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Toasting Oktoberfest

Raise a stein and shout "prosit!" at the city's authentic German taps.
Wednesday Oct 01, 2008.     By Chuck Sudo
Centerstage Chicago Nightlife City Guide Arts

photo: courtesy of Bridget Cicenia
If this week's weather hasn't tipped you off, summer is officially over. Soon the leaves will turn, people will break out the windbreakers and beach volleyball will be a distant memory. But at least we have one reason to celebrate the change of the season: Oktoberfest. It's that time of the year again to order a stein of Spaten, shout "prosit!," get down to oompa bands and become reacquainted with the city's German taverns and restaurants (check out the fests, too). Here are our favorite lederhosen-worthy spots for hoisting a few.

Few German bars wear their authenticity as well or as proudly as this Lincoln Square institution. During good weather, the tavern's Bavarian-style, giant bay windows open up onto the street, allowing the outside air to circulate into the bar. German beer is a given here, with 10 brews on tap like Spaten Oktoberfest, BBK and Warsteiner; but try some of the schnapps, including Apfel (an apple-flavored liqueur that will swear you off of Sour Apple Pucker) and egg schnapps. Yes, egg schnapps. One shot of this liquor, which calls for an acquired taste, and you'll never speak ill of Malort again. Choke a shot of it down at the giant booth in the front; called a stammtisch, it's a traditional German setting for meeting old friends and making new ones.

Resi's Bierstube
A true survivor amongst the rampant development in the North Center neighborhood, Resi's is still going strong after 40-plus years. Grab a seat at the bar or at one of its well-worn tables, take in the kitschy decor (old maps of Germany, coats of arms and posters of old soccer teams), order some kassler ribchen (smoked pork loin), hackepeter (steak tartare) or knackwurst, and wash it all down with any pick from its extensive list of German brews. Resi's was one of the first bars in the city to introduce non-German Chicagoans to weiss beers. It offers 27 types today, as well as classic Deutschland lagers like BBK, served cold in heavy glass steins. If the weather permits, take the party outside and lounge at one of the picnic tables in the beer garden, one of the most uncomplicated and comfortable in the city.

photo: courtesy of Bridget Cicenia; pictured: Edelweiss' oompa band
Walk through the doors of this longtime Norridge favorite, and you'll feel like you've stepped onto the set of an Errol Flynn period film. The high-beamed ceiling gives diners a sense of visiting a classic Bavarian beer hall, and the enormous dining area is packed with tables, high-backed booths, an open hearth fireplace and stained-glass artwork. Settle down and start dinner off with a pate and cheese plate or some wild mushrooms sauteed in red wine and baked in soft goat cheese. Edelweiss' list of schnitzels encompasses the major regions of the Fatherland, from classic Bavarian jäegerschnitzel to West Prussian schnitzel à la Holstein. Beers here include BBK, DAB, Hofbrau, Warsteiner and Stiegl. It also carries Carlsberg and Stella Artois, but if you don't drink a German selection here, you might as well ask for a Miler Lite.

Located a short walk from the Addison stop on the Blue Line, Mirabell also has a hidden gem of a beer garden, with a lantern-outfitted pine tree as its centerpiece. The decor blends classic Bavaria with a Wisconsin hunting lodge, with its drop ceilings and wood-paneled walls. The bar rounds out at the ends, where most customers tend to congregate, and the sandwiches are to die for. If the open-faced roast beef or turkey on rye don't entice you, try jumping off into the deep end and ordering a Nova lox and caviar sandwich on white toast. Served with tomato, onion, cream cheese, and a fruit cup, it's both haute cuisine and everyday food. The beers here, delivered to your table by waitresses dressed in traditional garbs straight out of Munich, include Julius Echter, Gösser, Franzikaner Dunkel, Hofbrau and Bitbuger. You can also score various schnapps, like Mirabell golden plum brandy, Gold Wasser (a lighter version of Goldschalger) and Lillehammer.

Other spots to raise a stein:

Chicago Brauhaus
Come for the live music at this festive Lincoln Square tap; stay because you've got a boot filled with two liters of Spaten floating around the table.
Glunz Bavarian Haus
This place feels downright jolly year-round, so we can only imagine the revelry that goes down during Oktoberfest.
Laschet's Inn
Though not necessarily a picture of authenticity (it has jalapeno poppers on the menu for Pete's sake), it offers respectable brews like Warsteiner, Radeberger and Konigspils.


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