Outside of Lincoln Square, German restaurants aren’t all that common in Chicago. But fortunately for beer and sausage fans, Logan is about to get not just one, but three. Rumor has it that the next project from Land and Sea Dept. will bring German influences to the dark bar and dingy bar we know as Ronny’s on California.
Although the Ronny’s project is nothing but food world speculation, we have actual confirmation that the former die-cutting shop on Fullerton and Milwaukee will soon house two Bavarian restaurants in one: the Radler and D.A.S (@dasradler, 2375 N. Milwaukee Ave.).
I stopped by the space in transition a few weeks back to talk with the two men behind this dual restaurant: Adam Hebert and Chef Nathan Sears. Both are known for their time at Vie, the critically acclaimed suburban restaurant headed by Paul Virant (who is actually a consultant at Radler).
Radler, the bigger of the two restaurants, is a 3,200-square-foot beer hall that will feature German and Austrian beers, casual German fare and long communal tables. D.A.S. will be a smaller restaurant within the beerhall with a single chef’s table that will seat around 10 people. Here Chef Sears will serve a six-course contemporary German meal for about $100 per person, with two seatings a night, Thursday through Saturday.
Grubstreet proclaimed that D.A.S. will “snoot-ify” German food, but Chef Sears thinks about it a bit differently: “I wasn’t into the idea of doing German food at first, but we decided it’d be cool to do German without dumbing it down. Everybody does contemporary … contemporary tapas, contemporary this and that. I wanted to do something I’m familiar with—handmade, seasonal, but incorporating the feel of Germany. Tilsit cheese. Smoke. Carp.”
And in reality, German food isn’t all that foreign to a place like Chicago. “The agriculture in the South [of Germany] is just like here in the Midwest: pork, beef, root vegetables, freshwater fish,” adds Hebert, who has spent a good amount of time in Deutschland.
But why two restaurants rather than one? “It’s a way for both of us to keep doing what we love,” says Sears—accessible, affordable fare alongside something different. “People in the industry know me but the general public doesn’t, so D.A.S. alone probably wouldn’t make it. Radler will hold it up.”
To the best of my knowledge, Radler and D.A.S. are the first two-for-one concepts in Chicago. But Sears was quick to point out that they were inspired by a similar concept on the east coast. “PDT is something cool in New York, and we’re kind of playing off that,” he says. Short for Please Don’t Tell, PDT is a speakeasy in the East Village that’s hidden within a hot dog joint called Crif Dogs. Patrons step into the hot dog joint’s vintage phone booth and step out on the other side: an upscale bar where guests can order classy drinks alongside their deep-fried hot dogs.
My next question for the team was about the beer hall’s name. Why Radler? The easy answer, from Sears, was that it’s a German word that Americans actually can pronounce. Hebert fired back with a bit of personal history, noting that back in the day his grandfather, Adam Bach, emigrated from Germany where he was buddies with Ignaz Schwinn, better known as the founder of Schwinn Bicycle Company. When Bach moved to Chicago, he became the first importer of Schwinns to the U.S. So there you have it—a bit of historical connection to the Radler (German, of course, for bicycle*).
The address is listed as 2375 N. Milwaukee Ave., but I entered on the Fullerton side, just east of Gaslight Coffee. Between iPad blueprints and arm gestures, Hebert and Sears described the layout they envision for the two restaurants. Tucked against the façade on the Fullerton side will be D.A.S., the upscale portion of the restaurant, while the rest of the space will be home to Radler.
The first thing that catches your eye when you walk into the construction zone is an ancient but well-preserved mural on the southeast wall. “We didn’t know it was there when we bought the space,” Hebert says. “We found it under drywall one day during construction. When we realized what it was, we started ripping down the drywall like crazy.” The mural reads “Bohemian,” a beer brewed for a number of years in this very space by West Side Brewery, a subsidiary of Conrad Seipp Brewery.
The latest report from the Radler crew is that masonry work is near completion and interior construction is set to begin soon. August and September were thrown out as possible opening months.
In the meantime, you can support the Radler through their Kickstarter campaign, which will be used to commission local artist Andrew Arvanetes to build a bike sculpture and preserve the West Side Brewery mural.
*Correction: Radler literally means “cyclist” and is also a German drink.