Hotel Pivovar brings Czech culture to Waco

Downtown Waco offers a taste of Czech culture with the new Pivovar restaurant. Photo courtesy of Cayli Clack

By Cayli Clack | Guest Contributor

Pivovar is the Czech-inspired name of Waco location, serving as Hotel, brewery, bakery, beer garden and beer spa. Chef and general manager Jeremy Eaton said it’s considered upscale without the aspect of snobbery.

“The aesthetic is basically classic European furniture with a large industrial warehouse – kind of a mix between the old and the new world,” Eaton said.

Eaton owned and operated several restaurants in The Woodlands before he felt called to return to the farm, where he landed a job as head chef at Pivovar.

With everything from pork shanks to crème brûlée cheesecake, diners can expect a top-notch dinner menu — possibly the best in Waco, Eaton said.

“We took the idea and the story behind the Czech recipes and mixed it with the ingredients that we have here locally and the dishes that are very popular here, and kind of merged it,” Eaton said. “We’re actually going to Prague this summer, where I’ll visit a bunch of Czech restaurants and see how they work, how they cook all the traditional dishes, and I’ll do a lot of food tours. Then the menu will probably change.

Pivovar is setting its own “European standards” in Waco, according to CEO and co-owner Steve Beseda.

“This place is changing Waco’s eating habits,” Beseda said. “You have people who come in, eat and stay for a while. We have four beers, lots of great cocktails and an excellent menu selection with quality food. We don’t compete with chicken fried steak or Waco BBQ. We are doing something truly unique.

Dansville, Calif. freshman Ainsley Gibbs said she arrived with low expectations for what she thought was a basic hotel restaurant, but left full and pleasantly surprised.

“I think one of my favorite parts of the whole place was the menu, which was almost like something out of a fairy tale book,” Gibbs said. “They offered a variety of unique dishes, so my friends and I each wanted to try a bit of everything. The food was delicious and perfectly cooked to my liking.

Server Jackson Osborne said he enjoys working in the restaurant because of its laid-back outlook on fine dining, and he thinks it’s very cool how they do things compared to most places.

“So generally speaking in most restaurants, you walk in, get your food and drinks, and then you leave,” Osborne said. “People come in here, get their food, have a drink, have another drink and another drink, and they stay a long time.”

Pivovar also has an on-site bakery. One of the baker chefs, Flor Strickland, has mastered the art of Czech baking and makes the best kolaches in Texas, according to Eaton. Strickland said she’s been baking since she was young and very much enjoyed her time in the Pivovar kitchen, despite struggling to make treats Texans can really enjoy.

“I love cooking so much I could sleep here; just give me a pillow and the kitchen will be my bed,” Strickland said. “It’s hard to introduce something new, especially in the South, because here they like more basic things, like apple and pecan pies. But the Czechs are proud of what they have, and they want it to stay that way.”

Pivovar also includes an outdoor beer garden; however, contrary to its name, beer cannot “grow” there. Beer gardens are a staple of Central European tradition, where people gather on hot summer afternoons to sit and chat, with a meal and an ice-cold beer. Pivovar’s garden features many authentic wooden picnic tables, fairy lights and an easy-to-access bar.

Beseda said it felt “a bit like Europe” in a haven where locals can enjoy the sun and company, snack on small bites and even bring their dogs to have fun.

The name “Pivovar” is actually Czech for brewery, with the establishment selling four types of beer.

“So the key thing about our beer is that Pilsner Lager is the best-selling and most popular beer in the world; it’s the golden beer, and all the big companies use it,” Eaton said. “This Pilsner Lager brewing process started in the city of Pilsen in the Czech Republic. We imported the original ingredients and recreated that original process, just like that very first beer ever made.

As the second such operation in the United States, Pivovar also has a beer spa, equipped with brass vats filled with hot water and brewer’s yeast.

“Our beer spa actually originated in Europe,” said hotel receptionist Gabriella Strickland. “There are two beer spas on each floor, and each spa is completely private. There are two tubs in there, so you can enjoy it with your loved one or friend, and you have a choice of champagne or one of our four types of beer to enjoy there.”

Looking ahead, Eaton and Beseda said the first focus of many would be on the beer garden itself, hoping to insert a shaded roof to protect against the harmful rays of the Texas sun as well as occasional aqueducts from Waco. Calling it a “little hiccup,” Eaton said Pivovar may have to shut down for a while during construction.

“We’re going to have a rooftop with nice fans and TVs there,” Eaton said. “So it’s going to stay cool in the summer and be a lot more inviting on the hot summer days.”

The second thing that is approaching is the creation of their own brand of beer. The canning process is expected to begin in late April, Eaton said.

“We will be making our first 20,000 cans of beer and then distributing them to a distributor to start building our brand,” Eaton said. “It will be called ‘Pivovar’, and soon ‘Pivovar Ultra’.”

Strickland said many thought Pivovar was an ordinary hotel, but left happy that they had been able to experience it all.

“You can enjoy a beer bath and get a feel for it and then go and taste our food, all in an environment that feels like the Czech Republic,” Strickland said.

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