Mon-Sat, 4pm-midnight; Sun, noon-10pm
6 at 68th St.-Hunter College
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Ever since the term gastropub migrated here from London a decade ago, it’s been used to describe a whole range of boozy New York establishments, from neo-speakeasies to beer dens to Brooklyn whiskey bars. But if you find yourself pining for something approaching the real thing, I suggest you book a table at a curious, out-of-the way little restaurant called Hospoda, which opened in the spring of 2011 on the ground floor of the Bohemian National Hall (also the Czech consulate) on East 73rd Street. You will find a cool, well-appointed room and tables filled with pink-cheeked gentlemen nursing mugs of pilsner served at exactly 44.5 degrees. You will find newfangled Bohemian specialties; waiters conversant in all sorts of intricate, beer-geek brewing techniques; and a burly, old-world barkeep who looks like an extra from the set of Game of Thrones.
The only beer on tap at Hospoda (the name means “pub” in Czech) is Pilsner Urquell, which is a little like saying the only soft drink available at the new U.S. embassy restaurant in Prague is Coke. But head barman Lukas Svoboda and his assistants serve their smooth, piercingly refreshing brew in a variety of esoteric, nontraditional ways, ranging from Cochtan (served neat, with no head) to the mellifluously named Milko, which consists of an entire mug filled with clouds of cooling foam. My mug of frothy, faintly intoxicating Milko went very nicely with the block of roast pork belly I ordered one evening. The chefs at Hospoda come from acclaimed Prague restaurants, and they’re adept at taking lumpen recipes from the old country and imbuing them with a gourmet lightness on the seasonally-changing menu. When dessert rolls around, order the caramel-chocolate ganache or the dense, Bohemian-style sugar buns drizzled with a creamy rum sauce. And if you’re still not satisfied after that, loosen your belt a notch or two, call for the bartender, and order another beer.
Unlike some gastropubs, this one offers sophisticated wine pairings with your dinner. Focus on sweet, full-bodied whites, like the excellent ’09 Granache Blanc from Epiphany, in Santa Barbara.