Thursday, August 23, 2012

Chicago Brauhaus Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives

Okay, I'll admit it, I am a Guy Fieri, Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives (triple D) fanatic. A couple of years ago I was able to visit Guy's Johnny Garlic's restaurant in Santa Rosa, California. Much to my disappointment Guy was not there. I just loved their coconut shrimp. I loved it so much I just had to have it again. On my second visit I was given a very rough recipe for the coconut shrimp.
Coconut Shrimp with Sweet Chili Sauce
So one day, as I often do, I'm watching triple D when an episode comes on featuring the Chicago Brauhaus, located in Lincoln Square, in Chicago. In this episode (Coast to Coast Chow), Chef Harry Kempf makes his Sauerbraten and Rouladen. Two of my very favorite foods! The episode was so good that I began salivating immediately. Since I have never been to the Chicago Brauhaus, I called two of my sisters, made a reservation, and off we went a couple of days later. 
Lincoln Square
From the outside you don't get a real feel for the size of this restaurant. When we entered the front door I was pleasantly surprised with the size of this restaurant, or the fact that they had a band playing.
The hostess said that the restaurant seats about 180 guests. Within moments we were greeted by the chef himself. I explained that I saw him on triple D and just had to come. We were promptly shown to our reserved table and given menus. This was getting interesting. 
I opened the menu and immediately noticed something that you won't find on many menus these days. On the appetizer menu Hackepeter was on the menu. If you are unfamiliar with Hackepeter, it is non-other than Steak Tartare. The menu description was: "Steak tartar bowl - fresh ground lean beef accompanied by a farm fresh egg yolk, onions, capers, anchovies and paprika." I enquired about the portion size since nobody at my table was interested in trying, or sharing my Hackpeter.  The waitress said that it was a generous portion and we could share. I'll have to go back and try it some time. When we make Hackpeter  (once in 20 years) it just brings back memories of my father.
My Hackpeter
Our waitress took our order. The waitress offered a choice of soup or salad. The waitress said that they made their own house salad dressing. My sisters had the lentil soup and raved about it. My brother-in-law, my wife and I had the salad. The house salad dressing was so good that you could drink it.
What to order? I came for the sauerbraten and rouladen, but the gebackene ente (half crispy roasted young duckling) and the wiener schnitzel also looked good. These would just have to wait. I was on a mission. My wife ordered the rindsroulade (thin sliced sirloin of beef rolled with mustard, bacon, onions, and pickle) with spätzle, and red cabbage (rotkohl). I ordered the sauerbraten (marinated beef, served with potato dumplings (kartoffelklösse) and red cabbage. The plan was simple, my wife and I would each eat half of the Sauerbraten and Rouladen and then switch plates. 
When I was served the rouladen and spätzle the smell and the presentation reminded me of meals at my grandmother's house so many Sunday's ago.  Other than the addition of a dill pickle spear, this was almost exactly like our homemade version. 
Sauerbraten with potato dumplings
The sauerbraten, on the other hand was not at all like the one that we make. In Germany there are many sauerbraten recipes, each unique to a region, although not uncommon to vary in the same family. The Chicago Brauhaus uses cinnamon and cloves in their recipe, which is an acquired taste. In our family, the flavor of the sauerbraten comes from ginger snaps. The dumplings were not at all like our kartoffelklösse, but still very good. If you've never had German red cabbage (rotkohl), you're in for a real treat. They serve it family style and it is slightly tart. I loved it.
After dinner our waitress cleared our plates and while we were all very full, we decided to order two desserts.
Apple Strudel (Apfelstrudel) 
After dinner Chef Harry came to our table and asked how the food was. I told him that I was full. He said that was good because when you're full, you don't get wrinkles. The fact that an owner or chef takes the time to see that his guests are enjoying their meal, is often lacking in many restaurants. 
Upon our arrival the restaurant was about half filled. When we departed the restaurant was full and people waiting outside to walk in. How Lincoln Square and the Chicago Brauhaus escaped me for all of these years I'll never know. If you're looking for a German dining experience give it a try.

Guten Appetit!

© TMelle 2012

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Try the liver dumpling soup. Fabulous!