The Best of the Wurst: Oktoberfest in Chicago

Today’s newspaper column from The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

The Best of the Wurst: Oktoberfest in Chicago


Sept. 24, 2011

As the oldest family-run restaurant in Chicago, the Berghoff Restaurant is part of history. But it wasn’t until last week that the Loop’s 110-year-old, German-themed institution tried to make history.

By grilling a sausage stretching nearly 50 feet long.

On Sept. 15, during its 26th Annual Oktoberfest celebration in Federal Plaza, the Berghoff targeted the Guinness World Record for the Midwest’s Longest Brat with a 47-foot, three-inch sausage.

The bratwurst, which weighed 40 pounds, required eight grills to cook and was placed inside a 50-foot bun, was then sliced up into 135 sandwiches. And in less than 20 minutes, every last bite was sold, raising more than $1,000 for the Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, which provides mentoring programs for more than 700 young men and women in the Windy City each year.

To help kick off the Oktoberfest season in Chicago, I made it to the Berghoff gathering just in time to purchase a piece of the record-breaking brat (it was delicious) and then wash it down with a draft of Berghoff Beer (it was too).

But, while you may have missed your chance to make history, that doesn’t mean you can’t still dine like a Sausage King in Chicago, where Oktoberfest is still going in strong for the next couple of weeks.

Sept. 24-25: Oktoberfest in Lincoln Square

Perhaps Chicago’s most popular celebration of all things autumnal and Germanic, Lincoln Square’s Oktoberfest – located at the corner of Southport and Lincoln avenues – dedicates its proceeds to St. Alphonsus Roman Catholic Church. And the festivities actually take place both inside and outside the historic church, which was originally built in 1897 in what was then a predominately German neighborhood.

Running from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. tonight and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday, the festival features food (of course), beer (ditto), live music and, on from 11 to 2 on Sunday, a “Kinderfest” for children.

While you’re in the area, also consider swinging by the nearby Chicago Brauhaus (4732 N. Lincoln Ave.) for some additional Bavarian beer, cheer and dancing to the sounds of the restaurant’s famous Brauhaus Trio.

For more information, visit

Sept. 30-Oct. 1: Oktoberfest at Timothy O’Toole’s

Timothy O’Toole’s might be an Irish pub best known for its hot wings and a location that buries it beneath street level in Streeterville at 622 N. Fairbanks Court, but that doesn’t mean the place can’t put on a great Oktoberfest.

The bar’s two-day bash (11 a.m. to 2 a.m.) features 25-ounce Hacker-Pschorr drafts, raffles, giveaways and German food specials such as brat burgers and Viennese beef goulash.

For more information, visit

Oct. 1: Oktoberfest at Frontier

Known for its gamey fare that includes quirky entrees such as wild boar chops and duck tacos, you can also count on Frontier – located at 1072 N. Milwaukee Ave. in West Town – to serve up an Oktoberfest menu with an equally unique twist.

And from 10 a.m. to 3 a.m. on Oct. 1, you can dine on the likes of buffalo schnitzel and wild boar bratwursts. Make sure to also save room for the soft pretzels with ground mustard and cheddar spread.

For more information, visit

Oct. 7: Oktoberfest Brew Cruise

In Chicago, Oktoberfest isn’t just about beer. It’s also about water. And beer.

At 7:15 p.m. on Friday, October 7, you can board the Shoreline Oktoberfest Brew Cruise at the Ogden Slip at Navy Pier and take a 90-minute water tour of Lake Michigan while sipping microbrews from Leinenkugel and munching on snacks catered by Harry Caray’s.

For more information and pricing, visit


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