Thalia Hall: A Beer, Cocktail and Food Mecca

By Matt Kirouac  |  October 1, 2013
Credit: Dan Blackman

There's a renaissance happening in Pilsen right now, and it centers around the historic Thalia Hall. Leave it to Bruce Finkelman and Craig Golden, two of the gentlemen behind Longman & Eagle, to re-invigorate this 18th Street landmark with a multi-tiered restaurant/cocktail bar/public hall concept, anchored by Punch House and Dusek's Board and Beer.

Originally founded at the turn of the century by John Dusek, the intent of this sprawling building was to facilitate a community hub for locals, a spot that would contain storefronts, housing and a public hall. The motivation to intertwine food, beer and hospitality remains the crux of Thalia Hall, with beer-centric restaurant Dusek's Board and Beer adjoined by subterranean sister bar Punch House. The restaurant is a comfortable gathering place that Dusek would be proud of, featuring beer-friendly cuisine curated by Longman & Eagle's Jared Wentworth and a masterfully matched beer selection from cicerone Will Duncan. The convivial spirit carries downstairs, where Punch House brings cocktail lovers together over a punch-focused menu, an homage to the original communal beverage.

Still to come, Finkelman and Golden are fine-tuning the second-floor space, preparing to restore the original theater and open it up as an ornate public hall befitting artistic events, music and other community endeavors. The original Old Prague Opera House theater was first established in 1892, a lavish arena granted landmark status in 1985. It's been closed to the public since 1960, but that changes later this year.

Photos by Dan Blackman. 

  • Credit: Dan Blackman


    It's all about the symmetry between food and beer at Dusek's Board and Beer, the restaurant portion of Thalia Hall 2.0. Wentworth and Duncan worked together closely to curate a menu of comforting beer food, divvied up on the menu into categories such as greens and grains, by sea and by land and air. Start off with some Southern braised green beans, frites and romesco or a pear salad rife with haricots verts, endive, frisée, bleu cheese, sherry-walnut vinaigrette and port syrup. Nautical items include flounder crudo, wood-roasted monkfish, barbecued Gulf prawns and a classic Maine lobster roll. Things get meaty with the likes of country fried chicken livers, crispy pig tails, duck wings, confit porchetta and veal sweetbread schnitzel. There's also a sizable oyster selection.

  • Credit: Dan Blackman


    Dusek's is all about the beer. Duncan sees to it that the food is duly matched with great beers, ranging from dry Belgian stouts and dubbels to pilsners and weissbiers. European ales comprise much of the beer list, augmented with several Midwestern craft beer selections, such as New Belgium Pumpkick and 5 Lizard. Or head downstairs to Punch House and immerse yourself in the communal spirit of punch, available in a multitude of medleys by the glass, by the carafe or by the bowl. Punches are offered in both contemporary and classic renditions, with selections like Gin Tea Punch and Space Juice for Jared, aka Reposada tequila, grapefruit, lime, Aperol, black pepper, sparkling wine and sage. There are also a few non-punch offerings, from Jamaican Old Fashioned to the Definitely Not a Hemingway Daiquiri.

  • Credit: Dan Blackman

    The Space

    Dusek's Board and Beer and Punch House harken to the turn of the last century, when tavern owner, arts lover and family man John Dusek established Thalia Hall as a community center. The storied building debuted in 1892, offering an outlet for locals to shop, dwell and mingle. The second floor contained the Old Prague Opera House, a regal theater designed and executed by architects Faber and Pagels in 1892. Along with hosting a variety of entertainment outlets over the years, the space was home base for such historic events as the drafting of the bill for bohemian statehood in 1915 and the inauguration of Czechoslovakia in 1918. Finkelman and Golden spiffed up the space, but preserved the hospitable integrity of Dusek's original vision. Dusek's Board and Beer on the first floor of Thalia Hall has the feel of a tavern from another era, while Punch House in the basement is a cozy, clandestine watering hole awash with Americana.