Hofbräuhaus Chicago Brings A True Taste Of Germany And Oktoberfest Every Day To Chicago

By Stephen Fuchs on Email @StephenWFuchs

HB Chicago Outside

UPDATE: Since the soft opening, the Hofbräuhaus Chicago has worked out the major kinks and also has their reservation system up and running.  Wait times should be reduced since our initial review and we can highly recommend making the trip out to Rosemont to take in the experience the Hofbräuhaus has to offer.  We still would recommend making a reservation if you plan to bring a large group or are heading out during the evening on a weekend.

The Hofbräuhaus Chicago, located in the booming MB Financial Park in Rosemont, is not your typical restaurant.  This German beer hall follows in the footsteps of the original Hofbräuhaus in Munich, Germany, by providing an experience that is meant to be unforgettable.  If you are looking for a place to grab a quick bite to eat before a show, the Hofbräuhaus Chicago may not be your best choice, but if you and your friends want to find a place with great food and entertainment, you’ve found the right place.

With only being open for one week, there are still a few kinks to work out. The Hofbräuhaus is set up to take reservations through OpenTable, but due to some problems with their internet network, the reservation system is down until they can get back online.  With the combination of the newness of the restaurant that hundreds have been eagerly awaiting and a lack of being able to make a reservation, the wait time on Saturday evening was 2-3 hours.

Once we grabbed a table, we discovered that the kitchen was backlogged to the point that it would be about another hour until new orders would be accepted.  It appears that the Hofbräuhaus wasn’t expecting the amount of people that wanted this unique taste of Germany, where it is Oktoberfest everyday, but they are quickly learning what needs to be modified to accommodate the demand.  We came for the whole experience so we didn’t mind waiting, but the group that was also seated at our table was not prepared for the wait and left before the kitchen reopened.

Despite the first weekend hiccups, the wait staff was more than accommodating and gave frequent updates on the status.  Our waiter Matthew was kind enough to bring out two Jumbo pretzels, on the house, as we waited for the kitchen to catch up.  Once we were able to place our food orders, the meals came out surprisingly fast and hot.


German Favorites With A Home Cooked Taste

HB Chicago Food 1

In order to take it all in, we felt that more than one visit was necessary before writing up our full review.  The dinner menu is extensive with something available for everyone’s taste, and you can count on many of the dishes providing a well-balanced flavor that will have you thinking it came straight out of Oma’s kitchen.

There is no shortage in options if you come with a taste for sausage.  Good sausage is something you would expect from a German restaurant, and I must say the Hofbräuhaus will not disappoint.  Each sausage has a well blended flavor that will leave you wanting more.  Even the traditional white bratwurst was firm on the inside yet easy to bite into, which makes it stands out from the typical greasy brat with a tough skin most people are used to eating.

If sausage isn’t your thing, you can’t go wrong with the pork or chicken dishes.  The wiener schnitzel, which I am always very critical of, is the best I’ve had in the Chicago area, and rivals many schnitzels I’ve tasted in Germany.  This breaded pork cutlet was tender and served golden brown with just the right amount of breading.  If there is one thing I would change, it would be the choice of side that comes with it.  You are not given a choice of side, and while the homemade Bavarian potato salad that came with the meal wasn’t bad at all, I feel a side of spätzle would be more fitting for this schnitzel.  Parts of the schnitzel were placed on top of the potato salad, which blended into certain parts of the meat… something that would’t happen with a more dry side of spätzle or even dumplings.

HB Chicago Food 2

The Sauerbraten is a little harder to judge.  There are more than a few ways to prepare this popular German dish, and while this variation was much better than the Americanized style that you’ll find in most restaurants, it wasn’t quite sour enough for my taste.  For most people this won’t be an issue and this dish will still be a great way to introduce Americans to a more traditional German sauerbraten.

Every Saturday after 4pm, Schweinshaxe gets added to the menu, and if you’ve never had this popular Bavarian crispy pork shank, you need to try it.  The piece of meat is slowly roasted until the skin is crisp to the point you’ll think it was deep fried, which it is not.  Underneath the crispy outside that reminds me of a delicious pork rind, is a very tender meat that falls off the bone.  You won’t be disappointed with this Saturday special.


Skip the Mixed Drinks and Go with the Beer

HB Chicago Beer at Table
The Hofbräuhaus doesn’t disappoint with their beer, which is brewed on site using the original HB recipe created over 400 years ago in Bavaria.  You have a choice of their Premium Lager, Light, Dunkel, or Hefe Weizen, and seasonal beers that will come and go throughout the year.  They have the brewing method down to a science, and it is done with very little human interaction.  Don’t let the automated system fool you though, as it produces an excellent brew.

While the beer was close to perfection, the mixed drinks need a lot of work.  Instead of having a bartender create your drink of choice, all of the mixed drinks and cocktails are created by computer.  The Hofbräuhaus may want to check on their system as we sent back a drink more than once since they were very light on alcohol, to the point where I question if the computer forgot to add it to the mix.  Until the system gets worked out, I would recommend skipping the mixed drinks all together.


Come Prepared To Experience A Taste Of Germany

HB Chicago Crowds

Pricing on the main entrées are inline with other German restaurants in the Chicagoland area, with most meals costing between $14 and $20, and the portions will leave you with little room for dessert.  If you start off with an appetizer or snack, expect the bill to increase quite a bit.  Spending $13.95 on a single Jumbo Pretzel is a bit much (without the cheese and mustards it is $8.95), and two potato pancakes will set you back $13.95 as well since it comes with smoked salmon and there does not appear to be a cheaper option for just the pancakes by themselves.  In my opinion, your money is better spent on a liter of beer which will last a bit longer and save you money.

Even though there seem to be some kinks that need to be worked out, we would still highly recommend the Hofbräuhaus Chicago.  If you plan on heading out there on a weekend evening, you may want to wait another week or two if you want to avoid the long wait.  This is not a typical dining experience where you get seated, order your meal right away, and then leave.  Instead, expect to spend at least two hours to properly take in the entire experience.  The Hofbräuhaus is unique and is one of the few restaurants where you are encouraged to stand on the benches as you raise your stein of beer and sing along with the band.

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Stephen Fuchs
Stephen founded German Pulse and LGBT Germany out of a passion to introduce Americans to a Germany that goes beyond beer and polka (although with enough beer he has been known to polka it up a bit). He's a coffee addict, lover of wine and good times, a hit in the kitchen and editor of TV commercials. You can follow him on Twitter (@StephenWFuchs) to find out a lot more.
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