Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Bohemia Returns to Berwyn

Chicago experts know that the only thing Bohemian about Pilsen is the name. Further West in Little Village, one might, every once in a while, see a stalwart who never moved. But they almost all moved. West to Cicero-Berwyn. Yet today, these two suburbs are bleeding Bohemians [ed. I changed that from Bohunks, not sure if your choice of words is PC] as well. Places like Klas, Jim's Market, and Vesecky Bakery remain out there, but these suburbs are mostly Mexican these days. The dribbling of recent Czech immigrants seems more centered on Northwest side of Chicago, with places like Operetta and the Czech Bakery. I was not expecting a more "modern" Czech place in Berwyn, but it's there, the relatively new, Bohemia Deli.

If you are aware of the inventory of Czech Bakery in Chicago, you will mostly know Bohemia Deli. In fact, as I later noticed from their business card, the two places are related. There is a range of serve-yourself baked goods, kolachy, stuffed crescents, different kinds of rolls. You put what you want on small styrofoam plates, and they wrap it in plastic. There are also larger loafs of bread including a two ton rye. Like Mexican bakeries, the stuff is so cheap, you can afford to be generous in your purchases. There is a small deli case with slab bacon, ham, and other Czech sausages. There were skinny Bohemian wieners that they will steam for you for an absolute bargain at 99 cents. Finally, there are a bunch of pre-made Czech dinners. At first I thought these were no great shake, about $7, but then I realized each package contained a LOT of food, I realized what a deal they were. We picked the Czech version of the pan-Slavic, cevacipi over mashed potatoes (and appealing to me because it had pickles too) and noodles with farmer's cheese.

This is not overwhelming food. It tasted like maybe good cafeteria food, for instance the mashed potatoes were quite thin (with enough imperfections to convince me that they were real). Yet, since it was Bohemian cafeteria food, it did have some appeal. The cevacipi were much moister than the versions found further south in Europe, they were more like meatballs instead of sausage. The noodles were very sweet, hard to eat them for dinner.

I do not have the exact address of Bohemia Deli, as their business card only gave the location of their Chicago store, 3113 N. Central. The Berwyn branch is on Cermak near East Av., Berwyn.

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