2017-04-19 / Restaurant of the Week

Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden

You might already know Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden for the huge beer selection, grilled brats, live music, and lots of fresh air in the huge, breezy, outdoor space. Indeed this is all still true, located just a couple of subway stops from you, or perhaps a stroll away. There are up to 20 taps of beers, lagers, Pilsners, IPA’s, weissbiers, stouts, and even gluten-free beers to quench your thirst for sure. All of which go well with the outdoor grill menu, featuring brats and wursts, burgers and fries and addictive onion rings. What you may not know, however, is that there is new management at the helm with the dynamic General Manager Jamie Selkirk, and the gifted Chef Miro, who has turned the “Cellar Café” into a culinary wonder, offering traditional Czech and Slovak dishes, as well as Continental and American dishes, all served in surprisingly high style with a modest price tag.

If you do a little research you’ll see that the name Bohemia is derived from that of a Celtic tribe - the Boii (the Romans called it Boiiohemum), who were supplanted by the Germanic Marcoomani. The Slavic people probably entered the country by the 1st century AD. The most powerful of the Slav tribes were the Cechove (Czechs). Who gradually subjugated other peoples in the area. It is a historic country of central Europe, bounded on the south by Austria, on the West by Bavaria, by the north by Saxony and Lusatia and on the east by Silesia and Moravia. For centuries a kingdom, it was from 1918 to 1939 and from 1945 to 1993.The westernmost part of Czechoslovakia. In 1993 Czechoslovakia split amicably into two countries called Czech Republik and Slovakia. Czech Republic now consists of Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia.

Today, Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden reflects the diversity of its Astoria home and has preserved its cultural roots since it opened in 1910. There is a large, private hall with a stage that is ideally suited to host your private event or business function, with seating and dancing space for up to 150 people. A smaller room can hold a conference or intimate event for up to 30 people. The catering services are top notch and it’s never too early to book your party.

Back to the new menu, we were seated in the comfortable Cellar Café, on the lower level of the Hall, and were treated to a fabulous tasting menu, comprising some special items and regular items from the new menu. A pretty glass of gazpacho soup arrived, bursting with flavor and brightness, along with a gleaming platter of marinated beets flanked by goat cheese “vol au vent,” which is a light and flaky puff pastry shell. The house’s crostini are thick slices of toasted Italian bread topped with a savory blend of woodsy mushrooms with a balsamic glaze, hard to resist and great to share ($8). A very handsome “charcuterie” course is served on a rustic wooden board with cuts of savory cured meats, including dried, smoked pork, dried sausage, and salami with hearty mustard and cornichon pickles. I can eat pierogies every day, and Bohemian Hall doesn’t disappoint with tender, boiled pierogies filled with potato, spinach and feta cheese, red cabbage or sauerkraut, served with a side of sour cream. These appetizers are great outdoors too while you soak up some beer, live music, and merriment with friends.

Bohemian Hall entrees will surprise you with the quality and freshness of preparation, thanks to Chef Miro. Classic Jaeger Schnitzel is made with three super tender medallions of pork in a savory mushroom and ratatouille sauce. “Svickova” is a classic Czech dish of slow-roasted beef in vegetable gravy, served with Czech-style dumplings that are made to soak up all the sauces. These dumplings resemble slices of bread, but are in fact steamed using a combination of old bread and new dough for an irresistible medium for soaking up every last drop. Next we were treated to Prague-style goulash, which is beef chuck slow-cooked for over four hours in mild seasonings to render its succulent texture and flavor. We talked about this dish for the next two days so it was memorable for sure. Other entrees include roasted pork with sauerkraut and dumplings, short ribs of beef with red wine reduction, herb-roasted chicken with steamed vegetables and roasted potatoes and country kielbasa with sauerkraut. I was assured that all menu items are available both in the Cellar Café as well as the beer garden outside, which is good to know, as warm weather is upon us.

After such a savory meal, a dose of sweetness was in order, and so we were presented with sparkling plates bearing a mini flourless chocolate cake, and a decadently smooth crème brulee. Next time I’ll try the apple streudel or tender Czech crepes filled with jam.

Follow me outside as people of all ages gather in the oasis of the spacious beer garden to meet and mingle with friends over a pint or three. The grill serves up casual food, but feel free to order off the more mature, revamped menu. Sit at picnic tables under the stars while you listen to live music and escape the stress of the day. A special VIP area that holds up to 40 persons is set up on an elevated terrace for private rentals, or you can reserve your own picnic tables for a private or business event.

Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden has it all: casual, outdoor “hanging out” with friends, the recently updated “Cellar Café” with fine cuisine at low prices, venue space for your wedding, birthday, shower, or corporate event, a live music venue, and an all-around neighborhood hub for good times that reflects its centuries-old heritage.

If you have not already been to Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden, what are you waiting for?? This is your invitation to experience a slice of Astoria heritage from 1910 to now…always perfect for the neighborhood.

29-19 24th Avenue, Astoria

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