The 125th Anniversary Of A Historic Restaurant
Last week I spent a day at the Museum of Science and Industry and ended up visiting an exhibit I really lost myself in.
It’s a portal to another time called “Yesterday’s Main Street.” You leave the bright museum hall and step into a 1910 cobblestone alley. Music from a nickelodeon drifts towards you.
It was Monday, and it wasn’t crowded. I had the street all to myself.
Here’s how the MSI website describes the experience:
It’s the next best option for time travel till your flux capacitor comes online. — MSI, 2023
“Great Scott!” — Doc Brown, Back To The Future.
There are detailed shop windows to peek in and you can sit on a bench and watch a silent reel inside the nickelodeon.
If you look at the right corner of the photo above, you’ll see a replica of a restaurant — The Berghoff. The great news? The actual restaurant is still open.
Chicago’s Oldest Restaurant
German immigrant Herman Berghoff sold his beer outside the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair grounds because he couldn’t get a license to sell it inside. But he did so well he was able to open his own tavern by 1898. He sold steins of beer for 10 cents with a free sandwich.
In its current location—an 1872 building Berghoff took over in 1912—there are the original murals by artist Mark Melnick. The murals sweep around the dining room and are of street scenes and the 1893 Fair that I imagine had great sentimental significance to Berghoff.
When Prohibition began in 1920, Berghoff added a restaurant and began using his beer brewery to make soda and ‘near beer’, a malt beverage with very low alcohol content that was allowed. The restaurant survived.
The Berghoff was granted the first liquor license in Chicago (because Herman made sure he was first in line) when Prohibition ended in 1933 and it is still displayed behind the long bar with its beautiful mahogany mantle and murals.
Incredibly, the saloon portion of the establishment remained an all-male bar until 1969. This from The Berghoff Family Cookbook:
Then, one November day that year, several women who belonged to the National Organization for Women (NOW) walked in, bellied up to the bar with the good old boys and made history.
According to the book, not long after, Gloria Steinem stopped by for a drink.
LUNCH AT THE BERGHOFF
One of my favorite things to do occasionally is to take myself out for lunch. There’s something so great about a solo excursion.
My Mom was Swedish and German and the food at The Berghoff was so familiar and delicious. I ordered some of my favorites: Wienerschnitzel, Potato Pancakes, Apple Sauce and my all-time favorite, Creamed Spinach. I had an Oktoberfest Bier made at the onsite Adams Street Brewery and loved it.
There’s a terrific video of the Chef at The Berghoff making potato pancakes(with recipe if you’d like to make) via The Berghoff Facebook Link here: Video
In the course of research, I found a paper written by preservationist Leigh Haddix in 2018 titled Savoring Place: Protecting Chicago’s Sense of Place By Preserving Its Legacy Restaurants. (link: Here)
In the paper, Herman’s great-grandson Peter Berghoff is quoted as he describes the restaurant as “a functioning memory-factory” :
We want to be what we are, but we also want to be for current generations because everybody’s dining habit’s change.
The menu has a large section of classic German cuisine called “Old World” along with a wide range of more modern dishes called “New World.” Here’s a link with lots more history and menus: https://www.theberghoff.com
I’m looking forward to my next visit and I already know what I’ll order. Food and memory are a powerful combo. ✨
Time Travel Kitchen News
My friend, historianposted this Note on Substack recently alerting me to the news that the rebrand of the “Wienermobile” to the “Frankmobile” was just a summer fling. Thanks, Annette!
Here’s a link to the 🚗🌭 story: https://www.cbs58.com/news/hot-dog-the-wienermobile-is-back-after-short-lived-name-change
FORGIVE ME, NEW ORLEANS
I’d like to apologize to the entire city of New Orleans for failing to include Blue Plate®️Mayonnaise (which has been around since 1927) in my recent Tomato Sandwich post. Eileen, a reader, pal and New Orleanian brought this to my attention and kindly sent a recipe along, too. I ordered a jar, Eileen! Recipe: Here
Writer, satirist, book coach, friend and self-described “extremely online person”has just joined Substack with her newsletter and it’s a doozy. Plus, she’s very funny. Highly recommend. Welcome, Leigh!
AN INDIE BOOKSTORE NEEDS HELP
A favorite independent bookstore here in Chicago, Madison Street Books has been flooded and while they’ve closed for clean-up, they’re hoping readers will order online. Here’s the link if you’d like to browse their shelves and order: https://madstreetbooks.com/
A warm welcome to the many new subscribers and, as always, thank you to all readers. Special thanks to Leigh Haddix for so graciously answering my questions.
See you soon!
Berghoff, Carlyn; Berghoff, Jan with Ryan, Nancy Ross. The Berghoff Family Cookbook. Kansas City, Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC, 2007.
The Museum of Science and Industry
Haddix, Leigh. Savoring Place: Protecting Chicago’s Sense of Place By Preserving Its Legacy Restaurants. 2018. Goucher College Welch Center for Graduate and Professional Studies. Master of Arts in Historic Preservation.