Day Trippers

Yesterday, mrsdrang and I took the train into Chicago to see the Pompeii exhibit at the Field Museum. Included in the day’s plan was a stop at The Berghoff for a last lunch there before it closes next month. It was a beautiful day, bright and brisk but not cold. A day sans children, a treat that only parents of many years can appreciate.

The Pompeii exhibit is nice, but not dazzling or overwhelming. Maybe the story is just too familiar. Maybe Roman coins and jewelry aren’t my thing. I enjoyed looking at the frescoes, particularly the well-preserved one of Apollo and the Muses, but the rest just wasn’t too exciting. Worth going to (skip the audio tour, it adds virtually nothing), but not an experience you’ll carry with you.

The Berghoff was fun, as always. The beer and the rye bread are very good, the food OK. This is not a disappointment—you know going in that German food barely qualifies as food, let alone as great cuisine. You go to the Berghoff because it’s the Berghoff, in business since 1898, the first bar to get a liquor license after Prohibition. It’s closing because the current generation of owners (still Berghoffs) are retiring, and their daughter wants to run her catering business out of the old restaurant. She plans on renting out the facility to corporations and other groups for dinner and party events. I’m sure it will be a good strategy for a while, as law firms and other local businesses will think it’s cool to have their affairs at the old Berghoff. But isn’t she afraid that, as people go for years without the experience of eating at the restaurant, the cachet associated with the place will fade? Her food will have to be better than her parents’ if the place is to survive on its own merits.

Since the announcement of its closing, the place has been making money hand over fist. When we got there, about quarter to 11, the line from the door stretched west from the door down Adams nearly to Dearborn. In no time it was around the corner at Dearborn and south to God-knows-where. When we shuffled up to the door at about 11:30, the man at the door told us that wait for those at the end of the line was probably over an hour and a half. That’s a lot of schnitzel.