side of town.
Here are some pictures of the restaurant, which I took from across the street. Why from across the street? Because I have such deep psychic scars from this place that I didn't even want to cross the street. This place makes the UPenn Indian food truck seem like child's play.
The first red flag should have been that we were the only people there on a Friday night. The second was the complimentary bag of corn-nuts which had been placed on each table, next to the gigantic bottles of Slovak ketchup. When my companion suggested that we run like hell, I made a passionate argument about the need to try new things, and to give other cultures a chance to prove their Mexican cuisine skills. If I could take back one moment in my life, this would probably be it.
After finishing our corn-nuts (which offered our GI systems a nice preview of what was to come), we were served our meals. I was having a bit of beef withdrawal, so I opted for the "Mexican Steak", medium-rare (I can hear the groans). The steak itself looked pretty good, but I was surprised to see it absolutely slathered in what must have been a full bottle of the "Mexican Sauce", which I soon realized was ketchup mixed with black pepper. It also came with a side of some type of bean that I had never seen before, which were the size of cockroaches.
I can't really blame the restaurant, because I voluntarily ate most of this meal. When I think back, which I try not to do, about which part of the meal soon thereafter cause the immediate and total shutdown of all the organs below my lungs, I am unsure. Perhaps it was the effect of eating an entire bottle of ketchup on a stomach filled with corn-nuts. Perhaps it was the steak, which was not so much "medium-rare" as "squirming uncomfortably on the plate". Regardless, it did offer me my first chance to tell a cab driver to "step on it", which surely didn't have as much of a communicative effect as seeing me, frenzied and sweating, in the rear view mirror.
I really don't want to get much more into details, but I was able to salvage the remaining shreds of my dignity that I didn't lose in the Havana Airport men's restroom (for another day). Anyway, I should probably finish this review, although it pains me.
Food: Don't. Rating: 1000 tears (out of 1000)
Recommended Dish: Water.
Ambiance: A couple sombreros and a large inflatable Corona bottle crammed into a dungeon. Now that I think about it, I kinda liked it. Rating: "5th of May"
Service: I remember a lady, and then I remember sweating. She allowed me to order the food, and then did nothing to prevent me from eating it. Rating: "Shame on you"
Value: Actually one of the most expensive restaurants in the city, maybe because they import their water from Mexico. Inexplicable. Rating: "No you di'int!"
Free Bread? No, but the corn-nuts were a nice touch.
One Sentence Review: Upside-down Pompeii
I am working on a pictorial of all the women here who have dyed their hair fire-engine red. Till then, toodles!