Monday, January 16, 2006

Look for the Union Napkin

A Chicago Tribune story about the closing of the legendary, 107-year-old Berghoff Restaurant wonders whether the union staff was part of the reason for closing. It is particularly suspicious since the business will be somewhat resurrected later this year as a bar and cafe bearing the Berghoff moniker. Half a century ago, there were almost 70 unionized restaurants in Chicago, but now there are only ten. I'll have to confess my ignorance here -- I didn't know there were any union restaurants. The Trib includes a list of them:
Berghoff (until February 28)
Gene & Georgetti
Italian Village
Navy Pier Beer Garden
Pizzeria Uno (the original, not the chain)
Pizzeria Due
Signature Room on the 95th (John Hancock Center)
Su Casa
Tony & Tina's Wedding (dinner theatre show)
Out of that list, Uno, Due and Su Casa were all founded by the same person, Ike Sewell. I've been to Uno, Italian Village, and the Signature Room. My wife wants to go to Berghoff before it closes, but I'm not really interested. Aside from bratwurst, I'm not much for German food despite my Becker blood. I am surprised that the press coverage of Berghoff never mentions the North Side German dining institution Zum Deutschen Eck, which closed six years ago. While the Berghoff owners claim business is good, German is not a popular cuisine in Chicago anymore. I can think of a couple of restaurants, including Lincoln Square's Chicago Brauhaus, but there used to be more (Schulien's comes to mind, although at least its replacement, O'Donovan's, still has that restaurant's traditional gimmick -- magic performed live at your table -- that I remember from dinners on the way home from Cubs games as a kid).

While a union supporter would have a hard time patronizing only union restaurants, there are plenty of union hotels in Chicago to choose from. This list surprises me because it includes some cheaper lodging and excludes some expensive hotels. So look for the union towel, too.

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