a turn at the railroad tracks off 135th Street and Arch
Creek Road in North Miami, and you're in a different
world -- the Old World, to be precise.
shady forest surrounds what looks-like a European
country cottage out of a Hans Christian Andersen fairy
tale, with painted window boxes brimming with flowers.
the time you leave, you feel nurtured and loved,
and you immediately want to take a nap.
actually the American
Czech-Slovak Cultural Club, a lonely repository
of Slavic culture for many miles, which has made heroic
efforts to stay open through the years ("All
the members were dying off," notes one member),
and where every Sunday people of all ages, members
or not, come from as far away as Palm Beach to eat
a typically Czech dinner and drink lots of beer. It
may not be family owned, but once they arrive, diners
are welcomed like long-lost prodigal sons and daughters.
what draws them is the lore of the place. The weathered
wooden cottage -- which for 60 years has .been outfitted
with flags, folk paintings, dolls wearing typical
Costumes and pictures of famous Czechs -- is said
to once have been a speakeasy owned by Al Capone during
to legend, the booze would float in on little boats
on Arch Creek, which flows past the back of the building,
and patrons would party till dawn. People still whisper
the juicy rumor that a house of ill-repute may have
once occupied the second story space where the library
are a lot tamer now, with the mostly octogenarian
club members sticking to water and dancing to polka
and waltz and folk songs played on accordion, piano
maybe what draws people every Sunday is the promise
of homey comfort food.
cooking doesn't exactly aim for refinement -- the
national dish is roast pork and dumplings, washed
down with beer. "Pork is a very big deal,"
says member Marie Kosan, who eats at the club
every Sunday and is, ironically, a Weight Watchers
Petrik and Tony Korvas serenade diners at the
American Czech-Slovak Cultural Club.
Photo by Patrick Farrel
is it for the faint of heart: A Czech breakfast treat
is topinky, thick slices of toast liberally topped
with a spread of white Christmas goose fat and garlic,
which is said to be manna from heaven.
French food is too prissy for you; and if you're more of
a meat-and-potatoes gourmet, ACSCC is your carb-and-protein
mecca. There's roast, lamb and dumplings, roast chicken
and dumplings, breaded fried pork cutlets and dumplings,
potato salad, beet salad and sauerkraut. And beer. By the
time you leave, you feel nurtured and loved, and you immediately
want to take a nap.
Vorisek, club treasurer, says the club always
tries to hire chefs from "the old country,"
and did so last August, when Martina Berkova,
who was trained at a culinary school in Prague, was
a cuisine that revels in predictability, Berkova has
nevertheless tweaked the traditional dishes.
recently made Pork Oriental. On the last Sunday in
January, she made baked ham and lentils, instead of
the traditional boiled ham and lentils. They may not
seem like a culinary revolution, but when you're talking
Czech food, served to people that have been doing
things a certain way for a long time it reaches Bolshevik
introduction was a dessert of mini sweet rolls covered
in a rum-laced cream sauce, which didn't go over too
well with some club members. One member, who wished
to declare her dissent anonymously, declared it to
she said, Martina's bublanina, a light chiffon tart
regaled a generous portion of blueberries, was to
die for. "Now there's a Czech dessert,"
Czech-Slovak Cultural Club Restaurant, 13325 Arch
Dinner on Sundays noon-8:30 p.m. 305-891-9130.
Food: Unapologetically fattening, but good.
Atmosphere: Old World, in more ways than one.
Price: $10-12 for dinner: soup and salads,
entree and dessert.
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