Empanadas for dogs? Argentinian bistro experiments
When one door closes, another opens. At least, that seems to be the case in Prague 6’s Dejvice district. Just as one establishment in the neighbourhood closed down – the legendary A Maze in Tchaiovna, a quirky meeting point that fused British pub food and beer with the concept of the traditional Bohemian-style teahouse – another opened practically right next-door: the second branch of La Paisanita, an Argentinian empanada eatery with a majority meatless menu.
Previously, La Paisanita could only be found in one fairly well-hidden location – the basement of the Prague 3 town hall – and you had to be in the know to find it as there was no sign for the bistro outside the premises. Although this added a certain eccentric charm to the place, Diego, one half of the husband-wife duo behind the eatery, says that they are happy to now be in a more visible location.
“It took around 4-5 months, with a lot of work and a lot of energy. It was really difficult but finally we did it. And people like it – they are coming. And we are pretty happy about it.”
The building itself used to house a fairly standard Czech pub, but when the premises were put up for rent, a friend who lives in the neighbourhood alerted them, Diego's wife Romina, the culinary master behind the business, explains.
“We found this place because my friend Patricia, who is Czech and is an amazing tango teacher, lives close by. When she was walking past and she saw the horses in front, she thought about Argentina and she called me.”
The horses she is referring to are bronze equine sculptures that can be found in Šabachův park, the small square at the intersection of Kafkova and Wuchterlova streets in Prague 6’s Dejvice district, which La Paisanita’s new premises overlook.
However, the opening of their Dejvice branch does not mean goodbye to their unusual outlet underneath the Prague 3 administrative building. Diego says they plan to keep both locations.
“Yes, of course. It is still hidden and hard to find. But thanks to the people that give us 5* reviews, some people can find it finally. We will keep it open, we like it. It’s kind of a special place.”
And the Dejvice location is not La Paisanita’s only novelty.
“We are also dog lovers, and what we found out here in the Czech Republic is that people are really pet-friendly and real dog lovers too. We wanted to do something else and we started thinking about empanadas for dogs. It’s something that we were always thinking about – that we wanted a really pet-friendly place – and this idea came and we thought ‘Why not?’”
In the end, dog empanadas turned out to be a pretty tall order, but they are currently trialling cookies for dogs made from steamed chicken, oats, and fresh vegetables, and have found them to be a hit already with their canine clientele.
“We already have some customers. Vicky is a small doggy who comes with her owner and she stands in front of the door waiting for her cookie every day. There is also Stella and Buffalo – they enter running like crazy looking for the cookies, and we love it.”
The cookies are actually pretty good – I tried one myself – healthy, and suitable for humans too (especially of the small variety, as they don’t contain salt).
Eventually, Diego and Romina hope to mould the cookies into the shape of empanadas. But for now they are available as free samples, so if you’re a dog owner in Prague 6, make sure to check out La Paisanita’s new Dejvice location and pick up a treat for your four-legged friend – and why not try one of their 17 flavours of empanada while you’re at it.
Prague has its fair share of “secret” cafes and restaurants – but this Argentinian eatery probably takes the crown for the capital’s most hard-to-find food establishment.
For almost a decade, brothers Andy and Martin Fell have owned a pair of quirky sister teahouses, one in Prague and one in Glasgow.