Traverse City Record-Eagle

Life

November 15, 2012

Bohemian cuisine brings eatery full circle

Little Bohemia celebrates 80 years Nov. 21

TRAVERSE CITY — When the craving for comfort food hits, and you've just got to have something wholesome, substantial and satisfying, you can do one of two things: Get out the pots and pans and start cooking or head to Little Bohemia in Traverse City for an ethnic Bohemian dinner. Owner Nancy Freund is simmering up some ultimate comfort food using authentic Czech recipes for slow-roasted pork with rich apple pork gravy, light-as-a-feather dumplings, sauerkraut and homemade applesauce.

Earlier this year, Freund decided to take Lil Bo's Pub and Grill back to its original family-friendly tavern roots and started by restoring its original name, Little Bohemia. The business is celebrating its 80th year and will hold a party Wednesday, Nov. 21.

"After the name change, people came in asking, 'Where's the Bohemian food?'" Freund said. "That's when I started asking patrons and area residents to send me their Bohemian recipes."

Ralph and Maureen Cerny of Traverse City were happy to oblige. Ralph Cerny said that when it comes to traditional, home-cooked comfort food, the Czech recipes he remembers his mother bringing to the table fit Freund's needs.

"It's 100 percent Bohemian food," Cerny said.

Czech cuisine is considered heavy and filling. Basic staples such as wheat, potatoes, milk, meat, sauerkraut and onions became imperative as a revolution-weary Central European nation was on the front lines of World War II and later caught in the advancement of communist aggression.

Cerny said he didn't give a second thought to taking his mother's recipes to Little Bohemia.

"Maureen got out mother's handwritten recipes and actually cooked a sample meal and we talked about them with Nancy," Cerny said.

Freund said the roast pork dinner the Cernys passed along has become a permanent house specialty at Little Bohemia. Freund makes the entire meal from scratch, slow roasting the pork loin in a pan with kosher salt, pepper and caraway seeds, then adding a half-cup of apple juice. Maureen Cerny showed her the art of dumpling making, and apples for the homemade applesauce come from local farms.

Ralph Cerny said the meal is traditionally accompanied by beer, the national drink of the Czech Republic, and recommends Pilsner Urquell brewed in the city of Pilsen in the western Bohemian region of the Czech Republic as a perfect choice.

Freund believes she may have found a niche for her revamped restaurant and would like to expand the menu with more ethnic Bohemian items like chicken and dumplings.

"We receive many accolades," she said. "People will stop in and say they heard or read that the food was good here."

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