Submitted by liz on Wed, 2014-11-12 11:41
Note: The Newberry Library holds the personal papers of author John Drury.
The Wineless Weinstube
We feel sad every time we enter Henry Kau's place. To think that this quaint and charming weinstube, redolent of old times and with a tavern-like interior more interesting and picturesque than any you'll find in Chicago — or Berlin, for that matter — should be without the juice of the grape! What a pity! It fills us with the sort of wistful sadness we feel upon beholding in a museum some delicate old wine glass, now, alas, empty and unused, from the cupboard of a princely household. How many times have we longed, while dining here, for a schoppen of one of those rare old Rhine Valley vintages that Henry Kau used to purvey in the old days — a Scharlachberger or a Rudesheimer — wines that would be so much in keeping with the dark and medieval atmosphere of this restaurant in
South Wells Street.
Thinking these thoughts, we should pine away and die if it were not for the new lease on life we take when the waiter sets before us that which we have ordered. A faint bouquet charms our nostrils; our eyes begin to glisten; and our palate awakens with anticipation. For there before us lies the object for which we usually come to Kau's — fricasseed chicken. It is a culinary masterpiece. Only a woman could prepare it in just this way and we thank the gods for Mrs. Mueller, chef for Henry Kau for thirty-five years, who is responsible for making diners feel no regrets at the absence of wines. English mutton chops, special steaks, Iamb chops, roast lamb, fowls and game in season, are other dishes of the house that are especially notable.
Small wonder, then, that Chicago's kings of finance, captains of industry, merchant princes, and millionaires of all sorts have sat — and still continue to sit — at the tables in this old German weinstube, which is located just around the corner from the La Salle Street financial district. The wholesale district is also nearby.
That world-renowned Chicagoan, General Charles Gates Dawes, at present ambassador to the Court of St. James, dines here frequently when he is in town; here came the late Albert B. Kuppenheimer, clothing manufacturer; it was the favorite eating place of James Simpson, chairman of the board of Marshall Field & Company and head of the Chicago Plan Commission; Louis Eckstein, founder of the Ravinia Opera, has his fricasseed chicken here, as does John J. Mitchell, the banker (the younger), and Charles Netcher, head of the Boston Store; and you're likely to find those two friends, Ludwig Plate, local manager of the North German Lloyd offices, and Dr. Hugo Simon, the German consul, at one of the tables almost any day. Here also came the late Charles Wacker, the city planner, after whom Wacker Drive is named.
That Kau's was built as a temple of wine and food is evidenced on all sides; the white-tiled facade is carved with designs of lobsters and game and monks drinking
wine; the leaded windows of colored glass are covered with culinary symbols; the interior walls are of mahogany paneling and hung with old German color prints of scenes along the Rhine; and back of the service bar is a large painting of the vineyard-covered hills of Bingen-on-the-Rhine, where Henry Kau spent his boyhood.
In 1914, upon his return from a tour of Germany, Henry Kau built this weinstube, embodying in it the best features of the weinstuben he had studied in Berlin. Henry feels that you won't find anything to compare with it in the German capital. It was designed by the late Peter J. Weber, a noted architect who also designed the Ravinia Opera Pavilion and some of the World's Fair buildings in 1893.
All of which is to say that if you are looking for genuine old-time tavern atmosphere, combined with food of the highest excellence, we recommend Henry Kau's without reservations. And you will quickly forget that this is a wineless weinstube.
127 South Wells Street
Open for luncheon and dinner
Table d'hote only — and a bit steep
Maitre d' hotel: Henry Kau