Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Chicago Brauhaus

A few years back I went to Berlin on a spring break service trip with our campus Chabad center. As someone who appreciates learning about the cultural aspects (especially the food) of different countries, you can imagine how excited I was for this trip. I was looking forward to lots of brats, sauerkraut, schnitzel, and beer. To my surprise however, Berlin is not the place to take in German food. It's more like the place to take in eurotrash clubs and poorly brewed, mass produced lagers. I'm not saying it was all bad since I ate Doner Kebab practically every chance I got. The point is that I had an unsatisfied craving for delicious German food.

This past Thursday night, I partook in what is becoming a weekly thing, meeting up with my undergrad buddies (Berger, Zucker, and Friends) that have recently moved to the city for a meal. The original plan was to go to some sandwich joint up in Lincoln Square, but when we got up there, our most timid (in an adventurous eating way) friend had canceled to work late. We decided to walk around Lincoln Square itself until we came across something. There was some sort of German festival in the square, and eventually after fighting through the crowd we ended up in front of Chicago Brauhaus.

Logistics
This was about as German a place as I've ever been. The restaurant was a large room with multiple wooden bars. The lighting was tinted red, and for entertainment there was a dance floor and a music combo (2 old men with a synthesizer and guitar and a backing track that did all the work). Our waiter didn't seem to speak much English either. For drinks, each table seemed to have a bunch of 1L mugs or even boots. Basically, I'm just trying to say it was very authentic looking.

The Main Room at Chicago Brauhaus 
(It's much bigger than this, but it was tough getting a shot with the red lighting) 

I think they take reservations, but we didn't need one. This is mostly due to the large amount of seating they've got. In your worst case scenario you'll have to wait a little while at the bar. Our service was pretty good, and the food didn't take too long (although we were starving and it seemed like a while).


The cost was average. We split a pretzel for an appetizer that came out to $7. The entrees ranged from $9-$17, so it really depends on what you order. The liters of beer were $12.50 which I thought was pretty steep, but I guess if you think about how much beer you get, that's not that bad a deal.


There's definitely something to say about the band. First off there were pictures of these guys in the restaurant from what seemed to be 20 years ago, so they've been playing for a while. Mostly though it was just hilarious as their music selection ranged from yodeling to American pop. They even had wardrobe changes throughout the show.

The Food
The table started off with a German Pretzel. It was crispy and salty on the outside with a soft fluffy inside. The table was given horseradish and mustard for dipping. Really you could sit here all night and drink beer and eat these pretzels. Some of the guys got Liver Dumpling or Lentil soups with their entree. I didn't try the lentil, but the Liver Dumpling tasted like a kreplach matzoh ball (it was a little too salty though). Some guys got the House Salads, but they weren't really anything special, just a mix of greens and a tomato. I'd say when given the option to go for the soup.

 German Pretzel

 Liver Dumpling Soup

Lentil Soup

For our entrees we ordered the Veal Bratwurst, the Wienerschnitzel, the Walleye Pike, the Original Brauhaus Reuben, the Brauhaus Chopped Steak, and the Hackbraten (Veal Meatloaf). The Veal Bratwurst was incredibly rich and had a nice crisp casing that gave a pop with each bite. It came with a side of German Potato Salad which was well spiced and had a nice balance of crunch with some sort of pickle incorporation. The Wienerschnitzel was way better than anything you'd get on a Kibbutz. The breading was light and crispy, and the meat was very tender. I didn't try the Pike, but Zach seemed pretty pleased (although this wouldn't be my suggestion for an authentic German taste). Berger got the Reuben which was open faced and very tasty. The sauce and meat had a nice balance, plus they were generous with the cheese. The Chopped Steak and The Hackbraten were real highlights. They were flavorful meat combos, each with it's own interesting sauce. They were both finished on the griddle, giving them a nice outer crisp. Really, these two dishes and the Veal Bratwurst are what I'd recommend for a good taste of Germany. One knock on the food was that it was somewhat too rich.

Wienerschnitzel

Brauhaus Reuben
Veal Bratwurst

Walleye Pike
Hackbraten

Brauhaus Chopped Steak

Overall
When we set out to find some random place in Lincoln Square, we never expected to be so pleased. We had efficient and excellent service in a fun atmosphere. The food was authentic, rich, and delicious. However, the richness may have gotten to us a bit as the walk home was much slower than the walk there. If I were to come back, I'd bring even more friends and even more money for beer and pretzels. I'm giving Chicago Brauhaus 4 out of 5 Pearls.


Chicago Brauhaus on Urbanspoon

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