Frankfort, IL is a far-southern suburb of Chicago and named after the city of Frankfurt in Germany. German immigrants settled in the area in the 1840's, so there is a strong German heritage in the town. So, of course, there has to be a German restaurant in the area and on a visit earlier this year to see a dealer in downtown Frankfort, I passed by a large sign on S. LaGrange Road that read Chef Klaus' Bier Stube. I was hungry and after I called on the dealer in Frankfort, I made my way back to Chef Klaus' and try their German food.
You'd think a guy by the name of Klaus Ditschler would be born and raised in Germany, but that wasn't the case. In fact, Klaus Ditschler was born in the United States and the first time that he went to Germany was when he was stationed there with the U.S. Army in the late 50's. After getting out of the Army, he ended up back in Frankfort opening the first of what turned out to be a handful of German restaurants in the area.
Pictured left - Chef Klaus Ditschler
The original Chef Klaus' Bier Stube was located in the historic downtown area of Frankfort, it's huge beer garden a huge draw in the warmer months. Tragedy hit in 2001 when a devastating fire took out the building in which Chef Klaus' was housed. He had just opened a second restaurant in nearby Peotone, IL, but he wanted to reopen a restaurant in Frankfort. He was able to find a large space in the Frankfort Town Center on the north side of the town. Klaus Ditschler also opened Chef Klaus' Country Kitchen in the town of Mokena, north and west of Frankfort with his son, Michael, in charge of that location. There was also a Chef Klaus' steakhouse that was open for awhile in Frankfort.
Unfortunately, Klaus Ditschler passed away in 2012 at the age of 77 leaving his restaurants to Michael and his other son, Karl. Nothing changed in the Chef Klaus' Bier Stube kitchen as head chef Ernesto Luciano continued with the restaurant. He had worked side by side with Klaus Ditschler for over 35 years - Ernesto's brother, Savano, also worked for Ditschler for over 30 years. After the death of their father, the Ditschler's eventually closed the Peotone location in April of 2013 focusing on the Mokena and Frankfort Chef Klaus' restaurants.
You can't miss the sign along S. LaGrange Road touting Chef Klaus' Bier Stube. It's located on the east side of the strip mall that includes a couple of other restaurants and a grocery store located just north of U.S. Highway 30. (see map) There was plenty of parking in front of the restaurant.
From the front, it didn't look much like a German restaurant. It had a faux wooden front with a white picket fence in front of the building. But going inside, it looked like a German restaurant. An overly kitschy German restaurant filled with carved wooden clocks and artifacts, beer steins, and painted plates. On Friday and Saturday evenings, Chef Klaus' hosts a duo playing German polka music.
There was a nice bar area with an old walnut bar and flat screen televisions hung high above the back bar. They have a number of imported bottles as well as at least 7 different types of German beers on tap.
Hanging from the ceiling were deer-rack lighting fixtures, models of vintage planes and military jets, as well as a number of hunting and army rifles. It was some of the most peculiar decorations I've seen in any restaurant - even ones that are trying to be kitschy with their decor.
There were also a number of World War II memorabilia on display, including some toy soldiers and old weapons on display. I've read that at one point they used to have some Nazi Germany memorabilia on display, but I didn't see any of that on this visit. But, then again, my wife says I'm not very observant.
I was seated near the bar and given a menu. My server came over to greet me - well, greet is not the operative term here. She was rather surly with a gruff, "What do you want to drink?" I hadn't looked at the beer list yet and I said I'd just have water. She scurried off to get my water and it allowed me time to look over the beer menu. They had Spaten on tap and I asked her if I could get one of those when she brought my water to me. She sort of took a deep breath and asked if I wanted a small or a large. I ordered a large and she wordlessly turned away from me and bellowed at the bartender, "Spaten! Tall!" She brought it back to my table and sort of dropped it on the beer coaster, splashing some out of the glass. She turned and walked away without offering to clean up the spill.
My server didn't come back to my table for a good ten minutes after that giving me a chance to A) Look over the menu; and B) To realize that my Spaten was sort of flat tasting. I didn't have the heart - or the guts - to tell her that I thought it was flat. I just went ahead and drank the beer down without saying a word.
It's a full menu at Chef Klaus' - steaks, roast duck, chicken, seafood, ribs, and, of course, German specialties. They had Hungarian goulash, Kasseler Rippchen (cured and smoked pork chops), a sausage platter, and nearly a dozen of different types of pork schnitzel dishes - all of which could be made with veal instead of pork.
When my surly server finally came back to take my order, I got the Jagerschnitzel - a breaded sautéed pork cutlet topped with chopped bacon and imported mushrooms. She was much more pleasant in her demeanor and I asked her if I could get a tall Warsteiner this time around. "Coming right up," she said in a cheery voice.
Along with the main entree, I got a relish plate with a liver paté, carrot and celery sticks, three different types of bread including a dark pumpernickel bread that was very good, and a cup of a mushroom rice soup that was also very good and very hearty. They had a cinnamon honey butter along with regular whipped butter in a small bowl. There was a lot of stuff on the table long before she brought my jagerschnitzel out.
I didn't want to overeat the preamble to the meal and I'm glad I held back as much as I did. When she brought it to the table, my eyes must have gotten as big as saucers. This was a BIG plate of jagerschnitzel topped with a brown sauce, the chopped bacon and the sliced sautéed mushrooms. I got a choice of two sides with the jagerschnitzel and I got the potato dumpling in a gravy, and red cabbage. There was little to no chance that I'd be able to eat all of this meal.
But I made a pretty good dent in it. It was somewhat different in taste from other jagerschnitzel dishes that I've had in the past. I wish I knew my spices and herbs better, but there was some taste in the gravy that was pronounced and very distinct. I wasn't quite certain what it was, but I liked it. The pork cutlets were tender and had a good flavor above and beyond the taste of the gravy. The chopped bacon and sliced mushrooms only enhanced the overall taste of the jagerschnitzel. The only regret I had was that it was too much food and I couldn't take the leftovers because I was traveling.
By the time I was ready to leave, my server - who was cold, gruff and testy when I first came in - turned her attitude 180 degrees and turned out to be a nice person. And it turned out to be a pretty good meal at Chef Klaus' Bier Stube. And it was a lot of food at a pretty good price. It was too bad that I couldn't finish all of the meal - everything from the bread, the soup, the schnitzel, even the potato dumpling and the red cabbage (the two bites I had of each) were all very good. Chef Klaus' was a great find and the big sign out front helped steer me in.