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Omaha Magazine

Czech, Please

Aug 26, 2016 05:39PM ● By Niz Proskocil

Omahans received a shock in early May when they learned yet another longtime local restaurant would shutter its doors. Soon after Terry Kapoun and his family announced they were closing Bohemian Cafe, old and new faces alike began packing the Omaha landmark to savor one last gravy-slathered bite of classic Czech comfort food.

In recent months, the restaurant has served hundreds of meals each day. On Father’s Day, lines snaked out the door, resulting in 600 plates of food coming out of the kitchen. Letters and phone calls have poured in from fans around the country wanting to share memories of the cafe.

“It’s just amazing,” Terry says of the outpouring. “It brings tears to your eyes.”

Several visitors have driven or flown hundreds of miles to slide into a booth and dig into one of the cafe’s signature dumplings before it closes on Sept. 24. The closing is partly due to dwindling customers and aging owners.

Czech immigrant Louie Macala opened the business in 1924, in a space just north of its current location at 13th and William streets. The cafe, later owned and operated by Josef and Ann Libor (Kapoun’s grandparents), moved to its present spot in 1959.

In 1966, Terry’s parents—Mert and Robert Kapoun—took over, followed by Terry and his siblings: Bob, Ron, and Marsha. Bob tends the bar while Marsha hosts and oversees the office. Terry makes dumplings and fixes anything that breaks. Ron has served as head chef for 37 years.

Customer favorites include tender roast pork, duck, and beef; sweet-and-sauer cabbage; Czech goulash; and kolaches. Servers clad in traditional Czech-style outfits offer baskets of light rye bread—perfect for dunking into a cup of liver dumpling soup.

For many guests, the restaurant’s appeal goes beyond its food. They appreciate the old-world charm, friendly service, and distinctive decor. Ceramic floral tiles, bright blue paint, and an arched doorway greet visitors. A sign reads vitame vas, Czech for “we welcome you.” Inside, there are painted plates, a decanter collection, plants, and knickknacks like those you might find at grandma’s house.

The Kapoun siblings, now in their 60s, are ready to retire but want Bohemian Cafe to go on. “It’s so unique,” Terry says. “There’s nothing else like it—the atmosphere, the experience.”

Until the final day, the family will continue cranking out dumplings as fast as customers can eat them.

“It’s the people we’re going to miss,” Terry says.

Longtime customer Cindy Findeis is sad to see the restaurant close. Findeis grew up in Carter Lake, Iowa, and has come to the cafe since she was a young girl. Now living in North Platte, Nebraska, she and her husband, Tim, happily drive five hours to eat there as often as possible. “It’s well worth it,” she says.

The cafe has been like home for the Findeis and their family, a place to celebrate birthdays and other special occasions.

“It has a special place in our hearts,” she says. “There’s a lot of memories.”

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