I had no idea. I’d heretofore never had to use the Epi-Pen my doctor had prescribed a year prior. I did recall my doctor’s mild irritation with my rather flippant attitude regarding my newly acquired allergy to tree nuts. It was my turn to be irritated. In the perfect world, my idea of that world spinning out of control did not include me being forty miles away from home, dining with my colleagues rather than my husband.
The spinning ensued, although we did manage to exit Berghoff’s, Chicago’s famed German restaurant. No way could I envision two paramedics squeezing a stretcher into this tightly packed lunch crowd. If I was going to lose control, it was going to be on my terms (go figure!). Why not someplace quiet; why not underground at Chicago’s Metra Train Station. I think I was hoping to ride out of Dodge without taking a bullet. I must say, the Epi-Pen, administered by one of my brave colleagues (she punched that baby into my thigh, right through my jeans), really didn’t hurt that much.
What hurt was giving up that apple strudel! This was Berghoff’s; The Berghoff Restaurant, Chicago’s historic cultural icon when it comes to good German food!
Considering the Berghoff almost closed in 2006 when Herman Berghoff, grandson of founder Herman Joseph Berghoff, and his wife Jan, decided to retire, our meal at the Berghoff a month ago was particularly special. Thank you, Carlyn Berghoff! After four generations, your restaurant is obviously a family legacy.
It’s no surprise that legacy began with the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 (officially, the 400 year anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the new world); and a special brew of Herman Berghoff’s German beer with “a full-bodied, all-malt taste based on an original, 100-year-old family recipe,” according to the Berghoff website.
I can’t speak for the German beer (I’ve tried, but never quite managed to acquire a taste for beer; I know, I have quite a few weird quirks when it comes to food and beverages), but the food; the food is the best of Bavaria without the expense of a trip to Europe.
My German gnocchi was heavenly.
Ryan’s a city boy now since landing a job in Chicago’s Loop, although he’d want me to call him a man, and rightly so, especially if his choice of entrées is any indication. He chose the sauerbraten, a marinated, roasted sirloin of beef, with sweet and sour gravy and a melange of vegetables and whipped potatoes.
The Bottom Line on the Berghoff Restaurant:
Verdict: Connoisseurs of kraut (and sauerbraten and wienerschnitzel) will love the Berghoff, although you can find an array of traditional continental European dishes along with steaks and seafood as well, all of which is made from scratch. At a time when restaurants and bars come and go with the wind (this is the Windy City, after all), it is truly remarkable that the Berghoff is still a Chicago institution after four generations.
How to Get There: Located at 17 West Adams Street in Chicago’s Loop, the Berghoff is within walking distance from Chicago’s Metra Train Station as well as the Red Line Station at Jackson or at Monroe. Discounted parking is available a block away at InterPark Parking Garage by having your ticket validated.
Insider Information: Be sure to check out the downstairs café whether you’re doing lunch or dinner. It’s there you’ll get a sense of the rich history behind this Chicago icon, from the pictures on the walls to the brats and beer. During prohibition, the Berghoff didn’t open a speakeasy, although the café might conjure such ideas. The Berghoff brewed their signature beer, then removed the alcohol and served the customers root beer until the end of prohibition. When prohibition ended, Herman Berghoff marched down to City Hall and secured the very first liquor license from the city of Chicago. That license is still hanging on the wall downstairs.