A view looking in at Dusek's — Photo courtesy of Dusek's
Walk down 18th Street in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, past the creepy Chucky doll on a motorcycle staring at you in a storefront a few doors away, and you'll find Dusek’s. This restaurant is nestled quietly in the corner of an imposing historic building, which was once Thalia Hall - a public hall built in 1892. When you walk inside the restaurant, it’ll feel like you’re in on one of Chicago’s best kept secrets.
Large parties can dine at the communal table — Photo courtesy of Dusek's
Dusek’s is inviting. A stunning bar greets guests and a communal table atop of a raised step seeks parties of 12 in a section that looks more like a well-decorated living room than in the middle of a restaurant. Books and pottery line the built-in boxed shelves, an Oriental rug is at their feet and a large mirror makes the room look larger than it is. The tin ceiling above radiates old-school style.
In the next room, where most of the diners gather either in smaller tables or larger groups, you can’t miss the brick oven working hard to create the decadent smells wafting through the place.
Beef tartare with Anchor Lager, smoked salmon with Wittekerke and broccolini with Solemn Oath are all part of Flight Night — Photo courtesy of Dusek's
Once seated, diners are offered a choice of menu options that range from duck to seared scallops. Ask what The Ordinary (which is anything but ordinary) is for the day. The Ordinary is the restaurant special and changes regularly. An option could be butter poached Maine lobster, smoked carrot puree, three beans, black trumpets and ramen broth paired with Wittekerke.
To add to the homey feel, many dishes and drinks are served in vintage dinnerware. The Dusek Warmer features Mulled ale, applejack, good bourbon, lemon, a fall fruit and chili powder - served in a dainty teacup. It’s anything but dainty, though. This cocktail packs a punch, so sip slowly and enjoy it as it goes does warm and smooth.
If you aren’t ready for the night to end, head downstairs to the Punch House, a hidden outpost which pays homage to the staple beverage of the early 1600s. Don’t be surprised to see several of the same wait staff from Dusek’s serving your appetizers down below.
As you enter the black door into Punch House, notice the stunning architectural details of the wrought iron staircase, which are being carefully restored as part of the Thalia House restoration. If you want to leave your mark, grab some chalk on your way to the restroom and add a sentiment or your name on the wall-length chalkboard.
Flight Night happens every Tuesday and features three petite courses with three beer pairings. Sunday Supper begins at 5 p.m. every Sunday and features three courses with a pitcher of beer. Weekend brunch lovers will want to add Dusek’s to their list of places to try.
In a city where there is no shortage of extraordinary dining options, Dusek’s ranks pretty high up there, considering it just opened in late 2013.