Look who’s back. Back again. This foodie’s back. Tell a friend. That’s right, readers, it’s another chapter in the Mastication Monologue universe. I’ve found a bit of spare time in the madness that is grad school leading up to graduation. It’s less than a month, and I’m ready to start that next step in life as a bilingual clinical fellow in the Acero charter school system in Chicago! However, future career moves aside, let’s talk about what makes this blog great: delicious meals and delightful experiences. Today’s restaurant reviews focuses on Lachet’s Inn at 2119 W Irving Park Road in the Irving Park neighborhood of Chicago.
Chicago has always been a center for immigrants from all corners of the globe. In the 1800s, German and Irish waves made their way from the entry point of Ellis Island in New York west to the up and coming metropolis of Chicago. In fact, so many German immigrants arrived in Chicago that from 1850-1900, they were the largest ethnic group in the city with a population peak in 1914. While there are more individuals of German descent in the Chicago suburbs compared to the city now, there are still plenty of vestiges of their culture, including a plethora of bakeries, chocolate makers, and bier hauses serving traditional German meals and of course, ze beer! Chicago has always been a big drinking town, and our love of beer was established with the arrival of German brewmasters. Which brings us to the year 1971 when German businessman Karl Laschet bought a tavern on Lincoln Avenue in a German enclave of Chicago and named it Karl Laschet’s Inn. It was run as a German tavern focusing only on steins rather than serving old world delicacies. The ownership of the Inn changed in 1991 and food was brought in in 2000. Although Lachet’s Inn’s food hasn’t been around as much as their brews, they all channel the spirit of the fatherland’s cuisine. We were brought in by our friends Katilin and Dan who swore by the food and drinks, so we naturally had to take the plunge.
When we walked into the tavern, we were greeted with a neighborhood bar vibe with plenty of German artwork on the walls and a full bar complete with no frills beers. Look elsewhere if you’re hankering for really off the wall beer flavors. 99% of their beers hail from either Germany or Austria, and my personal favorite is the dark but super smooth Austrian Hirter Morchl dunkel. We were sat in the dining room in the rear of the tavern, and it might be a bit tight if it is busy around dinnertime. As we looked over the menu that was bedecked in the classic Hofbrau blue, we decided to start our meal off with hackepeter ($11.95) and potato pancakes ($7.95). While potato pancakes are pretty straight foward in terms of their origin, but hackepeter is more commonly known as mett in Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The hackepeter term is more common in northern and eastern Germany, specifically Berlin. However, mett comes from the Old Saxon word “meti” or “food” or low German for “chopped pork meat”. The really interesting part of this dish was that it was served in the traditional manner: raw on pieces of fresh bread. The steak tartare was accompanied with onions and capers and a bottle of Maggi sauce which is kind of like a European take on soy sauce. From the first to the last bite, I was hooked on this rich and filling appetizer. The meat melted in your mouth on the soft bread and had notes of garlic and fennel which blended perfectly with the crunchy white onions, pickled capers, and salty Maggi sauce. I highly recommend this Old World favorite. The potato pancakes also were top notch with a crispy golden brown outside and a soft but not greazy inside. Once we were finished, we moved on to our main entrees. I decided to order the rouladen ($20.95 for the regular size or $14 for the small). I had the option of soup or salad, but I went with the mixed green salad. However, I would highly recommend their pickled cucumber salad as well. When our food came out, we were also treated to a mini loaf of warm brown rye with butter. It was simple, but also very fresh and filling. Thankfully I didn’t eat too much of the bread because the rouladen was transcendent. It consisted of thin cuts of beef wrapped around a mix of bacon, onions, pickles, and mustard served in a brown gravy. As most meals in life, the food that looks the least impressive is often the most comforting and satisfying. While I couldn’t taste the pickle or mustard as I’d like, the bacon and onions naturally overpowered the filling in a good way. The beef was very flavorful and not overcooked. The spaetzel on the side was good, but I’m not a big fan of spaetzel to begin with. My wife and her friend swear by it though, so I’d say go for it! The red cabbage was uber-sour, so beware if you’re sensitive to very bold and powerful flavors. From other visits, I would also recommend the thuringer and the schnitzels for main dishes. By the time we were full (very easy to do because the portions are huge), we came to the most interesting part of the meal with the after dinner drink. This is a German tradition of combining herbs with strong liquor to combat digestive issues after a meal similar to the French digestif. Laschet’s offers a wide variety of schnapps flavors, and I went with the apple-peach mix. Apparently for men, it’s the equivalent of ordering an appletini or a cosmopolitan as our waiter scoffed at my choice. Regardless of his opinion, the shot was sweet and delicious! Fellas, if you don’t want any judgement, go with the apple or apple/pear mix. They’re all delicious palate cleansers, but I think the doppel korn will be last on my list for future visits.
Overall, I highly recommend a visit to Lachet’s Inn if you want a taste of old-school Germany in Chicago. Giant portions of fresh food for reasonable prices with plenty of hospitality. Now that’s what I call gemütlichkeit!