February 28, 2006
Today saw the closure of Berghoff's restaurant in Chicago. Although it has been in existence for 107 years the first time that I ate in it was yesterday. What was unusual about this closure was that on every day that I spent in the city there were long lines of people queueing up to enter the restaurant. Berghoff's is a Chicago institution, a bit like Beweley's used to be in Dublin. "They have no sausages left" joked one man who exited the restaurant as we waited to enter. This was a clue as to the kind of German fare that made Berghoff's famous. Other "Classic Berghoff Favorites" from the menu included Sauerbraten, Wiener Schnitzel, Geschnetzeltes, Jagerschnitzel and the like. They also have their own draught beer.
The restaurant was also known for its cheap prices. The decor resembled Beweley's in Dublin and even the waiting staff were dressed in black and white. "I have been coming here since I was in my twenties and now I'm in my seventies" explained one woman to a waiter. Another customer who seemed to be much older claimed that he had been coming here every Friday for as long as he remembers. All the waiting staff knew him by name. But, now the restaurant was closing because the family no longer wish to continue the tradition.
Why did people seem so sad to be losing a restaurant when there are many other good restaurants in Chicago? We discussed this and the best reason we could think of is that people are tired of predictable food from menus of franchised and chain restaurants. Berghoff's seemed to offer genuine, distinctive food and what it lacked in presentation it compensated for in wholesomeness. In a world rushing to conformity of taste, Berghoff's offered an alternative. We need more Berghoff's and that is why it is sad to see it closing.
Posted by sdelaney at February 28, 2006 08:47 PM