All month I've been researching my next great escape, daydreaming about tropical environments, Tuscan vineyards and the sweltering heat of Indonesia. After much exploring, I located an olive farm in Italy that trades free room and board for a week of toiling in the fields picking olives. I was ready to book away, but the available dates coincided with my month-long Indo volunteer/learn-to-scuba-dive trip I planned for November. Bah!
Back to the drawing board, I thought, until a pal phoned with news that she was getting married next summer at her fiance's family's vineyard in Germany. Perfect timing! I could enjoy a beautiful wedding while picking grapes in a classic vineyard. Having planned my first trip of 2008, I decided to celebrate at Resi's Bierstube, a German tavern on Irving Park with a fantastic beer garden out back. If you're like me, you've driven past it a hundred times, never acknowledging its existence. What a shame. It makes for the perfect hideaway to plot future escapades, especially if you go early to catch prime patio seating.
I've never sought out German food in Chicago; despite living in Deutschland as a kid, its cuisine doesn't tempt my taste buds, and I'm not a beer drinker. Still, who says you can't order a Cuba libre instead of a stein? I started my meal at Resi's with a couple of those stout, rum-filled babies, and soon it was time to dig into the menu. All quasi-vegetarianism goes out the door when it comes to German food.
A bocce ball-size wiener schnitzel sandwich on a soft bun with gobs of sauerkraut piled on top; thick bratwurst with dark coarse mustard; crispy fried potatoes; potato pancakes with vats of sour cream and rye bread; and a huge pile of semi-sweet applesauce arrived at our table. After plowing through this "appetizer" course, we nearly made ourselves sick by ordering a truckload more. Another brat? Sure! Anyone up for one more schnitzel? Hell, why not! When our neighboring table received a ginormous pile of rahmschnitzel, a delightful mix of breaded schnitzel, creamy mushroom gravy and buttered egg noodles, we begged our stunned waitress to bring us a plate.
I cannot remember another time when I ran home so quickly, tossed on my pajamas midday (hey, we start early) and lay in bed curled up in a tiny ball trying to soothe my ailing stomach. Was it worth for all that sensational food? Of course. Will I be doing the same thing next year in Germany? Heck ya! I guess I do love German food, so maybe I'll make like the locals and down a beer next time…that might be pushing it. Thank God rum tastes good with everything under the sun!
The Final Rave: On a pretty day, the beer garden fills up fast with impossibly young parents, happy babies and enormous glasses full of cold Weiss. Go early.
Keep It Going:
Eat It: Romanian Kosher Sausage Company
This butcher shop has the most unbelievable garlic sausage I've ever tasted. You will never look at sausage the same way after tasting it.
Drink It: Hopleaf
Like I said, I'm not a beer drinker, but this gem has the best selection of brew in the city. They also have killer mussels and frites.
Do It: O'Donovan's
Just down the street from Resi's sits this perfect neighborhood hangout. Loads of hipsters claim seats at its Sunday brunch; but if you swing your timing just right, you can get in, get full and get on your way before most folks open their sleepy eyes.
Get Crazy With It: Oktoberfest
People all around the world celebrate this fest come September. Be prepared to eat loads, drink more and crash at dawn.