Rosemont’s Hofbrauhaus is like a German theme park with good food
By MICHAEL NAGRANT email@example.com March 7, 2013 11:12AM
Schnitzel Wiener Art, a breaded pork cutlet served crisp and golden brown and homemade Bavarian potato salad, is plated. Hofbrauhaus Chicago, a German micro brewery, beer hall, restaurant and beer garden, is photographed on Wednesday, February 27, 2013 for a restaurant review. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times
5500 Park Place, Rosemont
Hours: Monday – Thursday: 5 - 11 p.m.; Friday 6 p.m. – 1 a.m.; Saturday noon –
5 p.m.; 6 p.m. – 1 a.m.; Sunday noon –
4 p.m.; 5 – 11 p.m.
Prices: Starters $5.95-$15.95; entrees $12.95-$24.95; desserts $2.95 – $9.95
Try: Kartoffelpuffer, sauerbraten and apfelstrudel.
In a bite: Beer by the liter and traditional German-fare in a Carnival-like atmosphere. It’s Munich in Chicago.
KEY: ★★★★ Extraordinary;
★★ Very Good; ★ Good;
Zero stars: Poor
Updated: March 7, 2013 11:12AM
The original Hofbrauhaus beer hall founded in Munich in 1589 was a hangout for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Vladimir Lenin. The new Hofbrauhaus in Rosemont, sister restaurant to the original, feels more like a German theme park with good food.
At times, the Hofbrauhaus also feels like a Bavarian Hooters. Buffalo wings are not the currency here as much as sausages and schnitzel, but breasts very much are. The waitresses wear traditional dirndl dresses whose bodices seem tailored to spill as much decolletage as possible. There are also a few male waiters. They have been spared the indignity of lederhosen.
The restaurant is in a section of Rosemont called MB Financial park, a pedestrian mall featuring an ice-skating rink rimmed by kitschy-named restaurants including My Big Fat Greek Restaurant.
The interior of the ’Haus is an enormous barrel-ceilinged hall with dark-wood communal picnic tables and lots of Bavarian-style lanterns. Many patrons drink beer from enormous glass boots ($59 at the gift shop).
There is almost always a band oompah-oompahing their way through German-beer inspired ballads like “Ein Prosit” (A Toast to You) featuring the rousing lyric Eins, zwei, G’suffa! (One, two. Drink!) In between each number, the band yells Zicke Zacke, Zicke Zacke. Hoi! Hoi! Hoi! This chant is idiomatic and has no definite translation, but is roughly a call to arms to get drunk.
There is plenty of beer on hand to do so. Hefeweizen, lager, dunkel and a rotating seasonal selection of beers are brewed on premises from the original 400-plus-year-old recipes handed down by the Duke of Bavaria, Wilhelm V. Those used to superhopped American craft brews will likely find this selection watery. Though, the hefeweizen with its Juicy Fruit gumlike perfume is good by any standard.
The food at Hofbrauhaus is much better than the beer. Considering the dining hall is 20,000 square feet and can feed hundreds of people at a time, I expected ballpark-type quality. There are a few throwaway dishes including humongous overpriced $14 pretzels, but most dishes are solid.
The wienerschnitzel, a thinly pounded pork cutlet blanketed in a golden crust, is one of the better versions I’ve had anywhere. The accompanying tangy cold Bavarian potato salad has a nice vinegary punch that lightens the heavy fried schnitzel.
The winey sauerbraten (German pot roast) breaks in to tender shards when breached with a fork and sits on a bed of springy spaetzle and sweet red cabbage.
The wurstplatte features four tender sausages with snappy caramelized crusts nested inside a sweet golden sauerkraut and served with a spicy onion mustard for dipping. It is an encased meats extravaganza.
My favorite dish, however, is the Kartoffelpuffer, two thin crisp, golden potato pancakes mounded with ribbons of smoke-kissed salmon garnished with dill-flecked sour cream and cucumber. Lox and bagels have been longtime compatriots, but the contrast of the crunchy potato and the soft salmon flesh is a superior combo.
Maybe only second to the salmon plate is a dessert of Apfelstrudel, soft cinnamon-spiced apple cubes wrapped in buttery crisp pastry, swimming in a creamy vanilla sauce.
Most days, such a carb-laden meal would put me in a food coma, but Hofbrauhaus has a heavy list of dessert cordials, schnapps and brandies that includes the miracle-digestif Underberg, which has a bracing, almost minty finish. A shot of the stuff feels like a slap across the face, but within minutes of quaffing, there’s a spring in my step and I’m ready for a day at the carnival.
Michael Nagrant is a local freelance writer. E-mail the Sun-Times Dining section at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions and comments.