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Preview: The Radler

Fine dining chefs bring Bavaria just a bit closer

  • Vie's Nathan Sears
Vie's Nathan Sears
October 03, 2012|By Lisa Arnett, @redeyeeats | RedEye

With Oktoberfest in Munich in full swing, Chicago got some beer-tastic news of its own last week: A group of chefs from an award-winning restaurant announced plans to open a Bavarian-style beer hall in the spring or early summe rin Logan Square or Lincoln Park.

The team behind the project includes Nathan Sears, chef de cuisine at Paul Virant's acclaimed restaurant in southwest-suburban Western Springs, and Adam Hebert, who has also worked at Vie. Virant is also on board as a consultant and partner. We talked to Sears about The Radler's German inspiration, the story behind the name and where to look for it in 2013.

The tables will be communal.
"If you think about the big, huge beer halls of Germany, that's what we want to mimic," said Sears. Picture a large space filled with long communal tables—chosen for authenticity's sake, not trendiness. "We're not doing communal tables just to do 'em, [or to] get more people in or anything like that. The concept upholds the idea." Beer-drinking will be the focus, accompanied by a food menu of bar snacks, shareable plates and a half-dozen or so house-made sausages sold by the quarter or half pound.

They hope the name doesn't scare you off.
"We wanted the name to be German but not scare people off," said Sears. "We didn't want it to be like Bierstube or Hoffbrau House or Schnitzelwurst or something like that." The word "radler" means "bicyclist" in German, and it's also the name of a popular beer-hall drink made from beer mixed with soda or lemonade.

It's taking a page from New York's PDT.
Inside The Radler, Sears and company will also run D.A.S., a tiny dining room with as few as eight seats that will serve a German-inspired tasting menu. "We want to treat them as two completely different restaurants, kind of like Frontera and Topolobampo," Sears said. "It's kind of like the weird, trendy thing to do in New York. Like with PDT, you walk into a [hot dog joint] and you go downstairs and it's PDT, one of the best bars in New York supposedly," Sears said. D.A.S. is pronounced "das" and stands for "ding an sitch," a philosophical term that means "thing within itself." Sears said they're planning six to seven courses in the ballpark of $100 per person. "We're going to try to give people an incredible bargain and go back to the old world three-Michelin-star dining like it used to be," he said. "Not chemicals and foams and stuff like that, just the best product we can find, execute it the best we can and present it very traditionally."

There won't be tickets.
D.A.S. won't follow suit with limited-seating restaurants that use an online ticketing system to book diners, including Next, Alinea, Bonsoiree and just-opened Elizabeth. "I'm not a fan of that," said Sears. "Going online, trying to figure out, it reminds me of buying concert tickets when I was 16. It's like, I just want to talk to someone!" he said. Though the exact logistics haven't been nailed down, reservations will be available by phone. The Radler will be first come, first served.

Look for it in Logan or Lincoln.
"We're still bouncing back and forth between Logan Square and Lincoln Park, but we're leaning more toward Logan Square," Sears said. The ETA? Spring or early summer.

lmarnett@tribune.com | @redeyeeats

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