“ Address: V Jámě 7 / 110 00 / Prague 1 „
It's reassuring to find constants in an ever-changing city like Prague. When I first came during a bitter winter over ten years ago, we seemed to be lost in a snow carpeted labyrinth. The shutters were down in Old Town, and no-one else seemed to be about. The places we found all seemed to be huddled away underground in brick cellars - it seemed like we were pulling up trapdoors and dropping through into the warm smoke and beer below.
Prague has changed a lot since then, and it shocks me how much more it seems a glossy, civilised Western capital each time I go back there now. Some of the old favourite haunts are long gone, others have changed almost beyond recognition. The five storey dance club Karlovy Lazne off Charles Bridge used to be like going for a party in a squat - battered tables and chairs and hidden staircases that kept going up and up.
And the Kavarna Imperial, with it's glorious mosaic pillars, once was famous for creaky wooden chairs and waiters who regarded you like something they just cleared out of their throat - now it's renovated into a glossy lounge which resembles the restaurant in a mid-range hotel, and the clutter of expensive new furniture seems to foreshorten those beautiful old pillars. The staff treat you politely these days, too...
So each time I go back, I feel like a little piece of the city I knew so well and loved so much has been papered over, polyfilla'd in. So it's reassuring to find some of the old favourites soldiering on - Jo's in Mala Strana still is pretty much as it always was, offering the same grub and the laid back atmosphere, Cafe Louvre still carries on with its urbane, calmly self-assured style on Narodni.
Jama (The Hollow) has been around forever, and very little has changed there. Situated on a quiet little side street not far from Wenceslas Square, Jama has always been popular with expats, particularly those from the US, as well as the more hip and well-heeled locals.
There's nothing fancy about the interior of Jama - it's just a welcoming, spacious bar restaurant, with plenty of elbow room at the tables, and just the right amount of dark wood to make it cosy during the cold months. The walls are covered in posters of rock bands and other legends, and the girls manning the long bar are easy on the eye.
Out the back is a quiet terrace, shaded by trees, which makes a peaceful spot for a lunch special in the summer, as well as providing a welcome respite from the heat.
The food is Jama's traditional interpretation of Tex-Mex, although for many years the place has been famous for it's burgers, and in the past has won such prestigious awards as "Prague's Best Burger". Of course, these days Jama has far more competition in this category, but if I'm ever in the Golden City fancying a big fat juicy burger, this place is still pretty high on the agenda.
The price of an illustrious Jama burger falls into the 150czk - 200czk bracket, which may seem a little steep, but is pretty much in keeping with a main course in restaurants in the vicinity.
I'd say it still constitutes pretty good value for money, because as always, you get served up with a bun bulging over with a hunky, dripping 200g beefburger cooked exactly the way you like it. On offer is the classic burger, cheeseburger and bacon burger; then it gets more interesting with the Cajun, the Chilli burger, and my personal favourite, the "Jack" burger - lavished with a sweet, mellow sauce made with Jack Daniels bourbon.
It's not all about burgers at Jama - they also offer a generous range of steaks, cajun chicken steaks, fajitas, burritos, BLT & Po' Boy sandwiches, and a few Czech dishes for some stick in the mud locals.
Surprisingly for a pub restaurant geared to expat tastes in Prague, the menu is rather light on vegetarian options - saladheads amongst us will have to make do with a veggie burrito or a few other meager pickings.
Aside from the main menu, Jama also offer a traditional Czech lunch special. served between the generous times of 11am-5pm. The selection changes daily, and for around 100czk you can get a bowl of soup and offerings varying from duck with dumplings & cabbage to a burrito. Of course, the portions are smaller on the lunch special, but it's still good value.
Happy Hours run from 4pm-6pm, offering draught Cerna Hora for 25czk at time of writing, plus offering bar snacks including chicken fingers, nachos and quesadillas.
On going promotions include "Burger Tuesdays" and "Steak Wednesdays" - the burgers don't change in a downward direction price-wise, but the range of burgers extends to French burgers and honey burgers - featuring camembert, and honey & blue cheese respectively. Steak nights offer such delights as Caribbean steaks - slapped with pineapple as you might expect.
To wash it all down with, apart from the bog standard 10-degree Cerna Hora, is a reasonable selection of beers - 11- and 14-degree Klaster; 12-degree Pilsner Urquell, 12-degree Rychtar and a dark beer, Merlin. If you fancy something stronger, Jama has a huge range of spirits & liquors - a wide choice of Scotch and Irish whiskeys, plus plenty of bourbons to choose from, as well as gins, vodkas and local specialities such as Slivovice.
There are also a wide range of cocktails to choose from, plus soft drinks if you're that way inclined.
"The Hollow" isn't some eclectic fine-dining experience, and doesn't pretend to be - it's just a good old bar which serves up some decent eating food and a buzzy vibe to enjoy it in. Here's to you, Jama - and the next ten years...
(This review originally appeared on Ciao!, writing as Midwinter.)