With fall in full swing and the Oktoberfest spirit still lingering in the air, why not satisfy your craving for German street food at DMen Tap?
Before the DMen Tap opened in Avondale three years ago, its original incarnation in 2014 came in the form of the Dönermen Food Truck operated by Shawn Podgurski and Phil Naumann.
The friends, who had toured for over a decade with the band Sybris [they were on the 2016 Lollapalooza lineup], were later joined by a third business partner, Dave Duchek.
“The [foodtruck name] was too big of a word to say, so on the streets we were known as the DMen,” said Podgurski, “So when we opened the bar, it worked.”
DMen Tap, at 2849 W. Belmont Ave., is known for its döner kebabs and currywurst — both popular street foods in Germany.
Döner kebabs, similar to Middle Eastern shawarma and the Greek gyro, are seasoned meats stacked onto a vertical rotisserie that constantly rotates ensuring the juices baste the tower of meat, while the outer layer gets roasted after each time it’s shaved.
This cooking style dates back to the Ottoman Empire and Turkish immigrants introduced this method of preparing meat to their new neighbors in Germany. The döner at DMen Tap — chicken, beef or lamb — can be served as a wrap, over fries, over rice or vegetarian [seasonal roast vegetable and fresh greens dressed with lemon, tzatziki and harissa.]
“It’s Ger-Turk, the way we have Tex-Mex,” said Podgurski. “At Christkindlmarket, we’re the only booth that does döner kebab. A lot of the German employees love us because it’s a taste of home.”
The currywurst is a grilled bratwurst cut into bite sized slices served with fries and smothered in a curried ketchup sauce. The fine ground pork and veal sausage for the currywurst is sourced from Makowski’s Real Sausage — a fourth generation woman-owned sausage company in Bridgeport.
To ensure authenticity, Podgurski and Naumann traveled to Germany and tried over 300 varieties of currywurst and döner kebabs, even making a pitstop at the now shuttered German Currywurst Museum in Berlin.
“I think we spent more time in there than anyone in the history of that museum,” said Podgursky, adding that the currywurst at DMen Tap has a “100% track record” with German expats.
Executive Chef or Culinary Tsar Kevin Ealey sources yufka [Turkish flatbread] and pide [Turkish pita] from local bakeries like Sanabel Bakery, 4213 N. Kedzie Ave., and Devon Avenue’s Taza Bakery. Custom spice mixes are blended to order from Epic Spices, 1725 W. Chicago Ave.
Other house favorites include house-made harissa spiced crispy chicken wings, sauerkraut balls and poutine.
House-made seitan or tofu sausage are available on request.
The walls are decorated with Dungeons & Dragons inspired artwork — an ode to the open table D&D game nights on Wednesdays. On Thursdays, DMen Tap has karaoke available for guests. And the bar’s popular Krampus celebration begins Dec. 5. [Krampus is a sort of dark Santa Claus, mythical character in European folklore ]. Often at DMen Tap, you’ll find goth, industrial music, modern pop, hip hop and heavy metal on the playlist.
“We’re laid back and we’re fun,” Podgursky said. “We have a banging beer selection, crazy mead selection, our music is top notch, cool art to look at, board games, a back room with vintage video games for free and pinball machines.”
“I was just really drawn to the neighborhood. I love [nearby] Bucket O’ Blood records, they fit in with our vibe. Kuma’s Corner and Beer Temple, something about this area fell into place… it’s a perfect ecosystem.”
Duchek added, “A lot of times people come in and say, ‘This is the type of bar I want to start, this is the type of place I would want to own…’ That’s kind of endearing.”