The restaurant’s founder, Herman Joseph Berghoff, an immigrant to America in 1870 from Dortmund, Germany, began brewing Berghoff Beer in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1887 as a family enterprise with his three brothers, Henry, Hubert and Gustav. A promoter by nature known for his sparkling blue eyes and determination, Herman dreamed of expanding the market for his beer beyond Indiana.
The Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 proved to be a perfect introduction when he sold the beer to fair-goers on the now-famous Midway. Inspired by the wide public acclaim the beer received at the fair, Herman opened the Berghoff Cafe in 1898 to showcase his celebrated Dortmunder-style beer. Originally located at the corner of State and Adams streets, one door down from its present location, the bar sold beer for a nickel and offered sandwiches for free. “We’ll give the Dutchman six months,” said Herman’s critics. He proved them wrong, and the bar prospered even during Prohibition (1918-1933) when it served near beer and Bergo Soda Pop. Unable to rely on beer sales alone, the bar expanded into a full-service restaurant, which earned its own strong reputation by Prohibition’s end.
Surviving Prohibition and obtaining Chicago’s No. 1 Liquor License, the Berghoff declared itself a Chicago staple. Throughout the years, the Berghoff continues to set the bar for casual dining experiences. At today’s Berghoff, menus have evolved to add newer, lighter and more contemporary dishes, but it’s still the same old Berghoff, down to the famous Berghoff Root Beer.