The Berghoff was never on.
Despite what you may have heard, the old German restaurant on W. Adams street in downtown Chicago is not opening a restaurant in Orlando. In an article in the Orlando Sentinel last week, Sandra Pedicini reported on a proposed revamping of the troubled Festival Bay mall on International Drive into a “$70 million bazaar, farmers market and beer hall.” Apparently the beer hall was supposed to be operated by Berghoff Catering and Restaurant Group.
“It’s not true,” Ashley Malmquist, marketing and media coordinator for Berghoff Catering and Restaurant Group, told me. “I would know about it.” Malmquist said the owners, which have operated the family-run restaurant since 1898, have no plans to expand outside of Chicago. Besides the large restaurant in the Loop, there is a Berghoff Cafe at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, but that is the extent of the company’s expansiveness. Malmquist said she has no idea how the rumor got started. She said the company also takes umbrage with the “beer hall” designation. The Berghoff brewed its own beer at one time but has not done so for quite a while. Still, it was referred to as a saloon when it first opened.
The Berghoff has been operated by someone from the Berghoff family since it first opened. It closed in 2006 but was taken over about a year later by Carlyn Berghoff, a fourth-generation descendant, who moved her catering company there. She eventually decided to reopen the German-American restaurant.
The Berghoff is certainly a Chicago institution. I ate there in 1978 while I was still in grad school and could ill afford a meal out in a nice restaurant. But on a trip to Chicago I was told “you have to eat at the Berghoff.” I took a date there (stop snickering; this was a long time ago) and the only thing I can remember about the meal is that while we were waiting for our food a cockroach scampered across the table. When I told the waiter, a disgruntled older gentleman, he just shrugged and said, “We have a lot of food in the back.”
Have you ever dined at the Berghoff? What are your memories?