My parents grew up going to The Berghoff in downtown Chicago. Most Chicagoan’s probably have. I used to go as a kid, but the last time I was there, I was in high school. In fact, I thought for the longest time it was closed. Recently, I had the opportunity to dine and tour the restaurant and was so impressed. Not only because of the history, but the revival of the menu. The Berghoff is known for their German food like Weiner Schnitzel’s, bratwursts and giant Bavarian pretzels. Of course, those dishes are legendary, but there are new additions to the menu that are more modern and appealing to a younger generation. More contemporary dishes that even include certified gluten-free options. But first, let me tell you about the history and how it all began.
The Berghoff has been around since 1898, and is rich in Chicago history. Herman Berghoff posted right outside the Chicago’s World Fair in 1893, similar to a pop-up cafe. His success from that, is how he made enough money to bring his family to Chicago and open his cafe.
End of Prohibition- 1935 (Photo Courtesy of The Berghoff)
During the prohibition, the bar remained opened by selling a “Near Beer” which contained less than 0.5% alcohol. This made it possible for Herman to sell and stay open. After prohibition ended, The Berghoff was issued Chicago’s first Liquor License. Chicago has honored this every year and they will always receive the first license.
The Berghoff had a separate men’s only bar until 1969, when Gloria Steinem demanded service and this ended the male-only streak.
Now for the food. We sampled a lot of everything, some classic dishes and contemporary ones. I also had the opportunity to meet Chef Matt and Chef Javier. Their love for not only the food, but their passion for working at the restaurant shined through. They have been at the restaurant for years and are dedicated to making great food. Chef Matt went into detail on how everything is made in house. With a bakery and 4 kitchens in the 50,000 square feet space, everything is made on site. That is something unique and many Chicago restaurants can’t claim. To take a closer look at the behind the scenes in the bakery, look here.
With all that being said, my top 3 dishes are:
3. Red Velvet Cake- I am not usually one for dessert or sweets in general, but this red velvet cake is fluffy with the right amount of sweetness. Served with a side of vanilla ice cream, this dessert will make anyone go out of their way to dine here.
2. Braised Short Ribs- This is fantastic. Melts in your mouth good. Served with a side of mashed potatoes and topped with fried onions. The textures are just right. Perfect comfort food during the cooler months.
1.Butternut Squash Lasagna- Layered with diced butternut squash and Manchego, then topped with grilled asparagus and glazed walnuts, it is outstanding. The combination of the sweetness from the squash with the cheese is perfect. It is light enough to eat year-round and vegetarians should go crazy over it. Definitely a stand out dish.
The Berghoff is also known for Oktoberfest. This runs from September 7th- October 7th. With live music and food specials, it will put you in the mood for the fall festivities ahead.
Whether you are from Chicago or here to visit, The Berghoff is a must stop for great food and some Chicago history.
Until next time…