Atlantic Dining Room
Submitted by liz on Wed, 2014-11-12 11:41
Note: The Newberry Library holds the personal papers of author John Drury.
If you've ever been to Heidelberg, that romantic medieval university town on the Neckar, and visited its old Heidelberger Schloss, an outstanding example of German castle architecture, you'll appreciate to the full the charm of the Hotel Atlantic main dining room. If you haven't been to old Heidelberg — well, here's the next best thing to it.
For this small, picturesque dining room used to be the Bauernstube of the Kaiserhof Hotel, a famed hostelry for German-Americans, that formerly stood on the site of the Atlantic. When they tore down the original Kaiserhof many years ago, this dining room, together with the old barroom, was preserved and incorporated into the new building. In no other restaurant in the Windy City can you enjoy the atmosphere of the grand old days as in this place.
If you're an expert antiquarian, however, you'll notice that the Batcernstube is something more than a mere Heidelberg peasant's room, being really a combination of an old German Kneipe (inn room), a medieval hall and a rather luxurious Bauernstube. Everything in the room smacks of medieval Germany — raftered ceiling, high oak wainscoting, heraldic devices, wood carvings, and the murals of Lichtenstein Castle and other historic German landmarks, done by the painter, Edgar Spier Cameron.
To a modern sophisticate, however, it all looks rococo and flowery and unnecessary. But even your sophisticate could not disguise his interest in the most distinguishing feature of this dining room — the thirty-four pyrographic panels at the farther end of the restaurant. In the old days this part used to be the "Ladies' Cafe" of the Bauernstuhe. The panels are set into the German Renaissance-style wainscoting. They are the work of Otto Schwarz Vanderleeden, noted creator of burnt-wood pictures, and the subjects represented are taken chiefly from Goethe's "Faust" and Shakespeare's "Merry Wives of Windsor."
The Atlantic Grill, which is a counter lunch room of the hotel facing directly on Clark Street, formerly was the Kaiserhof Bar and still retains some of the features of the one-time drinking place, notably the seated plaster figure of Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, standing out in haut relief in a centerpiece on the north wall. The ravens are beside him, and he seems to have just been awakened by their cawing after his periodical sleep of a hundred years in the Kyfifhauser Mountains. But Frank L. Hayes, poet of the Chicago Daily News and sometime patron of the lunch room, gives a different interpretation of this figure in a recent poem: "The faces one saw here in nineteen-eleven
One finds here no longer; perhaps they're in heaven. That's why the old king in his niche, looking down, Is knitting his brows in a sorrowful frown."
As for the food served in the main dining room, Herman Schurg, maitre d'hotel, says it is "an international cuisine — with a leaning toward the German." Herman is telling the truth. French, German, English and American dishes — all prepared under the watchful eye of Chef Otto Johannisson, one of Chicago's outstanding cooks — await you at luncheon and dinner. The Atlantic is also noted for its pastries, baked in its own ovens. We like especially the stollen, the recipe of which dates back four hundred years in Teutonic history, and the almond-filled strudel, a delightful creation to go with your coffee. There are French and Danish pastries, cheese cake, and pumpernickel bread and old-fashioned German rye bread, made from sour dough.
And if you want to see some of the noted men of Chicago, men from such landmarks in the vicinity as the Board of Trade, the Stock Exchange, the Federal Building, the Union League Club, the Insurance Exchange Building and the Continental Illinois Bank & Trust Company, come here any day at noon. The late James Patten, the wheat king, ate here, and Arthur Cutten, the present wheat king, comes in often. Here dine such prominent German-Americans as Dr. Otto Schmidt, the historian; Oscar Mayer, the sausage manufacturer; Dr. Hugo Simon, German consul; Dr. Louis B. Schmidt, the noted surgeon; Albert Brietung, the tobacco manufacturer, and Ernest J. Kreutgen, head of the engraving firm. Julius Rosenwald, the philanthropist, dines here frequently, as does James E. Gorman, president of the Rock Island Railroad and Dr. Max Heinus, member of the library board.
The waiters are courteous and considerate and Herman, the maitre d'hotel, will see to it that you are made comfortable. Remember, it's the food that counts — and this is a place for good substantial food.
Hotel Atlantic Dining Room, German-American
316 South Clark Street
Open for luncheon and dinner
Plate luncheon, 85 cents. Table d'hote dinner, $1.25
Also a la carte
Maitre d'hotel: Herman Schurg