Quick: what are two of Chicago’s must see and taste downtown attractions? If you said the Bean in Millenium Park followed by a Reuben sandwich at the Berghoff, you’d be right! Located at 17 W. Adams in Chicago’s Loop,the Berghoff Restaurant has been serving traditional German-American cuisine for more than 116 years! And one of their most famous and requested sandwiches is the Reuben (of course). Berghoff is known for its annual Oktoberfest celebration and proudly displays the city’s first ever liquor license.
The Reuben Report caught up with Berghoff’s Chef Matthew Reichel, who has been a part of the Berghoff family for more than 20 years. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Reichel runs four kitchens for the restaurant and catering business at the restaurant’s historic 17 W Adams building. He works closely with fourth generation owner, Carlyn Berghoff, to develop seasonal menus consisting of traditional German fare with an American bistro twist. Reichel is known for his off-the-cuff cooking style and colorful sense of humor
RR: Who is the typical Berghoff customer?
Reichel: Tourists, business professionals in the Loop, and multi generational families that have made dining at The Berghoff a tradition.
RR: What motivates you when you develop menu items?
Reichel: Taking traditional dishes and adding a twist/reinventing existing dishes into something new and fresh – much like the Berghoff – tradition with a twist.
RR: Tell us about your featured Reuben recipe.
Reichel: Around the year 2000, Jan, Herman (3rd generation owner), and myself started searching for new sandwiches for the downstairs Berghoff Café. Matt created this version of famous Reuben sandwich, and it was an instant success.
RR: What are your feelings on the place of the Reuben – and Reuben treatments in American cuisine?
Reichel: The original Reuben dates from 1914 or 1925, depending on which hotly disputed origin story you believe (which may depend on where you live!) The first: In 1914, New York delicatessen owner Arthur Reuben created the Reuben late one night for a very hungry Charlie Chaplin. The second: In 1925, Omaha grocer Reuben Kulakofsky invented it during a poker party to satisfy the ravenous players. Years later Fern Snider, chef of the Rose Bowl Restaurant in Omaha, entered the Reuben in a national sandwich contest, and it won. Either way, it’s a fabulous sandwich that has found a definite place at The Berghoff! Try our version on your next trip to the city.
For more information on Berghoff Catering & Restaurant Group, visit www.berghoffgroup.com. Find them on Facebook and Twitter as well.