- Casey Howell
- Oh, hey Reuben
Blame it on my love of accordions and early exposure to conjunto…but I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for German food. I was originally introduced to vinegary hot potato salad, brats and sauerkraut at Beethoven Maennerchor Halle und Garten in Southtown, where pals and I have congregated almost monthly to celebrate the end of the week.
And once you get a few beers in them, my pals often have the same lament: Why aren’t there more German/Czech eateries in town? Where can you find good spätzle? Why do we have to wait until Oktoberfest or Wurstfest to enjoy some tasty wurst? Well, we don’t.
Bavarian Brauhaus opened early this spring at the corner of West and Bitters with a tightly constructed menu and a thoughtful, but sparse, atmosphere that features German flags, fancy steins and several strands of globe lights hung throughout the inside of the eatery. Bavarian also doesn’t show a sign of compromise. The restaurant avoided the pratfalls of its suburbanite counterparts by forgoing a giant menu filled with just about everything to appease just about every type of customer.
Instead, chef Robert Blake, and owners Ralph and Carrie Richardson, built a varied list, heavy on the German nomenclature. Vorspeisen (appetizers), suppen und salat (soups and salads), hauptgerichte (entrees), sandwiche (I mean, really), beilagen (sides) and nachspeisen (dessert) are available, and there’s a small but fierce beer and wine list that includes Deutschland imports to wash down your meal.
My first visit, on a recent Monday evening (which happens to be $2.50 draft pint night), was met with a handful of male servers and runners (yes, quite literally a sausage fest), and aside from their attentive service, the wait staff also proved quite knowledgeable, pronouncing just about every menu item with impeccable German intonation. My dining pal and I settled on the wurst sampler ($10.99 for two, with a $3.50 charge for a third wurst) served with hot sauerkraut and fresh bread. We chose the bratwurst—regular and jalapeño—and added the currywurst to our spread. While the jalapeño featured enough heat, the brat was slightly overcooked. No worries, the standard option was spot on, while the currywurst was our hands-down favorite, as a sweet and mild tomato sauce elevated what would have been a traditional curry ketchup experience.
I committed to the pork (although an authentic veal variety was offered) wiener schnitzel while my dining companion loaded up on sides, and only sides. I can’t necessarily fault her—the red cabbage blaukraut was sweet, while the bratkartoffein (pan-fried potatoes and onions), and yes, more sauerkraut, was more than welcome and ridiculously plentiful. These are sharing sides, to be sure. But back to my schnitzel, which really did demand my attention. Flanked on either of the plate by cold German potato salad and slightly citrusy spätzle was a thin, butterflied cutlet, breaded, fried and delicious. The side of brown gravy available wasn’t entirely needed, but I wouldn’t push it away from the table either. We might have wrecked our appetites with the wurst sampler, but even so, the wiener schnitzel was huge…and yet, in case you do want to take on a huge hunk of pork, the menu offers a Texas schnitzel billed as “extra large.”
We wound down our evening, pleasantly sated, but with just enough room in our bellies to share a piece of Oma’s blechkuchen, or chocolate sheath cake with walnuts. Tasty and soft, the cake’s only hiccup was too much prefabricated chocolate sauce.
Upon my return visit days later, the oompah jams were still streaming from the sound system and a sizable lunch crowd chatted over Reuben sammies. I followed suit and ordered the Reuben lunch combo, a half sandwich with either a soup of salad. The maultaschensuppe, which the server described as a beef broth with dumplings, was tasty if heavy on the salt, but the stuffed dumpling, filled with beef, spinach and sautéed onions was especially comforting. The Reuben on the other hand was a hit with house-made corned beef, sauerkraut, melted Swiss and just a touch of Thousand Island dressing on toasted rye. It’s reason enough to return, and reason enough to finally purchase my own dirndl.
300 W Bitters
Skinny: Bavarian Brauhaus brings back German fare and wares in a pub-style setting
Best Bets: Currywurst, wiener schnitzel, Reuben sandwich, spätzle
Hours: 11am-10pm Mon-Thu; 11am-11pm Fri-Sat; 11am-9pm Sun
Price: $6.29-$7.99 lunch; $5.99-$22.99 dinner