Back when street trolleys and low-flying zeppelins still moved through the Loop,
Herman Berghoff founded a saloon where men could stop in to refuel with corned
beef sandwiches and Berghoff Beer. Throughout the succeeding decades that took the Berghoff through Prohibition and, afterward, obtaining the city’s first liquor license, Herman’s descendants have shepherded the restaurant through changing times while meticulously preserving an old-fashioned feel. Carlyn Berghoff now steers a menu of contemporary, German-inflected bistro fare where wiener schnitzel, pierogies, and sauerbraten try to pick up the more-modern lingo of mascarpone mac and cheese and coffee-crusted beef medallions. The Berghoff’s Teutonic roots—carried on in an annual Oktoberfest complete with alpenhorns and lederhosen—intertwine with its local ones: the 200-Mile Initiative sends seasonal ingredients and produce from within 200 miles of the city spilling into the better part of the menu during the summer and fall.
Setting aside the modern crowds, the Berghoff’s interior might resemble a much better-smelling museum diorama. Warm wooden wainscoting cradles every wall, checkerboard tiles gleam underfoot, and murals above the bar peek onto sprawling vistas from the balconies of pastoral retreats.