Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Bohemian Crystal - New Years Eve With My Own Gravy Boat!

I took a break from cooking on New Years Eve, having done a lot during the holidays and busy with a plumbing project around the house. With the temps in the single digits and snow ending, it was a good day for a drive for a hot, hearty meal

Especially of the Bohemian Variety (and likely Moravian, Slovakian and sub-Carpathian Ruthenian cookery as well).  It's take no prisoners, offer no apologies, beefy,  porky, starchy rib sticking food.  You want sprouts and tofu, this is NOT  your restaurant.
 the private dining area for parties of 25 or less

The Bohemian Crystal, www.bohemiancrystal.net .  This is our favorite Chicagoland Old World dining place, the large restaurant warm and cozy and filled with all sorts of Czech tchotzkes, including, of course, Bohemian Crystal. The owners, Vera Mica and her son Roman fled Czechoslovakia in 1968 when the Soviets invaded, then immigrated to the United States and started working in the restaurant business with an uncle in Berwyn, Illinois. The packed, large parking lot and clean and inviting interior is testament to what they've learned for success since the early 80's, good food in generous portions in a clean, homey atmosphere.
We've eaten at other Polish/Czech places  in Northern Illinois and had wonderful meals, but this is indeed a favorite, closer to home and unlike the buffets, resulting in some leftovers to take home!

And there WILL be leftovers.
It starts with a basket of caraway-infused rye bread and whole wheat rolls, then  soup or salad.  I had the salad, for the house Poppyseed dressing that I wish they sold to go.  Partner had split pea soup with savory/cheesy toasted bread bits floating on it. 
Then the entrees - the roast Long Island duck is usually pretty hard to pass up, and there are other favorites here, roast pork, beautiful lamb shank with barley dressing  and delicious Czech fruit dumplings with cottage cheese, sugar and melted butter.  And try not and smile when you order the "buttcakes", delicious Old World smoked pork butt with crispy potato pancakes.  The last time we were here, one of our friends ordered the Moravian platter: a cornucopia of roast duck, smoked pork butt, meatloaf, fried veal cutlets, "grandma style" pork and sauerkraut. He was thrilled with the platter, which was huge. But  for New Years Eve, we went for one of my favorites and a weekly special.
Breaded Pork Cutlets, an incredibly light, non-greasy, crisp batter, and tender meat.  Not just one but TWO, with a huge mound of mashed potatoes (you get a choice of mashed or boiled potatoes, rice pilaf , potato salad, or dumplings, dumplings, dumplings) and a side bowl of hot cooked carrots (or I could have had sweet and sour cabbage or sourkraut). Plus they brought me my own big boat of gravy, rich, smooth, stick to the side of your dumpling, gravy.
Partner ordered the lunch portion of sliced roast beef in dill gravy with pillowy bread dumplings and sauerkraut.  Not the most photogenic dish (especially in very low light with  the vehicle glove box cheap point and shoot) but the beef and gravy was subtle perfection.

The service is always top rate, the traditionally dressed, energetic and kindly solicitous waitresses, many from Eastern Europe, are all outstanding, and remember their regulars. The coffee and hot tea was always filled, the food timed perfectly, out to the table fresh and hot. They are really busy, and don't have much time to chat, but it's always fun to hear some of the older regulars talk with the servers and busboys in Czech or Polish.

Dessert is even included with each meal.  Today we had  fresh blueberry pound cake with whipped cream (or a choice of Czech pastries, ice cream, pudding or jello).   I wasn't sure there was room for it in my stomach, but it was the perfect ending to the meal.
But don't let passing all the Land Rover, Ferrari, and BMW dealers down the road from the restaurant alarm you. Just off Ogden in west suburban Westmont, we had all of this, with drinks and enough left and boxed up for a light supper tomorrow, tax included, for $25.00 for two.  Delicious home style food at prices you can't find many places any more.

That says "Stastny Novy Rok!" (Happy New Year) to me!