When it comes to fusion, West Town spot Funkenhausen, 1709 W. Chicago Ave., might be one of the more unusual restaurants.
The cuisine here is a mixture of German and Southernyes, you read that correctlyreflecting Chef Mark Steuer drawing on his German heritage and Charleston, South Carolina, upbringing.
However, don't expect anything like, say, a sauerbraten-crawfish mix. Funkenhausen's menu is divided into sections such as "Mostly German" and "Southern Inspired." The drink menu has "Drunkenhausen" on the sidereflecting the cheeky playfulness that's throughout the place. (This is even reflected with Ernest Hamingwaya boar's head by the kitchen in the back that's a porcine twist on Steuer's favorite author, according to our server.)
The vibe is a little funky, too, with jazz/funk playing over the sound system and a diverse mix of patrons frequenting the place.
As for the "Drunkenhausen" portion of the menu, I went with a refreshing concoction called The Orange Thing (orange syrup, vodka, lemon and bubbles), but there are other house cocktails, such as German Staycation in Mexico (with tequila, of course) and Hurikan Heidi (with passionfruit, orange, limeand plenty of rum). And, as expected, German and Austrian wines dominate the listing. By the way, my friend was very satisfied with one of the German beers offered.
Regarding the culinary portion of the menu, our server insisted on choosing dishes for us. The good news is that we didn't have to worry about selecting anything; the bad news is that we didn't have to worry about selecting anythingas a couple prominent German dishes (summertime spaetzle and pork-loin schnitzel) were omitted.
Nevertheless, the culinary journey we took was a fascinating one. We started with A Big Garlicky Pretzel (the dish's actual and accurate name)a large, warm, delicious item that came with pimento cheese and white BBQ sauce (a traditionally mayo-based item that's sometimes called Alabama white sauce). The sweet corn (with laughing-bird shrimp, garlic aioli, fresno peppers, dehydrated cornbread and basil) definitely provoked the senses and taste budsin a great way.
My friend then sampled the Riesling steamed mussels and fries (as I only had the latter); she raved about them. Conversely, I sampled the Slagel dry-aged New York strip (as my friend doesn't eat beef); it was cooked very well, although the sides of salsa rossa/cherry-bomb peppers may be a (minor) shock to the gustatory system. (Of note: All of Funkenhausen's disheswhether appetizers, entrees or dessertsare meant to be shared.)
And speaking of desserts, the salted caramel pot du creme is as dreamy as you might imagine. Other dishes include sweet corn and blueberry (blueberry cornbread, sweet-corn ice cream, blueberry caramel and almond buttercream) as well as the Little Peach Piecomplete with buttermilk ice cream, streusel and basil creme anglaise. The only surprise was that there was no German dish there, such as a trifle or bee-sting cake. (And, yes, I know the German chocolate cake is actually an American treat.)
I do recommend Funkenhausen, for sureand I'll have to try the schnitzel when I return.
COVID protocols: Patrons are supposed to wear masks when not eating and drinking, although I noticed several people entering and walking around without them. Funkenhausen staffers definitely wear masks, hand sanitizer is provided at the front desk and the menus are QR-coded (with the codes on the tables).
Note: Funkenhausen items are available for delivery, so there's no reason not to get your Southern/German groove going.
Note: This visit was arranged. Funkenhausen's website is www.funkenhausen.com/.