Until someone invents the time machine, we can only imagine what it was like to live in the past. But Thalia Hall makes that easy. This Pilsen landmark was the heartbeat of Chicago’s Bohemian immigrant community way back in the 19th century — and after sitting empty for decades, it’s back in business. Drink and dance your way through yesteryear in a glorious old building, full of delicious food and amazing concerts.
What was once a turn-of-the-century community space complete with storefronts, residential housing, and an opulent theater is now a modern nightlife trifecta: Thalia Hall itself is a gorgeous concert venue, but it’s also home to a craft beer bar and an underground bar focused on old-fashioned punch. When you step inside, you’ll feel that sense of history in the air. Or maybe it’s just the ghost of Thalia Hall’s original founder, John Dusek, still roaming the halls.
If you spot him, don’t worry – he’s probably just enjoying the party at John Dusek’s Board and Beer. Exposed brick, a tin ceiling, and moody lighting will welcome you into Dusek’s, a restaurant that focuses on hearty beer and food for fish and meat lovers. With choices like confit of octopus, roasted pork belly, and blue crab dip, it’s clear that this isn’t your typical beer-and-bites establishment. Ask for recommendations as you peruse the seasonal menu – it changes daily – but don’t pass up on the newly unveiled Thalia Hall Czech Pilsner. It’s brewed in the neighborhood by Moody Tongue, a local “culinary brewing” company. Try it with the choucroute: duck confit and house garlic sausage with bacon and sauerkraut.
Still thirsty? You may notice an inconspicuous staircase leading below Dusek’s, which leads to subterranean Punch House. Here, you’ll find wood paneling, fish tanks, and fondue that lends a 1970s feel — surprising, considering this place specializes in Prohibition-era punch assortments. And speaking of punches, their blends certainly don’t pull any of them; these sophisticated sippers aren’t based on your grandma’s recipes. Try the space juice, which is a pleasingly tart, effervescent blend of tequila, Aperol, grapefruit, sparkling wine, lime, and sage.
Don’t leave Pilsen without getting a glimpse of the grand old Thalia Hall theater, which is worth a visit even when nothing’s going on there. It’s quickly becoming one of Chicago’s hottest venues, and you’ll understand why once you step inside. This ornate space, originally modeled after the Prague Opera House, is timeless. The glamorous arched windows, detailed ceiling, and intricate wood paneling mirror the beauty found in the historic building’s façade. And it’s already hosted everything from the Smashing Pumpkins to barn dances to yoga classes.
At this storied establishment, you could easily have three different experiences on three different nights, or go for the hat trick: dinner at John Dusek’s, an event at Thalia Hall, and post-show drinks at the Punch House. Just remember to thank John Dusek if you see him.