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German fest, Chinese feast

Mike G | Sep 7, 200308:48 PM

Well, it's funny that after getting grief about mocking the burbs, I should end up having a mainly suburban Chow weekend.

Saturday my wife and I took the kids up to see the German Von Steuben Day/Early Oktoberfest festivities in Lincoln Square. The German community in Chicago is an interesting, and slightly sad, harbinger of things to come for many ethnic communities in Chicago. Which is to say, without constant replenishing via immigration, it's in the process of disappearing entirely. Slowly, to be sure, but since I've lived here more German restaurants and bars along Lincoln have closed than remain. Much of the community has moved to the suburbs-- in the parade, most of the contingent was marching bands and/or groups of middle-aged people in costume from "DANK South" or "DANK West-- and perhaps the most telling sign was that instead of doing a "Taste of Germania," with stands from different restaurants, the entire food and drink aspect of the festival was catered from one restaurant in the burbs (called, inevitably, Black Forest, though I forget what city it was in), and the beers on tap consisted not of diehard German bar brands like DAB or BBK but Beck's, light and dark.

However, once you got past the taste of a fat juicy concession contract being awarded for the wrong reasons, well, nothing wrong with a fat juicy brat fresh off the grill. I would compare it favorably with the Imbisses you see around Germany (well, I assume they're still there, not having been there in many years). The sauerkraut was a little bland, possibly tuned to the little old ladies' palates, but I admired that the desserts, as old ladyish as they seemed, weren't excessively sweet, or Americanized either since one was plum and another was some German word I didn't know, beiderscnekckenhausenfresser, or something like that. It's an interesting Oktoberfest where the dessert seems more German than the beer. (Little old ladies should hit reply to complain about my slander of them now.)

Then today we went to Vital Info's Teevy Challenge lunch at International Plaza, which is, as I've said before, the most authentic example of the food court at the ground level of a Chinese dentist's office to be found anywhere in Chicago. With two kids to watch going crazy, I lost track of the food quickly, so someone else can cover that, but besides the always gracious and entertaining company of fellow 'Hounds, International Plaza remains one of the best examples of how an authentic immigrant experience can be found, hiding in plain sight, in the most middle-American of Chicago burbs. Besides the food court, this little patch of Asia on The 83 includes Diho Market, where (taking the toddler for a stroll) I saw both frozen durian-- in case anyone was looking for one-- and one of the best Asian canned food names ever, "Gelatinous Mutant Coconut Strings." Ha! Try getting Lincoln Park yuppies to buy a foodstuff with "mutant" in its name, but it's all in a day's shopping and eating in Westmont... or wherever the hell we were.

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