By Megan O'Neill
Still but only a few months into their opening, Chef Jimmy Papadopoulos and team are a refuge of comforting food at Bohemian House in the heart of Chicago’s River North. They’re cooking Czech food here and merging the carefree essence of Bohemian society with the cultural authenticity of both Midwestern American and central European dining. The menu boasts flavors light and rich, from Slow Roasted Beets drizzled with molasses to a bone marrow and steak tartare. The fare is representative of the cuisine you’d find in Central Europe and spans a mix of small and large plates with communal seating enriching the shared plate experience. And there’s the interior. With its typical this-is-a-Chicago-loft exposed-brick walls, the rest of the décor is an intricate weaving of reclaimed wood, Czech patterns and a living room-like lounge area with the brightest turquoise tufted sofa I’ve seen in a restaurant. It’s charming, warm and more relaxing than what's usually spotted in the River North area.
With his tattoo-sleeved arms and a handlebar mustache that sits atop a spirited smile, Chef Papadopoulos, a relatively unknown kitchen staple in the Windy City, gave us the rundown of his menu. With the culture of Bohemia in mind, he looks to embrace the meat and potato history of Chicago that others might view as a stigma of our town. The concept merges the two, and he tries to echo them both with a fresh eye. Influences span Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic—like the potato pancakes with cured salmon, apple preserves, kohlrabi and dill.
Okay, there’s also a Knackwurst in a Blanket. Knackwurst. In a blanket.Topped with sweet and sour cabbage, turnips and mustard, it was the comforting cuisine you would have expected. Also on the menu were sexier takes on classics—think Spätzle. By far the favorite of the night, the lighter, puffier version of the German dumpling was tossed with trumpet mushrooms, gray shallots, rainbow chard, and nuggets of smoked beef tongue that were anything but dense and tough, and rather melt-in-your-mouth tender and full of flavor. Tableside, our waiter poured a rich and warm aged Gouda sauce over the top. Other highlights included an heirloom tomato dish, the coffee and doughnuts, and an extensive selection of traditional European and American spirits and brews.
This spot and concept is standing out from others on the block, and from what we can see, pretty successfully. Check out their full menu here.