Tucked into an unlikely intersection of central Prague — set partially under a highway, between a bus terminal and train station — exists a new frontier of Prague’s steadily diversifying culinary scene. Manifesto Market, which opened in early June, has brought back life to a long derelict space in the city center, even though it’s just a few minutes walk from tourist landmarks like Cafe Imperial and the Powder Tower.
Some of Prague’s more eclectic food vendors inhabit this cashless, open-air village of 27 attractively arranged converted shipping containers, offering a fine-tuned collection of global cuisines. Everything is served with a side of culture, including daily concerts, free (and English-friendly) film screenings, and arts workshops. Technically a pop-up, Manifesto will eventually relocate or extend its two-year lease on this site, which awaits a future development designed by Zaha Hadid Architects.
“I love this site because nothing else was here. It was awful, a no-go zone,” said Manifesto’s organizer, Martin Barry, a New Yorker turned expat and founder of reSITE, a nonprofit aimed at improving the urban environment. “The first idea was to change this, to get people to come to a place they normally wouldn’t. The second thing was to do it with food and culture.”
Under a moody June evening sky, the variety impressed: pulled pork sandwiches with goat cheese, Ayurvedic dosas, roasted cauliflower heads, porchetta with prosecco. Patrons, nodding along to a Finnish wind orchestra playing jazzy tunes on a small stage, ate at round, yellow tables or a long community table.
I sidled up to PokeHaus, which serves trendy Hawaiian poke bowls in three playful options — Salmon L. Jackson, Tuna Turner or To-Fu Panda. I ordered a Jackson and devoured the virtual rainbow in my bowl: seaweed salad, mango, radish, cucumber, edamame beans and grated carrot over spicy, creamy salmon cubes and sushi rice.
Next door was Gran Fierro, led by the Argentine chef Miguel Nicolás Innella, where I sipped on a mildly bitter iced mate and ordered a choripan, a classic Argentine snack. A rustic roll hid halved pieces of hearty chorizo and two roasted padrón peppers (a Spanish touch), accompanied by a generous slathering of boldly herbal and lemony chimichurri, the star of this tidy sandwich.
During a sun-soaked lunchtime visit, I went local, starting with on-tap beer from Vinohradsky Pivovar. My Czech choices were two concepts from Michal Zahradka’s Gorilla Guerilla fusion food brand: luxurious open-faced sandwiches at Chlobicek and Czech street food at CK Knodelrei.
I opted for the latter, ordering roasted, pulled duck with purple sauerkraut and potato dumplings that were fried (not steamed, the traditional technique) — to make up for the lack of crispy duck skin, Gorilla Guerilla’s executive chef Viktor Kostrica explained. My meal was carefully placed into a biodegradable oyster pail — dumplings first, then sauerkraut and finally a large portion of tender duck.
The dumplings had a pleasant chewiness, and a touch of clove emanated from the beautiful cabernet-colored sauerkraut, which had been cooked with onion and apple. The juicy duck, seasoned only with salt and cumin, fell apart, its taste pure and fulfilling.
At Ollies, a bakery and sweets shop from Ostrava, I snagged the last, chocolate-laden slice of Mogador cake. A twist on the French classic, this version replaced traditional raspberry with the tantalizing zing of passion fruit, which flavored the thick, silky Belgian milk chocolate mousse atop a firm but moist, red-flecked chocolate crust.
It was a provocative and bold combination, much like Manifesto’s mission: to push for the innovative use of Prague’s cityscape while stimulating the senses.
Manifesto Market, Na Florenci Street; manifesto.city; dinner for two, without drinks or tip, is 400 crowns, about $20.