RIVER NORTH — The team behind a new restaurant opening in River North next month hopes their Czech eatery will be a destination location so unique it transcends the vibe of its neighborhood.
Even "guys and gals from Logan [Square] and Wicker Park that don't often come to River North" will be drawn in by Bohemian House's eclectic decor — featuring exposed brick, soft lighting and mismatched plates — and an Eastern European menu inspired by co-founder Dan Powell's Bohemian roots.
"We're trying to fill a void that we think that River North has," Powell said. "The key element is it's just a very casual space. The reason we wanted to do something Bohemian and casual is because Bohemian people are very welcoming in their heritage and it's all about community...We want this to be a retreat from the hustle and bustle of the rest of River North."
The restaurant is set to open at 11 W. Illinois St. in early June.
Powell and business partner Markus Chwajol both work in the medical industry, and met "while working on a case a few years back," Powell said.
Both have familial roots in Bohemia, today a part of the Czech Republic, and Powell says they bonded over a shared passion for entertaining and a desire to open a restaurant someday.
"We've been working on the concept for the last two years," Powell said. "It's definitely a passion project."
The duo recently partnered with executive chef Jimmy Papadopoulos, formerly of DeLaCosta, who Powell called "super inventive."
Powell said the menu and cocktail program are still in the works, but said the concept "is kind of a modern approach to traditional European food: Czech Republic, Germany and Austrian food. Modernized, comfortable, but still authentic to those cultures."
On the restaurant's Facebook page, the team is asking fans for feedback about potential menu items.
Suggestions include slow-roasted beets with molasses streusel, caraway vinaigrette & crème fraîche, chicken liver pate with elderberry preserves, pickled onions, radish & rye toast, house-cured salmon potato pancakes with apple jam, celery root and dill, and beef short-rib pierogi with roasted carrots, pickled scallions and sour cream.
As for the drink options at the restaurant's street-facing bar, "whatever we're using for the food — which is all fresh seasonal ingredients — we're going to use that in the cocktails," Powell said. "We're going to do our best to pair the beer and cocktails with the food."
Beer options will be 70 percent European, 30 percent American, Powell said, with a focus on micro- and craft brewers. A rare treat on tap will be a rotating menu of fruit brandies.
"One really cool thing that people do in Europe is they have this tradition of making their own brandy at home — taking pears, peaches, whatever's in season and using brandy with them, so we're gonna definitely have some seasonal brandy that will complement the food and define the cocktails," Powell said.
The restaurant won't have any TVs, and will scatter communal tables into the mix of bar and table seating.
"I think in Chicago, we're missing an element of connection," Powell said. "We thought it was definitely filling a void."
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