Monday, December 16, 2013

The Chicago Dining World Tour: Laschet's Inn Provides a Warm German 'Willkommen'

Laschet's Inn
2119 W. Irving Park Rd., Chicago

What I ate: Hackepeter (appetizer), Rouladen, Sauerkraut Soup, Apple Streudel, Bayreuth Zwickl (beer), Apple Schnapps

It wasn't part of any grand plan for a German restaurant to follow an Austrian one on my Chicago Dining World Tour.

Although Laschet's Inn--the top-rated or at least first listed local German restauant on Yelp--was on my shortlist of ethnic eateries I wanted to explore, on the night I ate there I was actually aiming to partake of a different cultural cuisine.

But I found the other place unexpectedly closed (hopefully not for good) and getting to Irving Park Rd. near Damen wasn't too extreme a detour.

I arrived to find a bar that instantly felt like one of those "cool old places" one occasionally stumbles across in Chicago. While there weren't a ton of restaurant tables, they were in a section that extended pretty far back.

I was greeted and seated by a wonderfully friendly hostess--she may well have been a manager of sorts--and then helped by a waitress who was also terrifically nice and informative in helping me hone in on quintessentially German selections.

Though I'm not much of a drinker, I felt compelled to get a stein of German beer as Laschet's had a dozen on draft.

The waitress, JoJo, guided me to a Bayreuth Zwickl--"tickle your Zwickl," she enthused--saying that the unfiltered lager was surprisingly smooth and deceivingly dark.

Which I found to be rather accurate, as the beer was not nearly as heavy, stout or bittter as I might have guessed, even given her advice. 

For an appetizer, I ordered Hackepeter = steak tartare with capers and onions. JoJo not only indicated that it was rather emblematic, but provided instruction on the proper way to eat it. 

With the steak tartare already on small pieces of bread, you smoosh it down onto capers and onions that you put on a side dish, then sprinkle on some maggi sauce.

My entree included complimentary soup and I chose Sauerkraut Soup over another option I can no longer recall. 

Sauerkraut itself doesn't do much for me; it's fine on a Reuben or Brat, but I never like too much heaped on. So i was somewhat surprised to find the soup as enjoyable as I did. Some accompanying rye bread was also very good.

Not only did Rouladen (rolled beef; served with spaetze and German red cabbage) sound good among the entrees on the menu, but in describing what it entails--including mustard, onions and more--and in saying she had eaten it as a kid, JoJo convinced me it was a wise choice. (It also sounded different than anything I recalled on the menu at Cafe Vienna, the Austrian place at which I recently dined.)

It was good, although a bit too heavy and hearty. I could only get through one of the meat rolls--I took the other home for a second satisfying meal--but found it to be rather tasty. 

I also enjoyed the spaetzle, which is something akin to a bunch of noodles, or gnocchi, but isn't.

After my main course, JoJo told me I was entitled to a complimentary schnapps and offered me a variety of flavors.

I chose apple, which went well with the apple streudel I selected as a dessert. It was excellent, as was my entire meal and experience.

For although I've long been familiar with German sausages such as Bratwurst and Thuringer--both on the menu at Laschet's Inn--this was certainly a "Sethnic expedition" that expanded my awareness of a cultural cuisine.

And from Wilkommen to Auf Wiedersehen, the service was about the friendliest I've yet encountered on my Chicago Dining World Tour.

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