Pivovar hotel brings Czech culture to Waco

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

By Cayli Clack | Guest Contributor

Pivovar is the name of Waco’s Czech-inspired location, serving as a hotel, brewery, bakery, beer garden and beer spa. The head chef and general manager, Jeremy Eaton, said that it’s considered upscale without the aspect of snobbiness.

“The aesthetic is essentially classic European furniture with a big industrial warehouse space — kind of a mix between the old world and the new world,” Eaton said.

Eaton owned and operated multiple restaurants in The Woodlands before feeling called to come back to the homestead, where he landed a job as Pivovar’s master chef.

With everything from pork knuckles to creme brulee cheesecake, customers can expect a top-notch dinner menu — probably the best in Waco, Eaton said.

“We took the idea and the history behind the Czech recipes and mixed them with the ingredients that we have here locally and dishes that are very popular here, and kind of did a merge,” Eaton said. “We will actually be going to Prague this summer, where I’ll be visiting a bunch of Czech restaurants and seeing how they operate, how they do all the traditional dishes, and doing lots of food tours. Then the menu will probably change.”

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

“This place is changing Waco eating habits,” Beseda said. “You got people that are coming in, eating and staying awhile. We’ve got four beers, lots of good cocktails and a great menu selection with quality food. We’re not competing against a chicken fried steak or Waco barbecue. We’re doing something truly unique.”

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

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

Server Jackson Osborne said he loves working in the restaurant because of its chill take 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 come in, get your food and drink and then you leave,” Osborne said. “Here, people come in, get their food, have a drink, have another drink and another drink, and they stay a long time.”

Pivovar also has an in-house bakery. One of the head bakers, Flor Strickland, has mastered the artistry of Czech baking and makes the best kolaches in Texas, according to Eaton. Strickland said she has been baking since she was young and highly values her time in the Pivovar kitchen, despite difficulties making treats that Texans can truly appreciate.

“I love baking so much that 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 it more basic, like apple and pecan pies. But the Czechs are proud of what they have, and they want to keep it like that.”

Pivovar also includes an outdoor beer garden; however, contrary to its name, beer may not “grow” there. Beer gardens are an essential part of Central European tradition, where people gather during warm summer afternoons to sit and indulge in conversation, along with a meal and an ice-cold beer. Pivovar’s garden features plenty of authentic wooden picnic tables, string lights and an easy-access bar.

Beseda said it feels “a little bit like Europe” in a haven where locals can enjoy the sun and some company, snack on small bites and even bring their dogs to join in on the 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 world’s best-selling, most popular beer; it’s the golden beer, and all of the bigger companies use it,” Eaton said. “That Pilsner Lager brewing process started in the town of Pilsen in the Czech Republic. We imported the original ingredients and recreated that original process, just like that very first beer that was ever made.”

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

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

For the future, Eaton and Beseda said the first goal of many is going to be set on the beer garden itself, with hopes of inserting a shady rooftop to protect from the harmful rays of the Texas sun as well as the occasional Waco waterworks. Calling it a “little hiccup,” Eaton said Pivovar may have to shut down for a little while the construction takes place.

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

The second thing nearing is the creation of their very own beer brand. The canning process is set to begin at the end of April, Eaton said.

“We’ll do our first 20,000 cans of beer and then distribute to a distributor to start growing our brand,” Eaton said. “It’ll be called ‘Pivovar,’ and then coming soon is ‘Pivovar Ultra.’”

Strickland said many come thinking Pivovar is a regular hotel but leave glad they’ve gotten to experience everything.

“You can enjoy a beer bath and get a feeling of that and then go enjoy our food, all while in an environment that is just like the Czech Republic,” Strickland said.