BERWYN – Some restaurants offer food like mom used to make, and some make food you wish your mom used to make.
At Czech Plaza in Berwyn, you get plenty of the latter, even if the cook in your house never made many eastern European or Bohemian comfort food dishes.
A simple exterior, every inch of the inside feels like a warm family restaurant, setting the tone perfectly for the home-cooked flavors served therein.
The menu features a wide range of items, including sandwiches and an array of daily specials, but for both of my visits, I went with the incredibly well-priced entree selection, each offering a potato side, vegetable side and daily soup.
During my first visit, I was treated to excellent personal service, with happily given recommendations and even a gladly accepted offer to try each of the various gravies and sauces available.
And the gravies – wow. My waitress and I settled on the roast beef with dill gravy – the traditional koprova – alongside dumplings for my entree order, and it was one of the tastiest dishes I've had in ages.
The beef was tender and sliced thin, and the dumplings were pillowy soft and a perfect way to really sop up the incredible, deeply comforting gravy. The sauce wonderfully balanced the savory broth and dairy of the base gravy and sweet, aromatic dill, with none of the herb's bitterness that turn many away.
Alongside the entree was a genuinely delicious side of cabbage, filled with flavor and cooked so it still had plenty of texture through the stewing. Preceding it was a nice cup of chicken noodle soup and following was a nice hunk of apple strudel, filled with fruity flavor with a nice crust. The only complaint about the dessert was that it was served cold, which isn't my personal preference.
In my second visit, I had a hard time going away from the value and variety of the entree deal. I decided against the gravy-based option, trying for variety instead and going with a mixed plate of meats with a side of mashed potatoes. The highlight of the plate was the polish sausage, with a great base of flavor and a nice crispness to the outside, though it could have been moister on the inside.
Alongside the sausage was a hunk of ham, which was a little dry but clearly made with quality meat and very tasty, and a very moist bit of meatloaf that was nicely flavored, though would have been even better with a helping of the dill gravy, also available on the menu.
The only disappointment of the main dish was the piece of roast pork, which was very dry, though helped by a helping of the sauerkraut on the side, which was just as tasty as the regular cabbage but with a distinctive fermented flavor.
The soup for that meal was a meatball dumpling soup, which was a nice balance between potato and liver flavors, with a fairly bready but tasty raspberry kolacky for dessert.
It's a far cry from the fanciest restaurant in town, but in no way is it trying to be. Instead, it's a good place to get treated and fed like family. And do yourself a favor – get something with gravy.
If you go
What: Czech Plaza Restaurant
Where: 7016 Cermak Road, Berwyn
When: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday and Wednesday through Saturday, closed Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday
Info: 708-795-6555, czechplazaberwyn.com