Chicagoland: Bohemian Fare at Riverside Restaurant


Drizzle gravy on crazy-crisp roasted duck, breaded pork tenderloin and doughy bread dumplings at Riverside Restaurant. [Photograph: Jennifer Olvera]

I'm half Dutch, half Bohemian. Thanks to the former, windmill cookies, Droste hot chocolate, and a roster of Pennsylvania Dutch casseroles were commonplace. When I attended family gatherings on the other side, I watch my grandmother make the best homemade bread dumplings, ones she'd cut with a string and I'd ladle with gravy and a scoop of sauerkraut. I credit both sides for my love of humble meat and potatoes fare.

When I was a kid, Berwyn was lined with old-school Czech eateries. They're fewer and further between these days, but some—like Riverside Restaurant in suburban Riverside—stand the test of time.

In the event you're not familiar with its ilk, know commonalities exist. Bohemian restaurants serve big, inclusive portions, and the tabs won't break the bank. Typically, meals kick off with a basket of plush rye bread and butter, followed by homey liver dumpling or chicken noodle soup. (If you're so inclined, tomato juice is offered as an alternative). Also included with entrées are two sides and dessert. Customarily these spots are cash-only. They may even charge extra for carryout containers. As for the clientele, let's just say blue-tinged hair is the norm.

In short, Riverside Restaurant is a paragon of the form.

This beacon among hold-outs is rightly revered for shatteringly crisp-skinned roast duck ($9.50 for 1/4 bird or $14.50 for 1/2). Opt for yours with dumplings and kraut. Or, order the duck in combo form with golden breaded pork tenderloin ($11.50 for a choice of entrees). When it arrives, generously dollop everything with salty, home-made gravy.

I know it's a herculean task, but do save room for dessert. The pillow-y, Danish-like apricot kolacky are not to be missed. They come dusted with powder sugar, fresh from a local Euro bakery.

Riverside Restaurant

3422 S. Harlem Ave., Riverside, IL 60546 (map)