Reps for local hospitality group 16″ On Center, which owns the entertainment complex and spots like Empty Bottle and Salt Shed, announced on Wednesday, December 17, on social media that Dusek’s will permanently close after dinner service on New Year’s Eve at 1227 W. 18th Street. Thalia Hall, its piano bar Tack Room, and its basement tavern Punch House will remain open.
“During these 10 years, we have welcomed so many friends and family through our doors,” they write. “During these 10 years, so many wonderfully talented people have made Dusek’s the special neighborhood place that welcomed all... Thank you, Pilsen. Thank you, our amazing employees. And thank you, our cherished customers, for letting us serve you.”
The post did not elaborate on the reasons for the closure and reps have not yet responded to a request for more information. Reps do, however, obliquely refer to a forthcoming replacement, writing, “Stay tuned for what’s next…”
Bruce Finkelman and Craig Golden, founders of 16″ On Center, first launched Dusek’s in 2013 as a replacement for Italian restaurant Ristorante Al Teatro inside Thalia Hall’s striking 1890s-era building. Named for the building’s original owner, John Dusek, the restaurant and bar garnered positive attention from critics for its wide selection of local craft beers and food menu from opening executive chef Jared Wentworth (now of two-Michelin-starred Moody Tongue). Wentworth’s creations included an outrageously meaty Ultra Burger — a 7-ounce beef patty topped with seared foie gras, braised oxtail, rillette mayo, and bacon red onion marmalade — and poutine made with beef fat fries, fontina fonduta, and foie gras bordelaise.
Those efforts earned Dusek’s a bib gourmand nod from Michelin in 2015, and a year later, it snagged a coveted star rating from the tire company. Until 2020, it was the only Michelin-starred restaurant in Pilsen, but the business struggled mightily through the early years of the pandemic when both indoor dining and concerts were verboten. “The shutdown has been so devastating,” Finkelman told Eater in 2021.
Nevertheless, Dusek’s returned when officials lifted mitigation rules, with leadership eager to re-establish the venue as a haven for locals in search of a shot and a beer or “flavorful and honest” meal. In March, the group brought in a new culinary director, chef Ryan Pfeiffer (Blackbird, Big Kids), a Chicago hospitality veteran with an irreverent, unfussy style. Pfeiffer left the position in August.
While Dusek’s accrued many accolades over the years, the restaurant (along with neighboring but unaffiliated spot S.K.Y.) has also been subject to critique on the subject of gentrification, which has long been a hot topic in Pilsen. In 2017, its building was tagged with a message in spray paint: “Get out,” it read.
Fans of Dusek’s have just over two weeks to stop in for a final goodbye. Stay tuned for more on its replacement in the new year.