After a three-year hiatus, The Berghoff tries to rekindle my digestive juices
That all came to an end for me and thousands of other patrons when Carlyn Berghoff McClure, great-granddaughter of founder Herman Berghoff, shut down the bar and restaurant after more than 100 years so she could run a catering company out of the building. Lifelong employees were let go, memorabilia was auctioned off, fixtures were sold and the doors were locked. Patrons that used to line up outside the Loop's busiest restaurant were left scratching their heads.
Fast forward a couple of years to when the braintrust realized that maybe it wasn't such a great idea to kill the golden goose. Food was re-introduced into a modified bar and restaurant space and non-unionized employees were hired to replace the veterans that worked there in some cases for decades. Although I'd banned The Berghoff, 17 W. Adams St., after that fateful final business day three years ago, I decided to try the brat one more time to give Greasefreak fans something to chew on.
The Berghoff, 2006
I can still taste the hot, savory flavors from the veal intermingling with the cool, sour juices from the kraut. The taste was exquisite, the texture divine, the ambience genuinely historic. And the service? Professional and efficient. The carvers relished their jobs, expertly stabbing brats from under a heat lamp, slicing them perfectly in half and adding kraut with a flourish. The lines were long but the wait was worth it.
The Berghoff, 2009
The ingredients are allegedly the same, but the brat was room temperature, lacked a snap, and the sauerkraut was bland. The brat I ordered was the last one available at 12:30 on a Wednesday. The carving station dude plucked it from a watery tub and, instead of cutting it in equal halves, decided a one-third/two-third split was more appropriate, resulting a grossly lopsided sandwich. The real plate was a nice touch. The lack of a line, disturbing.
Berghoff brat circa 2006 is the runaway winner, not so much due to its superior taste and presentation as much as the atmposphere. In fact, Greasefreak does not recommend The Berghoff if you have vivid memories of the old place. However, if you're a Berghoff novice, tourist, or hopelessly hungry, the food will probably satisfy.