Member Monday: The Berghoff

Welcome back to Member Monday. Today we feature a memoir piece written by Writers Forum member Jeanne Crownover. Jeanne read this piece at June’s read Around. Welcome, Jeanne!


Jeanne Crownover

Jeanne Crownover


I was a young, single woman in Chicago in 1960, and my date took me out to dinner one night at the Berghoff, which he characterized as one of Chicago’s finest restaurants.

The downtown restaurant was lovely with a dark wood interior and murals of the city on the walls. The waiters were splendid in their black trousers and jackets. A real cosmopolitan experience for this small town girl from Wisconsin.

A few months later my mother came to visit me. I promised to show her the town. She bought a new black dress for the occasion, as I had warned her we’d be going out to dinner at The Berghoff.

As we perused the menu, I recommended the Dover sole, which previously my date had recommended to me. She took my suggestion. Later, she said she loved it. I felt so grown up, taking my mom out to dinner at what seemed such a classy place. And so proud.

Eventually I moved away from Chicago—from the whole Midwest. Got married, became a Californian, raised a family. A whole new life.

Twenty-five years after departing I returned to my roots for the first time. My daughter, a young adult at the time, joined me in Chicago. The Sears Tower topped our list of “must places to go” (it hadn’t been there in 1960), followed by the Art Institute and, of course, dining at The Berghoff.

The restaurant looked exactly the same and the menu prices appeared quite reasonable through my California eyes. The large building across the street was being demolished; a huge wrecking ball swung back and forth as we enjoyed our lunch.

Five years later I returned with my newly grown-up son. His sister had told him about lunch at The Berghoff, so naturally we had to dine there, too. The building and the wrecking ball across the street were gone, of course, but to my surprise it had not been replaced by another building. Instead, a temporary fence surrounded the lot.

Another five years passed, and I returned to Chicago with my youngest child, another son. “So where did you take the others?” he asked.

“Sears tower, the Art Institute, and The Berghoff,” I replied.

So dinner at The Berghoff it was. Only this time there were trees across the street, behind a wall. Not as metropolitan as the building, as dynamic as the wrecking ball or as temporary as the fence. A familiar room with yet another view.

My son excused himself from the table for a short time, and I found myself suddenly deeply nostalgic. I remembered, with considerable emotion, a young woman dining at The Berghoff with her mom, some thirty-five years earlier.

Mothers, daughters, children…Buildings, wrecking balls, fences, walls.

The inevitability of change. The constancy of The Berghoff.

One thought on “Member Monday: The Berghoff

  1. Wow. Flashback back to what has to be one of the consistently best German-American food in America. A date at Berghof’s WAS really something special. Other than clients being dressed much more casually, it seems one of the few things that remains unchanged as I age and thank you, Jeanne, for so beautifully preserving a pristine piece of the very heart of Chicago.

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