Bohemian Cafe

Review by: Jane & Michael Stern

** THIS RESTAURANT IS PERMANENTLY CLOSED **

“Vitáme Vás” is the Bohemian Cafe’s motto, meaning “we welcome you.” It is a place where all are made to feel welcome, including old timers who first came as kids and visiting firemen who want a fun-time meal with polka music setting the beat in the dining room. It is an immensely cheerful place, a vast, multi-room eating hall decorated with colorful old-country woodwork and pictures of men and women in traditional peasant attire; tables are patrolled by veteran professional waitresses in bright red dirndl skirts.

The traditional way to begin a meal is with a cup of liver dumpling soup, which is homely and homey; we also love the plain-dumpling, chicken-stock soup that is often available as an alternate. Every meal begins with a basket of chewy sour rye bread. The big menu includes American-style steaks and seafood, a quartet of specials every day, and traditional Czech specialties. Foremost among the kitchen’s accomplishments is roast duck – half a bird with crisp skin and flavorful meat that pulls off the bone with ease. We are fond of the sauerbraten, which is a stack of pot-roast-tender hunks of beef that are a joy to pull apart with the tines of a fork. We also like the Czech goulash, a vivid red, smoky pork stew. There is a large choice of side dishes, but the two for which the Bohemian Café is best known are dumplings and kraut. The former is a pair of saucer-size slices of doughy matter covered with whatever gravy your main course demands; the latter is a fetching sweet and sour mix, thick as pudding, dotted with caraway seeds. Whatever entrée you choose, it will come flanked by dumplings and kraut – an awesome presentation that is a challenge to all but the mightiest appetite.

Paper place mats remind diners that this restaurant is home of the Bohemian Girl Jim Beam commemorative bourbon bottle (there is a huge collection of Jim Beam commemoratives in the entryway); and the mats also list the lyrics to the house song, which has been used in radio advertisements:

Dumplings and kraut today
At Bohemian Café
Draft beer that’s sparkling, plenty of parking
See you at lunch, Okay?

What To Eat

roast duck

DISH
sauerbraten

DISH
goulash

DISH
Swiss Steak

DISH
Liver Dumpling Soup

DISH
Plum Dumplings

DISH
Jaeger Schnitzel

DISH
Breaded Pork Cutlet

DISH

Bohemian Cafe Recipes

Discuss

What do you think of Bohemian Cafe?

2 Responses to “Bohemian Cafe”

Jim Dudlicek

August 8th, 2008

As someone of Czech stock who grew up on thick, brown food, I was anxious to visit the Bohemian Cafe. I discovered it during research for a business trip to Omaha. The decor was lively and the service outstanding, but I must say the food was a disappointment. It was not up to par with the delights I grew up eating at the many fine Czech eateries in the Chicago area.

Despite the descriptions of other reviewers, my duck was not crispy at all; in fact, the skin was barely palatable. While the meat itself was tender and tasty, the bird came drenched in a thick, brown gravy, atop a bed of dressing; quite unnecessary, considering dumplings were the side dish. The dumplings likewise came drenched in gravy (different than the one on the duck, this with off-putting sweet spice notes that I guessed came from nutmeg), and they were served on a common plate with the sauerkraut, which I found to be much too tart. The dumplings were amply proportioned but just not quite right; they lacked the consistency and chewiness of those found in Chicago’s Czech enclaves. Gravy really should be served on the side, allowing the diner to control its flow.

The liver dumpling soup was good, the kolacky tasty and the Pilsner Urquell cold and frosty. But overall, my visit to the Bohemian Cafe was quite a letdown.

Reply

Seth Cagin

August 18th, 2007

In the culinary wasteland of Nebraska, the Bohemian Cafe is well worth visiting, particularly as it is a short distance off of I-80. The Eastern European food is so old-fashioned that I suspect you would be hard pressed to find anything like it in the Czech Republic, a country that is in a rush to modernize and, well, lighten up. The keyword at the Bohemian, on the other hand, is HEAVY. Nothing green infringed on our plates. If it had, it would no doubt have been buried in thick gravy.

And yet the Bohemian has the virtue of authenticity, and the food, essentially a paean to starch, is pretty irresistable in a down-home, once-in-a-lifetime way. As others have noted, the dumplings and sauerkraut would seem to be the items of most interest here. I would rate the dumplings as “interesting” but the sauerkraut as delicious. A little of the extraordinarily dense dumplings goes a long way, but the servings are huge. The sauerkraut, on the other hand, has an astringency that your meal at the Bohemian sorely requires and more of it would be more.

The bottom line: we passed on dessert. We couldn’t resist the sauerbraten and duck and dumplings and sauerkraut, but it really filled us up, more than would be comfortable if it weren’t a rare indulgence.

Reply

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