Table Hopping: Oktoberfest, Munich-style, any time at Hofbräuhaus Chicago
Münchner Schweinebraten is pork roast in a dark beer sauce, with vegetable garnish and Semmelknoedel, a traditional German bread dumpling ($17.95). | Lee A. Litas~Sun-Times Media
5500 Park Place, Rosemont
11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday; 11 a.m.-midnight Thursday; 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Friday-Saturday
(847) 671-BREW (2739) or hofbrauhauschicago.com
Updated: March 13, 2013 9:20AM
Oktoberfest is such fun; too bad it’s only once a year.
Or is it? With January’s opening of Hofbräuhaus Chicago in Rosemont, a full-blown celebration is only one hefty beer stein away.
There are only four official Hofbräuhaus (which translates as ‘official brewery’) locations in the entire United States. All are franchises of the original Munich, Germany, establishment.
The lore of this historic pub dates back more than 400 years. Back then, beer was considered a basic foodstuff, and even a beauty treatment for the ladies. The popularity of Munich’s fermented elixir was such that after the entire city of Munich turned out for the wedding celebration of Crown Prince Ludwig in 1810, the beer-fueled festivities grew into what today is the 16-day Oktoberfest.
In Germany, Hofbräuhaus is known for its long bench tables where friends and strangers happily share space to toast their camaraderie and brotherhood. The Chicago version is an exact replica which easily seats more than 1000 visitors at a time. So you can easily get a table any time, right?
“People sit for hours just listening to music, drinking beer and having a good time so the wait can be two to three hours on the weekends,” explained principal owner Mike Matuschka. Every 30 days he brings over a new oompah band from Austria or Germany to make the atmosphere even more authentic.
All the beer is brewed in-house in mash/lauter tun boiling kettles, each holding 20 hectoliters, or 2000 liters. As expected, the recipe is based on the 400-year-old brewing process. Available beers include premium lager, lager light, ‘dunkel’ (dark) or the hefeweizen (wheat beer) and ranges from $4.95 for .3 liter to $11.95 for a full liter (34 ounces).
“Hofbräuhaus is ‘the’ iconic brewery,” said executive chef Klaus Lotter. “It’s what every other brewery wants to be.”
Raised in Mount Prospect, Lotter, the son of German immigrants, has worked as a chef in Munich and now oversees the authenticity of food preparation at Hofbräuhaus.
What is not made in-house is brought directly from Germany to ensure the precise flavor. For example, the dough for their super-size pretzels arrives frozen and ready to be baked into their fresh ‘jumbo completes.’ The giant Brezel comes with Obatzter cheese spread of cream and brie cheeses blended with paprika, as well as sweet and onion mustards ($13.95).
Other traditional specialties include the Münchner Schweinebraten, a Bavarian staple pork roast served in dark beer sauce with Semmelknoedel, a traditional German bread dumpling ($17.95).
Sauerbraten, an iconic German dish, is Bavarian-style pot roast. The beef is marinated for days so that each bite is as succulent and moist. It’s accompanied by tangy Blaukraut — red cabbage — and German potato dumplings, Kartoffelkloesse, infused with black pepper ($18.95).
And for dessert? Only warm apple strudel ‘apfelstrudel’ with layers of fresh apples in crispy pastry swimming in rich vanilla sauce for dipping will do ($9.50/a la mode $2.95 extra).
“Come in and enjoy Oktoberfest 365 days a year,” said Matuschka.