Dusek's brings Czech roots to Chicago

Pilsen has been going through a renaissance lately, at least in terms of bars and restaurants and Dusek's is the latest ambitious addition to 18th Street, to say the least.
November 8, 2013 8:35:31 PM PST
A perfectly-cooked egg is nestled against whole shrimp, vinegary collards and cheesy grits that would feel right at home in the Carolinas, while briny sardines are draped with grapefruit, preserved lemon and black olives. It's more ambitious than the usual taqueria in the neighborhood, and a far cry from the Czech roots of a century ago, but Dusek's Board & Beer - adjacent to the historic Thalia Hall upstairs - has been reborn in many ways. It began as John Dusek's dream of bringing his cultural heritage here in the 1890s.

"And decides that he wants to build this to bring arts and entertainment from Bohemia to play for the neighborhood. He wants to put his family tavern here and become a neighborhood place for the community," said co-owner Bruce Finkelman.

With the team from Longman & Eagle behind it, the menu is essentially geared around great beer. Most chefs would covet the massive, wood-burning oven, producing a number of dishes, like pork tenderloin and savory corn pudding, draped with roasted tomatoes and chanterelle mushrooms. Duck "wings" are actually turned into boneless, fried batons. And if a full dinner isn't your thing..

"Downstairs is the Punch House, and it celebrates the concoctions made by the 17th century British sailors to kind of make sure they could stay drunk all day without the mitigating effects of the alcohol," said Finkelman.

Those punches are available by the glass, carafe or bowl. Finkelman says the project was too good to pass up, and besides, Pilsen has been making a comeback for years now.

"I think it's more or less you let the projects choose you. And after seeing the outside of this building and the history that came with it, it really was a no-brainer that this was something we had to do," he said.

1227 W. 18th St.