Tag Archives: Berwyn

Berwyn business is booming

Existing businesses are improving and new businesses are opening all across Berwyn. In August, Mayor Lovero said  business development would be something to keep an eye on in Berwyn, and he was right.

“There were approximately 50 businesses that opened in 2013,” said Business and Licensing Supervisor Anthony Perri. 

This success can be attributed to business assistance provided by Berwyn Development Corp. Total investment in TIF areas, including Roosevelt Road, Harlem and Cermak, Odgen Avenue and the Depot District, rose from $4,135,141.74 in 2007 to $8,330,957.23 in 2012, according to Development Executive Director Anthony Griffin.

“There is a comprehensive approach set by the city of Berwyn that allows business to start up and improve,” said Griffin.

Berwyn Development Corp. has a number of programs and services to help with improving commercial areas and stimulating business growth, including TIF financing, commercial loans, micoloans, site location assistance, and technical assistance. 

“There have been more restaurants opening, giving Berwyn a more diverse food culture,” said Berwyn resident Iridian Hernandez. “It’s also good that Berwyn has more places to shop, and hopefully that will attract more young people to the community.”

“We take great pride in helping existing business adapt to new trends and helping new businesses open,” said Griffin.

All of the projects completed in 2012 include Meijer, Big Guys Sausages, Wing Boss, The Vitamin Shoppe, Verizon, Play N Trade, Off the Traxx, Karasek Park, J.D. Byrider, Lou’s Pizza and Beef, Collision Centers of America, Start the Party, Capri Ristorante & Catering, Bounce Sportsplex, Reel Art, Riddles Comedy Club and Chipotle.

For updated information on current and completed projects, visit http://www.berwyn.net/economic-development.

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Berwyn boys receive recognition

Julian Garcia (left) and Nathan Rodriguez (right)

Julian Garcia (left) and Nathan Rodriguez (right)

Mayor Lovero presented honorable mentions to Julian Garcia and Nathan Rodriguez for taking action to save a woman’s life on Halloween.

On Halloween night, the two friends visited a house in the 3700 block of Harvey Avenue. They knocked, but only heard barking dogs. The back door was open, so they looked inside and saw the woman laying on her basement floor at the bottom of the stairs. They immediately ran to alert their parents who called the authorities.

The woman, in her late 60s, said she had fallen down the stairs three days before and hadn’t moved since, according to MySuburbanLife.com. She had a cervical fracture and was treated for hypothermia.

“I am very glad of myself,” Rodriguez said after receiving awards. Garcia quickly agreed, “Me, too!”

Garcia and Rodriguez  are third-graders at Pershing School.

“The community is our eyes and ears, and these guys did a great job. We thank them,” said Police Chief James Ritz. 

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Paisans Pizzeria & Bar food allergy friendly

Paisans Pizzeria & Bar 6226 W Ogden Ave., Berwyn

Paisans Pizzeria & Bar 6226 W Ogden Ave., Berwyn

Researchers estimate that up to 15 million Americans have food allergies, according to Food Allergy Research and Education. Every 3 minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency department. While some restaurants are too afraid to take this risk with their guests, Paisans Pizzeria & Bar is one restaurant that welcomes those with food allergies.

“My daughter has tree-nut allergies, so I understand how hard it can be to eat out,” said General Manager Stacey Scott.

Paisans has a policy of accommodating all reasonable needs of a guest with food allergies. The chefs must clean all surfaces and utensils to prepare for a special order. During orientation and training, servers are taught how to handle these special requests.

“It’s not the server’s job to guess,” said Scott. “We tell our servers to get all the details and get a manager involved, if needed.”

Scott estimates that 20 to 30 people come in a week with food allergies. Some of the items on the menu can be prepared gluten-free. Other allergens can also be accommodated for.

“Every time we tell them about our gluten allergy, our server or bartender is very accommodating,” said Janine J., a Berwyn reviewer on Yelp.com. 

Paisans’ executive chef, known as “Chef,” and two sous chefs, Sergio and Fransisco, are in charge of kitchen management. These three chefs rotate shifts to ensure that an experienced chef is on deck at all times during Paisans’ open hours. They oversee all special requests in the kitchen. 

“We do the best we can and are willing to go above and beyond to accommodate if its within our control,” said Scott. “We don’t want you to leave hungry.”

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Foreclosed homes selling every week on average

By Lauren Reiniger

Houses are being sold on an average of every week to a week and a half, according to Jim Healy, an attorney  in Berwyn’s community development department. 

Berwyn received a $4.6 million Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant from the state to buy and renovate 26 vacant and foreclosed buildings. To date, 18 out of those 26 homes are active on the sales end. Two houses have been sold, and 16 houses are currently under contract.

“Just this week, we closed on two houses. We are closing on two more next week, and probably three more the week after that,” said Healy.

Some applications have been denied because the buyers make too much money.

“One couple wanted to buy a home–they really liked the way we fixed it up–but they were over-qualified,” Healy said. “This is a federal program for those who have up to 120% of area-median income.”

This program isn’t about making money, according to Healy. The purpose is to get homes off the foreclosure list, fix them, sell them and generate property taxes, according to the Chicago Tribune.

“I expect that we will probably close every house that has been repaired by the end of January,” Healy said. Five remaining homes still need to be fixed throughout winter and spring.

For more information on Berwyn’s NSP program, visit http://www.berwyn-il.gov/Departments/CommunityDevelopment/NSP.aspx.

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Connie’s Restaurant new addition to “keep up with the times”

By Lauren Reiniger

Connie’s Restaurant in Berwyn now has a new party room and lounge. The party room seats up to 90 people, and the lounge includes a bar and modern electronic slot machines.

Connie’s Restaurant, 3271 S. Harlem Ave., hosted its grand opening of Connie’s Event and Party Room & Lounge Wednesday morning.

Ribbon-cutting ceremony

Ribbon-cutting ceremony

“If you don’t keep up with the times, you’ll always die with the dinosaur,” said Andy Sotiropoulos, one of the owners of this family-owned restaurant. 

Four years ago, the family couldn’t decide if they waned this part of the building to be a party room or a lounge. The space became both, after Sotiropoulos and his friend completed the construction in July.

The new addition is a business opportunity. Video-gaming is growing, especially in Illinois, and this expansion will be a “terrific addition,” according to Mayor Lovero.

Game room and lounge

Game room and lounge

Sotiropoulos was previously a product manager for Moterolla, but decided to commit to the family business.

“This place has survived 70 years, and I promised by dad I would see it to 100 years,” said Sotiropoulos.

His father, who was unavailable for comment, started working at Connie’s restaurant 38 years ago as a cook, according to Sotiropoulos. His parents became co-partners in the late 1970s and helped the success of Connie’s Restaurant.

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Wire to host award-winning album band

By Lauren Reiniger

Scott Lucas & the Married Men will be playing at Wire in Berwyn Friday, Nov. 22. The Chicago Tribune listed their album “Blood Half Moon” in the top 10 indie releases of 2012, according to Mango Media Manager Jill Mango.

Lucas describes the group’s evolving sound as “country-ish, alt-rock for people who like metal.” The band also incorporates violin, organ and accordion into their music.

Scott Lucas & the Married Men toured with Deer Tick last summer and played shows with James Iha, Kelly Hogan, Tristen, the Airborne Toxic Event and others in the past year.

Lucas, originally from Zion, Ill., is best known as the singer and guitarist for a two-man, Chicago rock band called Local H. For his solo records, he plays with the Married Men. Reviewers have compared this band to American Music Club, Wilco, the Waterboys and Nick Cave.

Wire is located at 6815 W. Roosevelt Rd. in Berwyn.
Find more information, music and videos for Scott Lucas & the Married Men at http://www.scottlucasandthemarriedmen.com 

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Filed under Leisure and Recreation, Music

Friday night frights in Berwyn Gardens

By Lauren Reiniger


The cold wind blew in the Berwyn Gardens on Friday, Oct. 25, but that didn’t stop more than 30 children and their families from coming to the campfire and getting into the Halloween spirit. They sat on the edge of their hay bales, eyes fixed on storyteller Adrian Del Toro, cautiously waiting to hear what would happen next.

Some of the stories involved headless widows, talking dolls, ghostly housemates, and much more that caused shivers of fear among the adults in the audience. But the children stuck with it.

“In the past, we tried to be more lax and less scary, but kids started to get bored with the children’s stories. They wanted to be more scared,” said Inara Canino, recreation supervisor for the North Berwyn Park District.

However, the night wasn’t limited to haunting stories; Del Toro also told jokes and tongue-twisters.

“Why did the vampire need mouthwash? Because he had bat breath,” Del Toro said.

The entire audience burst with laughter, and some children even slapped their knees.

Del Toro even challenged the listeners with a tongue twister: “If big black bats could blow bubbles, how big of bubbles would big black bats blow?”

The Haunted Story Telling was part of Berwyn’s festive weekend and preceded the Berwyn Fall Fest on Saturday.

The North Berwyn Park District will host the Berwyn Fall Fest from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday in the Berwyn Gardens, featuring music, food, crafts, a pumpkin patch, petting zoo, pony rides, games, and a costume contest.

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Berwyn’s Microloan Program waiting to be used, but that’s not stopping business development

By Lauren Reiniger

Berwyn’s Microloan Program was approved by Berwyn City Council on May 28, became available Aug. 1, but has yet to be used.

“We are continuing to talk to a handful businesses about the program, but none have the reached the point of a submitted application,” said Anthony Griffin, Berwyn Development Corporation executive director.

The program, designed to promote growth and business in Berwyn, provides loans between $1,000 and $10,000 for start-up and established businesses.

Although the Microloan Program is still waiting to be put into action, Berwyn’s business development is still in progress.

“We have processed a handful of TIF and loan applications this year. We are also busy working on infrastructure improvements in the Depot and land acquisition for future development opportunities,” said Griffin.

To date, the businesses in the Depot that have completed TIFs include Reel Art (commercial), Off the Traxx (restaraunt), and Riddles Comedy Club (commercial).

More information about Berwyn’s Microloan Program can be found at http://www.berwyn.net/business-assistance/mircroloan.

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“Broken Fences” breaks through original closing date

By Lauren Reiniger

Photo by Anthony Aicardi Pictured: Daniel J. Bryant as Hoody, Ryan Czerwonko as Esto, Scott Allen Luke as Czar and Kirsten D’Aurelio as April

Photo by Anthony Aicardi
Pictured: Daniel J. Bryant as Hoody, Ryan Czerwonko as Esto, Scott Allen Luke as Czar and Kirsten D’Aurelio as April

The 16th Street Theater’s production of “Broken Fences” has extended its run because of high demand for tickets. It was scheduled to close Oct. 26, but is extended to Nov. 9.

But the theater won’t be making money off this box-office bonanza. To date, the box office sold 1,079 tickets and made $14,842. The theater only has 49 seats and four shows a week. This production cost the theater $28,000, excluding staff salaries, according to Artistic Director Ann Filmer.

“We are grateful individuals and foundations have donated to bridge the gap between income from ticket sales and what is actually costs us to produce a play. Because we are dedicated to keeping our theater affordable, we don’t want to raise ticket prices above our current $18,” said Filmer.

Set in Chicago, “Broken Fences” is about a white couple who move in next door to an African-American couple in a transitional neighborhood. It’s a story that utilizes heartbreak and humor and focuses on the themes of racism, displacement and community.

Filmer wanted to stage this play since 2009. She has known playwright Steven Simoncic since 2004, and was finally able to produce and direct this play with Ilesa Duncan from Pegasus Players.

Filmer first called Duncan to ask her to direct the play, but Duncan proposed to direct together.

Filmer said it was a challenge.

“I can honestly say I was scared to death. How is this done? Who takes the lead when? We had to face each other every day,” Filmer said. “As we got deeper into the process, it was so clear we needed both of our perspectives in the room. It became a richer production by having two directors.”

The 16th Street Theater is located at 6420 16th St. in Berwyn. Tickets are available online at http://wp.16thstreettheater.org.

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Berwyn’s 45th Annual Houby Festival: still upholding tradition?

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by | October 7, 2013 · 10:12 am

Wire: a one-hit wonder in its own


by Lauren Reiniger

Roosevelt Road has another new music addition, but this spot is something special for everything music-related.

Wire, located at 6815 W. Roosevelt Rd. in Berwyn, had its grand opening last night where Mayor Robert Loveno hosted the ceremonial ribbon cutting. Wire is a new place in Berwyn for music performance, production, and instruction. The venue includes music education for all ages, private recording studios and a concert venue.

Four men, who are all musicians, own Wire. Chris Neville, vocalist-keyboardist of band Tributosaurus, is the conceptual founder of Wire. Managing partners are Paul Bolger of band Mr. Blotto and Evanston School of Rock musical director; recording engineer-producer Jon Smith from bands Ministry and the Police; and Tracey Dear of band Waco Brothers. Dear is also and founder of the architectural lighting design firm Dear Productions.

“We do everything music-related,” Neville said. “We want to get things going and we are all excited.”


The Wire team has spent more than $1 million in the creation of this music venue, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. The 10,000-square-foot space includes a rear upstairs area that houses the studio and a mezzanine level with offices and a VIP area. Six small private classrooms and a student lounge are on the main level behind the stage, which is the main performance area located directly across from the main entrance.

“The Berwyn Development Corporation recruited these men and they bought the venue in December 2011,” said Tony Griffin, executive director of the corporation.” It’s something of its own. They’re bringing in a whole new community.”

Wire is a new and promising addition to Roosevelt Road in Berwyn, helping the growing popularity of this street, according to Mayor Robert J. Loveno.

“People are coming from various communities,” Loveno said. “This is the type of atmosphere established on Roosevelt Road.”


Grand opening events take place Friday, Oct. 4 and Saturday, Oct. 5. Tributosaurus will cover Electric Light Orchestra songs at 9 p.m. Friday with a $20 cover charge. Axes of Evil will open for Mr. Blotto at 7 p.m. Saturday with a $15 cover charge. For more info, visit the Wire Facebook Page. Advance tickets are available at www.ticketfly.com/venue/9923-wire/.

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Berwyn’s U.S. Route 66 Car Show

Paul Heffernan and his six-gage 1916 Hupmobile 4 Door Touring.

Paul Heffernan and his six-gage 1916 Hupmobile 4 Door Touring.

Tom Hanson and his 1967 Ford Mustang with original color and interior.

Tom Hanson and his 1967 Ford Mustang with original color and interior.

Richard Caspers explains his 2013 Levercoaster, a human-powered vehicle.

Richard Caspers explains his 2013 Levercoaster, a human-powered vehicle.

Future car enthusiast.

Future car enthusiast.

Eric Guardado from Morton College of Automotive Technology shows off his 1994 Chevrolet Caprice. He bought this car for $500, and this is what he presents after investing $5,000 worth of work on the original.

Eric Guardado from Morton College of Automotive Technology shows off his 1994 Chevrolet Caprice. He bought this car for $500, and this is what he presents after investing $5,000 worth of work on the original.

Earnie Lopez cleans his 1973 Volkswagen Beetle.

Earnie Lopez cleans his 1973 Volkswagen Beetle.

Jospeph, Michael, and Bobby from Unity Junior High came to see the Corvette Lowriders

Jospeph, Michael, and Bobby from Unity Junior High came to see the Corvette Lowriders

Young visitor looking for a potential Batmobile?

Young visitor looking for a potential Batmobile?

Comcast's Motorsports host Bill Wildt interviews car owner.

Comcast’s Motorsports host Bill Wildt interviews car owner.

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by | September 15, 2013 · 7:22 pm

Into The Retrospect in 22

jonathan salamanca
By: Jonathan Salamanca

It was one night of retrospect and street photography on Berwyn’s Cermak Road.

Berwyn’s 22 owners Jessica Calek and Dan Streeting hosted Unreported—a one-night only photo exhibit open on April 27 from 7 to 10pm. Unreported displayed the work of Dan Streeting and Anthony Calek. With a comparatively unique approach both photographers relied on a documentary and street style of photography to display their works of art.

“I like to play with people and their daily lives. I like to look and let things happen—and they do,” Anthony Calek said, “most of my images feature people or shadows of people so there is generally some human contact involved. Most of my work is candid as well. I don’t stage anything.”

jonathan salamanca

Calek’s images were taken in sites all across Europe in places he has either visited or lived. For Unreported Calek drew from some reflection photographic images to show his documented collection of his life and travels. His work captures the life of others on a daily basis through some mirror reflection pieces.
Streeting’s Unreported images come from a collection of photos he’s taken over a span of 10 years documenting the his friends, strangers, and environments.

“It’s almost something I do on site and on the side—aside from my graphic designer. It’s really a dairy for me. So looking over these photo’s I’ve taken over the past ten year are a look into my own diary.” Streeting said.

Streeting’s collection was taken on a film camera while Calek’s works were all digital. This was Calek’s last gallery exhibit in America for at least a year. Calek is moving to Sweden next week.

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Filed under Culture, Leisure and Recreation, Seasonal

Cermak Plaza Collision of Two

By: Jonathan Salamanca

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At about 11:30 p.m. a woman driving a Honda Civic LX southbound on Harlem Avenue was hit by a driver in a Toyota 4runner driving eastbound on 23rd, from the North Riverside shopping center.

The two drivers met at the intersection of Harlem and 23rd after the eastbound car passed a red light crossing Harlem. The driver in the Honda was making a left turn onto 23rd road.  Both were turning into the Cermak Plaza and injured on impact. The woman driving the Honda Civic LX was hospitalized.

“I didn’t even know until I saw all the motion and ambulances outside. I was just out to shop. It was bad, really bad–windows shattered. People just don’t stop.” Pedro Garcia, a witness at the incident, said.

The condition of both drivers is unknown. Berwyn police did not comment on the accident.

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Berwyn bank robber ‘Bully Bandit’ connected to other robberies


Photo Courtesy of the FBI

By Rene Howard-Paez

The same man who recently held up a PNC bank on Cermak, is believed to be connected to at least three other bank robberies, according to the FBI.

The robber has been named the Bully Bandit because of his aggressive demeanor in his encounters with bank employees and customers, according to an FBI press release.

According to the FBI, The same individual is believed to have hit a Chase Bank branch twice in the same week.

Every time, the robber has worn a black jacket with a black hoodie underneath. Witnesses also reported that he kept the string that tighen the hood in his mouth.

The Bully Bandit is described as a Hispanic male, in his late 20s, with black hair, brown eyes and a mustache.

The case is being investigated by the FBI in coordination with local authorities.

Anyone who might have information should call the Chicago office of the FBI at 312-421-6700

The FBI is offering a $10,000 award for anyone with information leading to an arrest.

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Berwyn biker on life support

By: Anthony Garcia

After being involved in a biking accident on Dec. 3 around 5 p.m., a Berwyn bike rider remains in critical condition and is on life

Berwyn police investigate the scene of a serious bicyclist accident at the intersection of 26st., and East Ave., in Berwyn, Monday, Dec. 3, 2012.      (Courtesy of Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune)

Berwyn police investigate the scene of a serious bicyclist accident at the intersection of 26st., and East Ave., in Berwyn, Monday, Dec. 3, 2012. (Courtesy of Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune)

support at Loyola University Life Hospital. Justin Carver was struck by a truck at the intersection of 26th and East Ave. as he attempted to cross 26th while the truck

simultaneously made a left turn off of East Ave. Carver was brought into Loyola’s Trauma Center unconscious according to Berwyn fire officials. Continue reading


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‘Svengoolie’ comes home to Berwyn

By Lavell Garner

Rich Koz, better known as his TV persona “Svengoolie” returned to his Berwyn home earlier this month after suffering a heart attack.

Koz spoke with Robert Fender of Timeout Chicago about how surprised he was to see how many of his fans actually took the time to send get-well cards and letters.

“’It’s pretty overwhelming to think about that. I haven’t had a chance to go online, but some of the guys from work brought printouts of things and a lot of the snail-mail letters and such that I’ve gotten. It’s really sweet of people. It’s very nice’,” Koz said.

It is unknown at this time when Koz will return to work.

The entire interview can be read at:


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Berwyn C.A.R.E.S. Learns From Finland

Movie ScreeningBy Jonathan Salamanca

Finland’s education system offers hope to some seeking reform in Berwyn’s school districts.

Berwyn C.A.R.E.S and Prairie Oak School recently hosted a screening of the movie Finland Phenomenon: Inside the World’s Most Surprising School System followed by a discussion.  C.A.R.E.S’s President Robert Pauly spoke about Berwyn’s divided community and new hopes for change.

“As a community we need to be unified to achieve the goals that we’re trying to achieve, and Berwyn C.A.R.E.S. can help in that regard, whether you’re from North Berwyn or South Berwyn,” he said.

In the 1970s Finland’s educational system ranked low, according to Stanford scholar, Linda Darling-Hammond. But nation-wide changes in social support for students, standardized testing, and teaching certifications have brought Finland to rank among the top in international rankings.

According to Pauly, Berwyn’s elementary school district 98 and 100 rank in the 40 percentile and its high school ranks even lower — in the 15 percentile — in the state.

“Berwyn is in much of the same position that Finland was 40 years ago, when they decided to take a different look at the way they were educating their children,” he said.

Some of the educational steps and reforms that the film pointed out are not all tangible, as a parent commented, but the idea is to spread the word and motivate the professionals and parent to become active in the education system.

At the screening Pauly urged parents to join Berwyn C.A.R.E.S. or at least become a Facebook follower or committee member.  Pauly stressed the importance of active participation in the group.

These are just a few of the changes Finland has made since the 1970s:

  • Students addressing of teachers on a first name basis to promote familiarity and comfort
  • Students remaining in the same class group with the same teacher for several years to individualize and build on student-teacher relationships so that each student receives the appropriate attention
  • Requiring teachers to have a master’s degree to teach

The film discusses the teacher’s certification in depth, stating how the profession in Finland is viewed a profession equivalent to law or medicine. According to the film more applicants apply than can be accepted. Only 10 percent of applicants pull through final certifications.

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Youth organizations help the needy


By Anthony Garcia

Young people in Berwyn are taking the lead in bringing the holiday spirit to the less fortunate in Berwyn through organizations like Youth Crossroads and CIACO.

The non-profit Youth Crossroads is dedicated to helping the troubled or at-risk youth of Berwyn through any means necessary, 0providing free counseling and leadership programs and hosting events for the children and their families.

During the holiday season however, the young people helped by the organization look to give back to Berwyn, said Programs Director Joel Wallen.

“Throughout the year, they participated in dozens of volunteer opportunities in partnership with local governments, park districts and other social service agencies. When we presented the opportunity to help distribute food on Thanksgiving Day, it just seemed natural for them to volunteer,” Wallen said. Continue reading

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Filed under Business, Health, Leisure and Recreation, Seasonal, Social Justice, Social Services

Czech, Please

Czech Plaza on Cermak

Czech Plaza on Cermak

By Rene Howard-Paez

Long-standing Berwyn restaurant Czech Plaza is set to be featured in the hit WTTW-TV show “Check, Please.”

The show sends its reporters out to restaurants to try out their food and give it a review.

The Bohemian-style restaurant had the show’s cast and crew come out about a month ago according to Zdenka Menetti, daughter of the restaurant’s owners and currently the restaurant manager.

“They spent about four hours here, filming their person eating and one of our regulars eating as well,” she said.

Some of the dishes to be featured in the program include roast pork, roast duck tenderloin and beef goulash.

The program is set to air mid-January on WTTW-TV.

Czech Plaza is at 7016 W. Cermak Rd.

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