It'll Cast a Spell Where Else but Schulien's Can You Find Magic, Merriment and a Slice of Strudel?

Article excerpt

Byline: Barbara Vitello Daily Herald Correspondent

- Name: Schulien's Restaurant & Saloon

- Location: 2100 W. Irving Park Road, Chicago (312) 478-2100

- Parking: Lot next door or on the street

- Directions: Kennedy to Irving Park Road, Irving Park east. The tavern is located at the corner of Irving Park and Hoyne

- Area: Far North Side

- Hours: 11:30 a.m. until midnight Tuesday through Friday; 4 p.m. until between midnight and 1 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. Closed Monday

- Libations: Soft drinks, $2; beer, $3.25 to $4; cocktails, $3.75 to $4. Schulien's features its own private label beer (brewed in Chicago) in both a light and dark lager

- Edibles: Great German fare including wiener schnitzel, beef rouladen, sauerbraten, veal bratwurst, Hungarian goulash and other items including seafood, poultry, pasta, chops, steak and hot sandwiches, most ranging from $12.95 to $15.95

- The crowd: Tourists, magic fans, anyone who appreciates good food

- When to go: Anytime, in the evening for magic

- What to wear: Casual

- Specials: Schulien's roving magicians perform close-up magic nightly upon request

Culinary magic isn't the only kind they work at Schulien's Restaurant & Saloon. At this North Side tavern, magic is as much a part of the family business as their hearty German fare and Old World hospitality.

Owner Charlie Schulien - grandson of family patriarch Joseph and son of Matt - greets his customers at the door with a handshake here, a few words there. He knows many of them by name; the ones he doesn't claim to know him. It matters little. Everyone who walks through the door is a friend.

From grandfather to father to son and grandson, the Schulien family has been a fixture on the Chicago scene for the better part of a century.

And they've made magic almost as long. Some 80 years ago, Matt Schulien (Joseph's son and Charlie's father) started doing card tricks behind the bar at his father's saloon. Magic and Schulien's have been synonymous ever since.

According to Charlie, it is the oldest bar in Chicago to feature table magic or close-up magic. Throughout the evening, applause punctuates the quiet chatter as the magicians wend their way through the crowd delighting old and young alike with card tricks and rope tricks, tricks with baseballs and tricks with coins.

"Close-up magic has a certain kind of charm," says Al James, a magician for 25 years. "It's an individual (show) for you and your friends."

Part of its appeal, says James, who has performed at Schulien's for 19 years, is the camaraderie that develops between the magician and his audience.

"You develop a rapport with your audience," he says. But that rapport, however pleasant, doesn't stop the occasional know-it-all from trying to figure out the trick and blab the secret to everyone else. Fortunately, it doesn't happen often.

"The overall reaction is that it's fun," says James. "They're laughing and after a while, they're not trying to catch you."

Not that they could if they tried. These magicians are too good.

"We're sitting this close, (the magic) is right in front of your eyes and you can't see it," says Chris McAuley marveling at James' sleight-of-hand.

Even the regulars are mystified. Fellow restaurateurs Dan and Mary Borchers have been regulars for 16 years. As such, they've seen just about every trick, says Dan. Still, they - along with the rest of the crowd - can't help but enjoy the show.

"The magic is nothing less than the smiles on their faces," said Jim Krzak, a magician for 36 years.

"Magic is like music," he adds. "(It) has a number of principles, and once you have those perfected, you make music."

Schulien's fine reputation isn't based only on magic. Chicagoans, suburbanites and tourists from all over are drawn to the restaurant where chef Willie Karlheim, a native of Germany, creates dishes authentic enough to satisfy even the most discriminating German. …