My brother was in from Phoenix, AZ for a week, and since we're half Bohemian, and he's starved for that cuisine out in the Southwest, we 'made the rounds'.
Bohemian Gardens, Downers Grove:
Our two meals there both began with a cup of traditional Bohemian Liver Dumpling Soup... a decent rendition of the classic starter, but perhaps not the best I've had.
Prague Style Liver (breaded) was done to perfection. A generous amount of breading, but light and crispy. The liver itself, thinly sliced (perhaps pounded thin), was tender and not chewey as liver can sometimes be.
Breaded Pork Tenderloin was not the best I've had... a bit on the grainy side... not as tender as I'm accustomed to... and perhaps a tad greasy. OK, overall... but not great (maybe it needed a little pounding).
The bread dumplings were great... light and fluffy... wonderful gravy sponges. Gravy was OK... perhaps not homemade. Sauerkraut: tangy and somewhat smooth-textured... OK too. Dessert was a nicely done version of the trad Kolacky.
Brother Jim had the Roast Duck and pronounced it 'good'. Portions were huge... prices very reasonable, as in most Czech places.
Golden Duck, Downers Grove:
In an effort to ease the pressure on my waistline, I opted for the sandwich version of Breaded Pork Tenderloin. It's served open-faced, on slices of Bohemian Rye Bread instead of with dumplings. Gravy was available. This was more to my liking than 'the Gardens' version... a bit of crunch to the breading, thinly sliced, or pounded, and quite tender. 'Kraut was OK. Liver Dumpling Soup: good. Kolacky: excellent. Brother Jim again pronounced the Roast Duck, 'good'.
Huge portions... low $$$.
Bohemian Crystal, Westmont:
Our first meal there began with a delicious cup of 'Old World Potato Soup'... nicely seasoned, with several vegetables accompanying the spuds in the broth. On our second visit, Brother Jim asked for large bowls of Liver Dumpling Soup instead of the cup. It was wonderful... contained some carrots (possibly celery too)? very tasty. BTW, liver dumplings never taste like liver... some of my liver-averse friends love them.
Prague Tenderloin sandwich: Perfect! This dish is made of ground pork tenderloin, which is then seasoned a bit... breaded... served open-faced on rye... gravy optional... no dumplings. The erstwhile Pilsen Restaurant of Berwyn had a version that seemed to have a bit of smoked butt added, but I didn't detect any here at Crystal.
On our second visit, I finally weakened and went for the Duck. The taste of the dark duck meat was excellent... stronger flavored than turkey or chicken dark meat... and it's *all* dark meat. Maybe some of those moistened towelettes could accompany the duck, as every serving I've ever seen has been on the greasy side. I liked it a lot, but probably won't have it again soon because of the fat content. A very tasty version, none the less.
Bread Dumplings: excellent. Gravy: OK. Apple Strudel and Kolacky: excellent.
Brother Jim... what else?... Roast Duck!
A litre of house Rose was watery... Glasses of White Zin were much better.
Crystal is just a tad more upscale than the above two places... servers in trad Czech costumes... but still the usual huge portions at very reasonable prices... My favorite.
Bobak's (Polish Buffet), Burr Ridge:
Wow... what can you say about this place? We were there for lunch. My usual negative mindset regarding buffet food was knocked back by this experience. The large number of patrons seemed to keep the food turning over more rapidly than at some of the other buffets I've been to... Everything I tried was quite fresh, not dried out or overcooked from sitting too long while being kept warm. Sauerkraut: outstanding... containing small cubes of what was either Polish ham or smoked butt. Breaded Pork Chop & Beef Rib: tender and tasty. I topped them with some baby mushrooms and sauteed onions that were available with some of the other entries. Barley Sausage with Beef Blood: I didn't get the Polish name, but the Czechs call it Jaternice (eet tda nyit tse): Nicely seasoned, very tasty. Noodles with Cabbage: very nice. Pierogi stuffed with kraut: delightful.
Perhaps this buffet food is not quite what you'd get at a made-to-order place, but for the price, and considering the opportunity to sample so many items... I think this is about as good as a buffet can get. I never got a chance to try the potato pancakes, the slice-it-yourself Polish ham and smoked butt, not to mention any of the salads or desserts. I was stuffed!... and for something like $7.95! I'm going back as soon as my waistline will allow.