When tourists ask Praguers where they can find the best kebab in the city, it is very likely that there is a local post office to an inconspicuous stall in Podolí. The Gemüse Corner Kebab bistro is located there, where 27-year-old Filip Urban prepares a Turkish specialty to taste as good as possible in Berlin. He was just inspired to open the company by a visit to the German capital, where he once went to paint graffiti.
A small fast food stall has been in sight from the Dvorce tram stops near Prague’s Žluté lázně for years. Nothing came out before Filip Urban moved his dream bistro Gemüse Corner Kebab into it two years ago. Now, eighty-five to ninety kilos of chicken are roasted in well-known punches every day, which Filip and his colleagues cut into bread sandwiches, cakes or paper boxes with rice.
As recommended by the German word gemüse in the business name, the local section specializes in vegetable kebabs, so the meat is always complemented by grilled eggplant, zucchini or peppers and salad. Balkan cheese and homemade garlic, herb, hot, curry or hummus sauce will also come on top. If you don’t like meat, you can choose vegetarian vegetables with halloumi cheese or chickpea falafel.
“As far as meat is concerned, we want to have everything homemade, so unlike many other Czech kebabs, we do not buy pre-prepared bars. We use chicken thigh chops because they are juicier than breasts. We then clean them of cartilage and bones, load them into the marinade and put them in the fridge for ten to twelve hours. Then we pull out the meat, take the stand and gradually insert it with a needle. At the beginning, of course, it all fell apart, but after x tons, I’m already happy with this, “we smile Filip.
The twenty-seven-year-old guy and his team are preparing all this in the duty, which they have only a few square meters. Guests just pick up food at the service window and, in fine weather, enjoy it in the garden behind the stand. However, despite the punk conditions and location outside the more attractive location of the center of Prague, Gemüse Corner Kebab tends to be crowded. Already at eleven in the morning, when the bistro opens, the first eager ones are being acquired here, which means that Filip’s immodest goal of making “the best kebab in Prague” has already been fulfilled.
He gave up studying architecture and lived like a dreamer
But a rather winding road led to this. The young businessman originally wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps, so after graduating from high school he studied architecture at the Czech Technical University. But he didn’t enjoy it there for a long time, so he cut his studies and lived “like a dreamer”. “I made money from what I just got. I worked as an apartment painter or I carried materials on a construction site and I painted graffiti at night. At first I lived with my mother, but I went home at three in four in the morning, so I decided to move out. and pay the rent, “Philip returns to a period of defiance.
He was already thinking about opening a bistro when he left school. The wave of spoiled street food, about which poetic bloggers and gastro fans on social networks, was just getting started in those days. The main inspiration for him was a trip to Berlin, where he originally left in 2014 for only two days. The German capital is a famous European Mecca of the graffiti scene for street artists, so the then 21-year-old writer had several friends in the city who lived there and, after dark, painted the local neighborhoods with a spray can.
His companions took him to a bistro with a Turkish specialty köfte at the first dinner after the next dinner, which enchanted Filip. “To put it simply, köfte is a lamb patty, grilled spiced uncoated meat, which you put in a baguette, add sauce, white radish, tomato, onion and parsley. They had a great taste, a cumin, for example, and it was still pleasantly smoky with fire. Köfte would be easier to prepare, but Czechs do not eat much lamb, “he says.
The original plan to spend two days in Berlin eventually came to an end, and Filip stayed in Germany for a month. Enjoy the nightlife, ride a bike with friends from one end of town to the other, look for the perfect spots to paint graffiti, go to parties, and when he got hungry, penetrate the secrets of the local fast food influenced by Turkish immigrants. “In Prague, after eleven o’clock in the evening, you will find yourself in a ‘káefcéčka’ or ‘mekáče’ at most. But Berlin still lives after dark in Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebap.
He tried the first kebab on the grill in the studio
After returning from Berlin, he made a living as a courier for more than a year. However, he regularly returned to his western neighbors and after a while took Mustafa and his friend, who then worked as a chef in the La Boca restaurant in Prague, to discuss starting his own business. All Berlin kebabs tasted much better than any in Prague, which Filip attributes to, among other things, incomparably higher quality ingredients, more varied vegetable garnish and better-tuned sauces.
Together with a friend, he then embarked on the first experiments with a dish that none of them had ever prepared before. “We found some videos on YouTube and sat with them for maybe four hours a day. For a while, only kebabs jumped on me on Instagram, and a friend found a great photo there, which clearly summarized the difference between gyros, sabarma and kebab. For each meal, it was written what meat is made and what spices are put there. So, according to those instructions, we tried to prepare meat on the grill at my home in the studio, “laughs Filip.
The recipes were, of course, in Turkish, so it is necessary to insert a translator into Google and find some logic in often incoherent phrases. Another challenge was to get a suitable pastry. “In Berlin, there are supermarkets with Turkish food as big as Albert, in Prague, on the other hand, one hardly found an Arab store. I got pancakes for the dürüm by calling the contact I found on one label in Berlin. Germany, a friend of Lebanon, whom we go for. I take sandwiches from Macedonians who bake them here in the Czech Republic, “explains Filip.
“As far as meat is concerned, we want to have everything homemade, so unlike many other Czech kebabs, we do not buy pre-prepared bars,” emphasizes Filip Urban. | Photo: Jakub Plíhal
All that remained was to find a place to open the bistro. Originally, they wanted a smaller stone restaurant where they could sit. He was afraid that people wouldn’t go to him in the winter if it wasn’t possible to warm up inside. However, when he started the details of the real estate ads, he found that renting larger premises would be too great a financial risk. Moreover, he did not know if the concept of the Berlin-style kebab in Prague did not attract a sufficient clientele at all. “I walked around this address in Podolí for a long time and I noticed that there are a lot of people moving here. It was just a matter of stopping here and having food, “that’s why Filip, why decided in the end for a small stall, which he didn’t even think about at the beginning.
Nevertheless, many acquaintances discouraged him from places near Žluté lázně, warning him that hot dogs or burgers had been sold there before, but no tenant lasted long. Nevertheless, Filip opened in 2019. Nevertheless, he initially took care of the running of the stand with only one colleague, before joining other partners with experience in gastronomy, who originally had a job elsewhere. “We opened at four or five in the afternoon. We didn’t have time to prepare all the meat and vegetables. People made fun of us many times that we only have a bistro as a hipster,” he recalls.
He prefers vegetarian himself, he has eaten his meat
After a month of operating the first hundred meals and two months after opening, the first customers welcomed around noon as now. But the biggest crowds head to the popular kebab in the afternoon and evening, when people return from work on weekdays. The stand is also open on weekends from eleven to nine, and sometimes it happens that a regular daily batch of meat arrives before closing time, and the newcomer has to settle for vegetarian options. “First come first served. If you have a good concept, you can be further away from the center and people will come for you today, “praises Filip.
In addition to kebabs, he also makes several types of homemade lemonades in a small stand today, as a result of which he would like to start baking his own bread and pancakes. Paradoxically, he himself prefers the aforementioned meatless green with halloumi or falafel, because he has overeat his chicken. He adds that he tried to prepare beef kebab as well, but currently does not offer it in his company because it would seem too expensive to people. The price between 145 and 155 crowns per portion should then be given above all.
Among Czechs, his experience is mostly dürüm, where the filling is wrapped in a tray, so you face less risk of getting dirty when eating. However, according to Filip, the Berliner would rather order a sandwich in which the meat and individual components of the garnish are stacked side by side in bread. “All you have to do is tap and squeeze the kebab a little, and you can eat it without everything falling out of your bun,” advises the bistro boss.
If the author of the article, according to his recommendation, really manages to eat without leaving with greasy stains on a white polo shirt, he will add a few more tips with an acknowledged expression. “We use delivery services as little as possible. Street food should be eaten as soon as it’s still being smoked. I’d rather bask the kebab on my own than have it taken home. And most importantly, don’t take a fork with a sandwich! It’s like you one with cutlery burger or pizza.It completely makes no sense, “along at the end.”
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