A lot of factors go into enticing diners to spend money at your restaurant. And soon, the quality of food and drink will be elevated everywhere, stressing the need for other pieces of the dining experience to stand out.
Dusek’s Board and Beer in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood already has that X factor: it’s one of the only restaurants with a Michelin star that’s attached to a concert venue. That venue is Thalia Hall, commissioned in 1892 by John Dusek, hence the restaurant’s name. And as the establishment’s full name suggests, “we like to do food paired with beer,” says Jared Wentworth, executive chef and partner.
“Thalia Hall at Pilsen fell into our lap,” he says. “One of my partners had found the space, brought us over, and we were just immediately in love with the space.”
Wentworth and his partners could already see the vision.
“All the bones were there. We literally just took some ugly murals down, brought stuff back to some bare wood and some brick, and that’s it.”
Wentworth says it was the most turnkey place he’s ever been a part of.
“Find a place that’s been built out with a terrible concept but good bones, and as soon as it goes out of business, jump in,” he says.
A Cape Cod native, Wentworth got into the culinary game at a young age. He started as a dishwasher at the age of 16 and worked his way up throughout many different kitchens over the years.
“My inspiration for becoming a chef is really my love of creativity with food, making customers happy, and, in general, getting an immediate response for what my work is,” he says.
The venue alone, which services about 1,000 people on any given night, makes Dusek’s original. But Wentworth offers up another reason.
“I think what makes Dusek’s Board and Beer in Chicago original really is our blending of concepts.”
Downstairs from the restaurant is Punch House, which offers an expansive list of punches — both classic and contemporary concoctions, as well as four non-punch cocktails, and a short food menu of bar bites. “[The Punch House] is kind of like your grandpa’s funky basement,” says Wentworth.
Having all three components within one space “brings a lot of media and different aspects to the project, where it’s not just a restaurant, it’s a concert venue, it’s a lounge, and it’s also a pretty good restaurant,” he says.
What makes a Michelin-starred restaurant? “Consistency,” says Wentworth. And creating a well-rounded experience for the guest.
“Chefs and restaurateurs forget that there should be an aspect of fun to dining,” he says. “You should be able to be boisterous, you should have beautiful products served to you, you should walk out full, and you should feel like you got your money’s worth.”
In this “On Foodable Side Dish, we give viewers a glimpse into all three parts of the concept, and dive deeper into Dusek’s operations and culinary charm. Wentworth brings us into the kitchen to make a seafood stew using a lobster and beer broth, and includes head-on prawns, littleneck clams, Prince Edward Island mussels, Maine lobster, and Atlantic monkfish. “And it pairs great with beer,” says Wentworth, enthusiastically.