Oktoberfest celebrations begin

September 16, 2009 1:54:18 PM PDT
Even though the calendar still says September, plenty of local Oktoberfest celebrations are getting under way, beginning with The Berghoff in the Loop, which starts today and runs through Friday.But our Hungry Hound says there will also be some lively Oktoberfest celebrations going on in the suburbs, including one in Lake Zurich in a few weeks. It promises to be a festive occasion.

From Edelweiss in Norridge, to the Schnitzel Platz in Glendale Heights, there are quite a few suburban Oktoberfest celebrations in the works. But one of the most robust will be taking place in Lake Zurich, where the descendents of a famous Chicago sausage maker are now planning their annual pork and beer fest, to the delight of residents from all over the northwest suburbs.

You don't have to wait until the fall to dig into hearty German fare. At Fritzl's European Restaurant and Pub in Lake Zurich, they've been serving homemade sausages and sauerkraut for nearly 25 years.

"You could make it Oktoberfest here in February if you like, but truly, from Labor Day to Halloween, it's really ramped up, and it's a great stop," said Peter Tschurtz, owner of Fritzl's.

Peter's grandfather is the restaurant's namesake. An Austrian butcher and immigrant in the 1950s, his son Robert fell into the family business, opening up legendary shops like the Black Forest Market and Bob's Finer Foods.

"Dad first started in the '50s, and his first place that he owned and operated was in 1961, Lincoln and Belmont," Tschurtz said.

That led to German food stores in Morton Grove and Glenview...until the 1980s, when Peter's brother, Bob, asked his father to open a restaurant. Lake Zurich seemed like a logical, albeit, symbolic destination, and so platters of roast pork, schnitzel and spaetzle were born, fed to a very eager clientele. As they gear up for their annual Oktoberfest celebration, it's all about the platters.

"Every single night we have the Oktoberfest platter: Nuremburg sausages, chicken schnitzel, roast smoked loin of pork, sauerkraut, potato salad, all homemade," said Tschurtz.

There are items beyond pork here -- whole-roasted duck, purple cabbage -- but clearly, pork is king. From grilled sausages to a Fred Flintstone-sized pork shank served over a bed of melted onions.

Desserts are traditional, both Austrian and German-inspired. That means a dense, chocolaty Sacher torte, a Black Forest cherry torte or just simple-yet-addictive apple strudel -- even better a la mode. Tschurtz says his family's No. 1 goal is to satisfy cravings for anything remotely German or Austrian, especially this time of year.

"Pretty much everything in addition to your rouladens, wiener schnitzels, liver dumpling soup, apple streudals, you can find it all," said Tschurtz.

Fritzl's Oktoberfest party is slated for October 9. Bu,t as Peter said, you can enjoy the sausage, potato salad and cabbage-filled platters any day of the week, all year long.

Fritzl's
377 N. Rand Rd., Lake Zurich
847-540-8844
Oktoberfest, Oct. 9

The 24th annual Berghoff Oktoberfest
September 16 - 18 from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
Held on Federal Plaza at Adams and Dearborn Streets


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