I got an e-mail notice today that tore me apart - The Berghoff Restaurant is closing! Chicago is losing a century-long tradition. Here is a link to the story.
This is a huge loss for Chicago, especially for those of us that earn our living in the Loop. Berghoff's has been a major business lunch venue for over a century. It was famous for cranky waiters (although their demeanor became more pleasant about 10 or 15 years ago). The Berghoff is famous for wiener schnitzel, creamed spinach, apple strudel and other German dishes. It is also famous for its 18th century vibe and tasty "home-brewed" beer. Losing the Berghoff is like losing the Sears Tower. Our city won't be the same.
It is impossible to guess how many deals were sealed over lunch at this grand old establishment. Until the early 1980's, the Berghoff had a classic "men's bar" full of beer-drinking, sandwich-eating male executives and blue collar workers. This side business fell victim to political correctness - women were allowed in, the business adjusted, and the bar continued to thrive as a co-ed establishment.
I had lunches and dinners with my wife at the Berghoff when we were dating in the late 1980's. I took my brother to the Berghoff during the Christmas season to show him why the holidays in Chicago were superior to the weak effort put on by Portland Oregon. Every fall, the Octoberfest party thrown by The Berghoff became more entertaining and elaborate.
Some businesses transiton from simple commercial enterprises to civic institutions. The Berghoff is one of Chicago's leading civic institutions. I am praying that someone will convince the family to pass the business on to someone who will honor its heritage.