The history of Thalia Hall
Thalia Hall is a historic landmark located in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago. It was founded by John Dusek at the turn of the century as a neighborhood establishment. Dusek was a family man, a tavern owner, and a facilitator of the arts. He was a visionary, and the founding father of Thalia Hall. His hope for the corner of 18th & Allport was to build a public hall for the community. In 1892 his dream became reality: a multi-purpose property that would offer commercial storefronts, residential housing, and a hall for the community.
In September 2013, owners Bruce Finkelman [Beauty Bar, Bite, Empty Bottle, EBP, Longman & Eagle] and Craig Golden [Longman & Eagle, Space, Union] launched three new concepts within this storied property: a re-established beer inspired restaurant, a Punch focused cocktail bar, and a public hall fit for all types of events.
Thalia Hall was built by John Dusek with the hopes of bringing arts and entertainment from Bohemia to play for his bohemian neighbors. Architects Faber & Pagel, who modeled the hall after the Prague opera house, completed the public hall in 1892. For over 7 decades the Hall was a beacon of the neighborhood community. Thalia existed as one of the most ornate theaters of its times. This opulence, which differentiated it from more traditional interior theaters, was granted landmark status in 1985. The hall was used not only to house a multitude of entertainment over the years, but was also used as a central meeting spot for the neighborhood. In 1915, the hall was used to draft a bill paving the way for bohemian statehood and the birth of Czechoslovakia in 1918. Closed to the Public in the 1960’s, Thalia Hall has remained virtually untouched until the end of 2013, when we first began working on it. Our goal is to restore Thalia to its original charm and character, to breath life into this community treasure, and to bring a wide array of music, community, and artistic events to the neighborhood it serves.
Dusek’s Board & Beer celebrates the enduring link between beer, food and hospitality. This neighborhood restaurant continues the tradition of pairing great food with beer: The brine of fresh-shucked shellfish meeting the toast of a Dry Stout, the salted smoke of cured meat balanced by the fruit esthers of a Belgian Dubbel, the complex spice of Vietnamese clay pot fish quenched by a crisp Pilsner. No matter what type of cuisine, we have all had the satisfying experience of that first sip of beer to wash down your favorite dish. The beer list, curated by Cicerone Will Duncan will be tied exquisitely to the menu designed by Michelin-starred chef Jared Wentworth (Longman & Eagle), for a delightfully satisfying experience. With a slight nod to its bohemian neighborhood heritage, Dusek’s hopes to bring an elevated food experience to this re-established corner beer tavern. We pay homage to Mr. Dusek re-establishing the same neighborhood spirit to our corner ordinary where his family tavern once lived and breathed.
In 1890’s every Czech tavern owner didn’t have a piano bar but they all had a carriage house. John Dusek’s Thalia Hall was no different. In a forgotten about corner of the property, in a space that once housed Dusek’s horses, we have assembled a cozy cocktail bar. With a simple and curated cocktail menu, a view of Pilsen and patio seating, and a well-loved piano that has been patiently waiting to be played, it’s the kind of place you’ll stay all night: Tack Room, our last (maybe) addition to the Thalia Hall property. Nights will find our pianist banging out familiar favorites to be enjoyed by all. Let us know if you would like to sing along – we certainly encourage it.
Punch House is located in the basement of Thalia Hall. It’s a bar inspired by the history and manufacture of this original communal beverage. Punch was originated by British merchant sailors in the middle 17th century. Borrowing techniques from the Far East to extend rum rations, these punches allowed for an all-day drink with mitigated effect. The term ‘Punch’ is borrowed from the Hindi word ‘Panch’ (meaning five), referring to strong, weak, bitter, sour, and sweet, the five flavors balanced in a batch of proper punch. Punch House will offer classic and contemporary punches by the glass, carafe and bowl. A ‘Not Punch’ cocktail category will contain concise offerings of beer, wine, and sipping rum to supplement the Punch Program welcoming imbibers of all types.