December 30, 2005

Sad days in Chicago

First the news that Marshall Field's is being sold to Macy's, and now, while people are trying to come to grips with the fact that that name so synonymous with Chicago will be no longer, it's announced that after 107 years in business at State Street and Adams, Chicago's venerable Berghoff Restaurant will close at the end of February.

I loved the place. This is truly a loss. Devotees of the restaurant are in shock.

Among the things the Berghoff was noted for were it's stand-up bar and their "men's grill" a men only bar which remained that way until 1969, and the fact that they hold liquor license #1 in the city of Chicago, being the first place to receive one after prohibition.

In the aftermath of the Chicago Democratic Convention, the trial of the Chicago 7 was held at the Federal Court building near Berghoff's. Both the prosecution and the defendants would eat lunch there, making for quite the media attraction until the management gave them each a spot away from prying cameras.

Another unique aspect of the place was that many of the male waiters have worked there for many decades. (The service is refined and elegant, at least in my experience.) The maitre'd has worked there for over 50 years!

The Trib has an account here and a nice tribute piece from a resident of Maquoketa, of all places, here.

Many reader's comments at the Trib are touching, as many tell of it being a family tradition going back decades and spanning generations to go to Chicago during the holiday season, see the windows and shop at Marshall Field's, and have dinner at the Berghoff. Now they'll both be gone, at least in name.

There are accounts of going to the Berghoff with their grandfathers, elderly women tell of remembering their fathers taking them there as young girls, people who have gotten engaged there, or held their wedding dinners there. People now moved away to far-flung spots around the world who always go straight to the Berghoff whenever they make it back to Chicago. So much history. So sad to see it go.

Any one else with memories of this Chicago landmark?


At 12/31/2005 8:52 AM, Blogger diehard said...

Bummer! One of my fave places in Chicago! Trader Vics is also closing. Best Mai-thai in the universe!

At 12/31/2005 10:20 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Yes, Trader Vic's is indeed closing its doors on New Year's Day. That too, is a sad loss for historic Chicago. What's happening here?

Evidently however, the Haray Caray restaurant company is scouting for new locations and have plans to reopen a new Trader Vic's somewhere, but obviously, one can't replace an institution.

Here's one description of Trader Vic's:

-- Trader Vic's is an explosion of Polynesian and sailing decor, with hardly a spot on the ceiling or wall that isn't covered with bamboo. One dining room has the thatched-hut feel of a surf-side village; the other is right out of an upper-crust yacht club, with two large hardwood grills used to cook the luau-style feasts Trader Vic's is known for. When there's time to relax, try the famous mai tai, a potent drink made with two rums and fresh lime. It goes down easy but packs a wallop. --

Also being lost is the famous 7th floor Walnut Room in Marshall Field's, another landmark place to eat in Chicago.

--Seating 450 dining aficionados under crystal chandeliers and imported dark Russian wood paneling, the menu at the Walnut Room trumps what most of us ingest mid-shopping spree. Offering classics like chicken potpie, served with peas and carrots hidden just below a thick puff pastry, you'll also find Peach Nest Tuna, with tuna salad and mixed fruit and bread, and coconut shrimp, skewered to a chunk of pineapple and dipped into sesame-mango and chipotle-cream sauces. New favorites include duck confit and rosemary grilled petite filet mignon, and entrees average $8-$15. For dessert, finish off with another Chicago classic: the Frango mint chocolate ice cream pie. Need we say more?

All through the holiday season, dine under the 45-foot-tall Christmas tree decorated with 1,000 handmade ornaments.--

Yep, close all these places and bring in more Chili's and Appleby's.

What is it that is causing these places to be shut down and cookie-cutter corporate sterility to thrive? (and how do we stop it?)

At 12/31/2005 10:59 AM, Blogger Dissenter said...

The news is too sad to bear. I have so many memories at Berghoff's. My friends and I spent so much time there, attempting to absorb the wisdom of the elder jurists who would dine there nearly every day. In our small towns and in our large cities, we are witnessing the tragic loss of our own unique character, giving way instead to the homogenized uniformity of the big business that we support at the same time that we complain about it. Where there was once a mom and pop drug store, unique to the community, there is now a Wal-Mart, unique to nothing. Where there was once a small restaurant, famous among the locals for some unique community delicacy, there is now an Applebee's, famous among the nation for its sameness.

Have I eaten at Applebee's in the last year? Yes. Have I shopped at Wal-Mart in the last year? Yes. Like you, I am an active participant in the hypocrisy that complains about the closure of Berghoff's while waiting for my table at Applebee's.

At 1/01/2006 2:55 PM, Blogger diehard said...

What now its my fault the Berghoff is closing? Huh?

At 1/01/2006 3:02 PM, Blogger ScrapMommy said...

I had a somewhat horrible blind date there years ago. The restaurant was wonderful, the servers were fantastic and the atmosphere excellent. I ordered the schnitzel! With spaetzel and cream spinach. Yummy. Good food.

Date sucked big time, split the check with me, tried to worm his way into my hotel room and then stood me up the very next - was supposed to take me sight seeing at the Field Museum.


At 1/02/2006 9:30 AM, Blogger maybesomeday said...

I have many fond memories of dining there and will greatly miss it. I am going to make a point of going there before the end of Feb just to experience it one more time...... and to further drown my sorrows.

At 7/30/2007 4:37 PM, Blogger Peter said...


I don't know if you get emails that someone has left a comment, so I won't be surprised if you miss this, but the craziest thing happened today.

I was randomly thinking about Berghoff's today for some random reason, and then I cycled through your post-election 2006 pages only to see you had posted about it!

How many restaurants are there in Chicago? How many blogs are there on the internet?

Makes you wonder if everything happens for a reason.


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