Even if Chicago isn’t the German enclave it was in 1850, when one-sixth of the population came from Teutonic stock, there should be no shortage of local celebrants raising a stein to the autumnal indulgence that is Oktoberfest. What began in 1810 as a wedding bash outside Munich had spread, by the turn of the century, to Chicago, where it remains an excuse to stuff our gobs with German fare. Not that we’re complaining. These odes to Deutschland put the heart in hearty dining.
by Jennifer Wehunt
Brats may be sausage king in Midwestern cuisine, but this tender veal bockwurst, pictured above with knackwurst, earns our best of the wurst award. $14.95 (7650 W. Irving Park Rd., Norridge; 708-452-6040)
Red Beet Salad
After heaping helpings of potato salad, potato pancakes, and fried potatoes, you’ll be ready for something green-or at least fuchsia. $4.99 a pound (4750 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-561-3377)
German Potato Salad
Red alert, South Beach bunnies: Oktoberfest is all about the starch. Get yours in the form of this bacon-flavored diet buster, served warm and delicious. $2.95 (2034 W. Irving Park Rd.; 773-472-1749)
Sausage and schnitzel? Oktoberfest’s only once a year. Send this cutlet straight to your belly with a spätzle chaser so creamy it’s like mac and cheese. $17.95 (3454 W. Addison St.; 773-463-1962)
Black Forest Cake
With its tart cherry filling and moist, decadent marriage of chocolate, vanilla, and cherry layers, this cake takes the Teutonic triple crown. $2.98 a slice (3329 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-281-7300)
Stein and Dandy
We asked local barkeeps to spout off on their favorite German pints for fall.
Mike Roper of Hopleaf, 5148 N. Clark St.: Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier, $6.50 for a one-pint nine-ounce bottle. “It tastes like smoked meat,” Roper says, which he assures us is a good thing.
Chad Wulff of The Map Room, 1949 N. Hoyne Ave.: Schneider Weisse, $6 for a half-liter bottle. “It’s a very classic German beer, although it doesn’t have banana and clove notes to it,” Wulff says. “A little more malt character, a little bit spicier.”
Irma Frolich of Huettenbar, 4721 N. Lincoln Ave.: Spaten Oktoberfestbier, $4.75 a pint. “It’s a little bit heavier and darker than beers for other seasons,” Frolich says. “Very full-bodied.”
Colin Burke of Überstein, 3478 N. Clark St.: Hofbräu Oktoberfest, $6 for a third of a liter, $7.50 for a half-liter, $13 for a liter. “It’s easy to drink,” Burke says, which is important since “Oktoberfest is about throwing a party and drinking a lot.”
Photography: plate Kim Thornton, cake Right C Squared Studios/Getty Images Beer: Rob Goodwin