Beer, brats, and frivolity are what Oktoberfest is all about. Chicago loves a seasonal shindig, and there's plenty Oktoberfest happenings to go around this year, from beer and brat battles to pretzels, beer cheese, schnitzel, and lots more. Here's where to get your Oktoberfest on at restaurants.
Nothing invigorates a seasonal fete quite like a friendly competition involving beer and brats. Head to the OktoberFest-Off at deca Restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton Chicago on September 22 to savor a little competition benefitting Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago. The restaurant features sausages and brats from several Chicago chefs paired with local brews from Half Acre and Revolution Brewing Company. Guests will have the opportunity to sample a smorgasbord of encased meats from the likes of Scott Walton (Howells & Hood), Brian Jupiter (Frontier), Derek Simcik (Atwood Cafe), Thomas Rice and Kurt Guzowski (Tete Charcuterie), and of deca's chef Mark Payne. Attendees vote for their favorites and enter to win prizes. Tickets are $49 per person, with a portion of proceeds benefitting the children's hospital. Visit here for tickets.
Oktoberfest doesn't get much foodie-centric than at Old Town Social. It's all the freewheeling antics of a good boozy party with the added bonus of having an esteemed chef at the helm. That chef is Jared Van Camp, leading the charge on housemade Bavarian pretzels, house-smoked sausages, and braised sauerkraut to the tune of Old Town Social's Oktoberfest party on September 27. The barstaurant partners with Spaten and Hofbrau for the festivities, augmenting German-inspired eats with beer served in boots.
Pretzels and beer. It doesn't get any simpler or any more Oktoberfest-y. The Monarch is serving up standout renditions of both, making it a must-visit destination this fall. Soft pretzels are served warm right out of the oven, flecked with salt and served with a side of warm, fondue-like beer cheese. Since we all know pretzels make people thirsty, wash it down with one of The Monarch's regal German-style beers, such as Haufbrau Hefeweizen, a sweet and spicy wheat beer, or Shiner Oktoberfest, a seasonal brew now on tap at the bar with a malty aroma and hoppy finale sure to satiate any Oktoberfest-lover.
Oktoberfest comes with a side of pomp and circumstance at Pierrot Gourmet. And by pomp, I mean an "oom-pah" band playing live music periodically, and by circumstance, I mean a specialty menu replete with Brie cheese and beer dip, German macaroni and cheese, Bavarian lentil soup, and apple strudel. The specialty Oktoberfest menu is available September 21 through October 6.
One of the most preeminent destinations for Oktoberfest antics is Hofbräuhaus Chicago, the first and only German microbrewery, beer hall, restaurant, and beer garden in the Chicagoland area. This place is legit, bringing copious amounts of German culture to the Midwest by replicating the same traditions as the 400-year-old original Hofbräuhaus in Munich. The dining and drinking destination celebrates Oktoberfest now through October 31 this year. Festivities take place in Rosemont's MB Financial Park, featuring Bavarian entertainment, keg-tapping ceremonies, freshly brewed Oktoberfestbier, and a special menu packed with traditional Bavarian eats served by Dirndl-clad waitresses. On Friday and Saturday nights, Hofbräuhaus hosts Masskrugstemmen contests, aka stein-holding competitions. You know you want to do this.
For something a little more casual, head to Delightful Pastries or Jake Melnick's Corner Tap. The European-style cafe and bakery delights Oktoberfest-hungry taste buds with the Three Piggly Wiggly sandwich, a bulky contraption striated with Polish ham, crispy bacon, pan-fried schnitzel, and pickles on an "everything" bun. Things get a little cheesier over at Jake Melnick's Corner Tap, where one of the September specials is smoked Gouda mac and cheese laden with grilled bratwurst and apple mustard.
Photos courtesy of: deca Restaurant, Old Town Social, Leigh Loftus, and Jake Melnick's Corner Tap