For Illinoisans seeking a weekend getaway or a day trip to Wisconsin, routes 31 and 12 in McHenry County are a means to an end.
The last stop in Illinois along those roads on the way to Wisconsin is the village of Richmond, a community with a historic downtown, a few high-end restaurants and Anderson’s Candy Shop.
Yes, Richmond has reasons for Land of Lincoln residents to stop and sit awhile, including Richmond BratHaus at 10310 Main St.
At this time of year, the BratHaus has open-air seating overlooking a busy Main Street (Route 12), complementing the long, vintage bar and tables inside a brick-walled dining room.
The atmosphere is warm and inviting. The words “Gunter Glieben Glauchen Globen” from Def Leppard’s 1980s hit “Rock of Ages” are painted along one of the walls across from the bar. A few guests, including our party, took a photo of the words, which sound German, but Def Leppard members claim mean nothing.
The BratHaus menu is large, and includes soups, sandwiches, burgers and a long list of appetizers and sides.
We started with BratHaus’ signature Colossal Bavarian Pretzel ($20) with bier cheese, garlic aioli and honey mustard dipping sauces. Colossal is an understatement. This pretzel was presented on a large metal tray made for a large pizza, arriving lathered with butter and sprinkled with salt. The wash of butter gives the pretzel a glow, and the inside is soft, but not chewy. We took home more than two-thirds of the pretzel, wanting to save room for our meals.
One dish was the Jaeger Schnitzel ($12), with mushroom gravy and grilled onions on a roll, and a side of warm German potato salad. It was made of tender pork tenderloin with a crispy coating. The mushroom gravy was flavorful, and the German potato salad was the real deal, sweet with a hint of vinegar.
Our second meal, of course, was a bratwurst.
The BratHaus has 11 styles of wurst (from $11 to $14): Polishwurst, Polish sausage; Hotwurst, sauerkraut and giardiniera; Bavarianwurst, bratwurst with grilled onions and sauerkraut; Currywurst with curry ketchup and raw onion; Hauswurst, with bier cheese, grilled onions and bacon; Shroomwurst, a portobello-Swiss stuffed brat, grilled onions and mushroom gravy; Chili Cheese Wurst, with chili, bier cheese, onion and jalapeños; Mexwurst, bratwurst, chorizo, bier cheese and fried jalapeños; Carolina Wurst, smoked bacon jalapeño cheddarwurst, pulled pork, cherry chipotle barbecue and coleslaw; Big Fat Greekwurst, bratwurst, gyro, tomato, onion and tzatziki; and a traditional Bratwurst.
We went with the Bavarianwurst, choosing an upgraded side of mac and cheese (an extra $5). The bratwurst was tasty, and the onion and sauerkraut a nice buttery accompaniment. We’re used to a grilled brat, and this appeared to be deep-fried.
The side of mac and cheese was outstanding: the mac done perfectly, and the cheese similar to the bier cheese, topped with a healthy helping of finely grated cheddar. Talk about comfort food, this was like a big hug.
Richmond BratHaus is definitely worth the stop, no matter what direction you are heading.
• The Mystery Diner is a newsroom employee at the Northwest Herald. The diner’s identity is not revealed to the restaurant staff before or during the meal. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a review.
Seeking reader suggestions: We welcome readers to share their recommendations of places they would like the Mystery Diner to visit. Email ideas to email@example.com.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Richmond BratHaus
WHERE: 10310 Main St., Richmond
CORRECTION: This article was updated Sept. 7 to correct which route Main Street is at this location. It is Route 12.