As YoChicago’s Michael Austin pointed out in his Dec. 28 post, the legendary Berghoff Restaurant, 17 W Adams St, will close its doors on Feb. 28. It’s the end of an era — several eras actually — and a great loss for the city. With its soaring ceilings, warm woodwork, elegant chandeliers and quaint murals, The Berghoff exuded class without pretension, something that’s becoming difficult to find in Chicago’s increasingly upscale downtown. Commodities traders, carpenters, secretaries, stockbrokers, janitors and journalists crowded the Berghoff’s fabulous bar three-deep, shoulder-to-shoulder during the lunch and dinner rushes for cold mugs of Berghoff beer and simple, terrific sandwiches of corned beef or bratwurst dabbed with horseradish and brown mustard.
Theodore Dreiser modeled Fitzgerald and Moy’s in his classic novel, Sister Carrie, on The Berghoff, and conveyed the spirit the place held for many of its patrons: “The finest resort in town,” the character of Drouet replies to Carrie’s question about the establishment. “It’s a way-up, swell place.” Our favorite literary reference to The Berghoff, though, is from the short story “Je Reviens” by Stuart Dybek, the best living Chicago writer now that Saul Bellow has left us to join Dreiser in the ranks of deceased literary giants. The young narrator of Dybek’s story bellies up to the bar in the oversized overcoat of his recently deceased uncle, Lefty, and with all the maturity he can muster, orders a beer. The bartender serves him without flinching and only after the narrator raises the glass does he realize he’s been given a root beer.
Sample a couple of Berghoff photos below by New Homes Magazine photographer Joeff Davis and a historic shot of the restaurant’s location in 1898, when it opened, from the Berghoff Web site. More important, sample a couple of steins of Berghoff before a slice of Chicago history disappears forever.