Sunday, September 20, 2015

Dusek's

If a restaurant is outside places that I normally travel, it can sometimes take some time to get there even if it's a place that I really want to got to.  I was interested in Dusek's when I first heard about it.  Owned by the group that also owns Longman & Eagle, Parsons Chicken and Fish, and The Empty Bottle, I knew that it was going to be a hit, but it's in Pilsen, which while in Chicago, is a little farther than I normally like to bike.   I decided one nice summer evening however, that it was a place I wanted to visit and the weather was great, so it was time to visit.  Dusek's Board and Beer was originally founded by John Dusek in the 1890s as a bar and boarding house in Thalia Hall.  It was refounded after several years dormant at the same location as a three part operation, Dusek's, a beer focused restaurant influenced by the original German, Czech, and Eastern European settlers in Pilsen, Punch Room, the basement Cocktail Lounge, and Thalia Hall, the music venue.  The restaurant space is divided into two large rooms, with hardwood floors, brick walls, and prints and photographs from the 1890's.  The big windows in the front provide a lot of natural light with additional light provided by chandeliers with Edison lights.  The bar serving beer and liquor is at the bar in the front room, but there is an additional bar in the other room which is used for preparing charcuterie and cheese boards.  I was seated next to this bar in an area with a lot of natural light.  While the ham plates and the cheese plates both sounded really good, I started things off with Chicken Fried Veal Sweetbreads which were served with Blue Cheese Gnocchi, a Barigoule (a vegetable dish from Proven├žal, typically made with artichokes, braised in a seasoned broth of wine and water) of Carrots and Celery, Aerated Ranch, Hot Sauce Gel, and Dill Pollen.  Many people are put off by the idea of eating sweetbreads, which are an animals' thymus glands.  I have little fear of trying something new, but I remember once, a waitress comparing them to chicken nuggets.  With the fact that these sweetbreads were breaded and chicken fried, the comparison was very apt.  In fact, with the hot sauce, the ranch and the blue cheese, this was like boneless buffalo wings.  The carrots and celery added a vegetable flavor to the dish which also enhanced the comparison of the sweetbreads to chicken.  The ranch was aerated to thin it somewhat and the hot sauce was gelled to thicken it so that the sauces had similar consistencies.  Everything worked together very well and it was a great starting dish.
I decided, with my entree, to try a dish that honored the ethnic background of the original settlers of the neighborhood.  I ordered Choucroute, the Alsatian version of Sauerkraut and Sausage, which was served with Sauerkraut, of course, but also with a Duck Confit Leg, Pork Belly, House Garlic Sausage, Confit Red Potatoes, Caraway Pickled Apples, and a side of Country Mustard.  I like sauerkraut and sausage, but this went one step beyond with the addition of the additional meats.  It was all very tender and flavorful and I liked the fact that it was served on an antique-style plate.  Everything was very good, but the surprise of the dish was actually the apples, which were served as little balls.  The pickling added a sour flavor to them, with a little nuttiness from the caraway, but their flavor was completely unlike a normal apple.  The texture of the apple, however,  remained which added some textural variation to the dish.
While my entree honored the original settlers of the neighborhood, my dessert honored the people who are here now.  I ordered  Roasted Chili Churros with Dulce Cream, Bittersweet Chocolate Sorbet, Candied Mango, Sweet Chili Lime Oil, and Mango Gel.  The churros were served warm which provided a hot-cold juxtaposition between them and the rest of the dish.  They were sweet and spicy while the sorbet was bittersweet, and the dulce cream was sweet and sour with a little spice with the candied mangoes and the chili lime oil.  It was a great dish that was well presented, tasted great, and honored the history of the neighborhood.

While it is a little further than what I normally like to travel (on my bike) for dinner, it was very good and I really enjoyed the space and the food.  I will definitely have to return in the future.
 

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