Route 66 News

Berghoff reopens as the Berghoff Cafe

The Berghoff restaurant, which occupied a section of old Route 66 in Chicago for 107 years, closed earlier this year.

However, the Chicago Tribune reports that the space has reopened as the Berghoff Cafe.

Everything is pretty much the same as it was before in this jammed cafeteria-style eatery in the lower level of the Berghoff complex at 17 W. Adams St. The transformation of the Berghoff will eventually incorporate three distinct entities: this "new" Berghoff Cafe, the Century Room and 17 West.

Lunchers have been packing into the Cafe at an estimated 500 a day, according to restaurant spokesperson Jennifer Connelly. And, indeed, when this reporter arrived at 11:20 a.m. for a light lunch of Wiener schnitzel, mashed potatoes, creamed spinach, beet salad, German potato salad, apple strudel and a Berghoff Root Beer (diet, of course), she was already facing a healthy line. But the food was worth the wait.

Although four sandwiches have inched up in price, the rest of the cafe's mostly sandwich, salad, pizza and pasta menu (with two German daily specials) has remained the same. The cost for my hefty Teutonic Berghoff Cafe lunch: $20.12 with tax.

The Chicago Sun-Times report contains this interesting snippet:

Indeed, so little about the new Berghoff Cafe, which opened quietly Tuesday, was different from the old, "It's a mystery to me why they ever closed," said longtime Berghoff customer Arthur Raphael, 66.

The main difference, one not overlooked by customers, seemed to be the absence of the Berghoff's longtime unionized workers.

A busboy who worked in the restaurant for 30 years said he and a few of his fellow staffers applied and were re-hired for the downstairs cafe.

"The prices appear to be the same, but not the employees," said Raphael, an attorney whose office is less than a block away. "It's a shame they're not here."

The old Berghoff was one of the few Chicago restaurants to still employ union cooks and servers, leading some observers to wonder whether the closing had more to do with rising employee costs.

"We had to do it the way we did it," Carlyn Berghoff said of the speculation.

Is it rash of me to accuse the Berghoff's owners for briefly closing the restaurant to bust the union? I don't know what other conclusion I would draw.

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