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Das Biergarten review: Long Beach beer hall is warm, welcoming

Traditional German pretzels and bratwurst are served at

Traditional German pretzels and bratwurst are served at Das Biergarten's Oktoberfest celebration in Long Beach. Credit: Ryan C. Jones

Restaurateur Andrew Hetzler, who grew up steeped in German-Bavarian culture, realized a childhood dream when he launched Das Biergarten, a Long Beach beer hall and restaurant. His place radiates "Gemutlichkeit," a feeling of warmth and welcome. Weekends, the action really gets going, with live German music and all kinds of beer-drinking festivities at long communal wooden tables.

On a quieter weeknight, a waitress attired in a traditional Bavarian dirndl ferries outsize steins of beer to diners. A favorite quaff is Schofferhofer grapefruit hefeweizen, a fruity, citrusy brew. The ideal accompaniment for most any beer is "das pretzel," a big, warm twist of baked dough, served with superior house-made mustard plus beer cheese. The same pretzel stars in an appetizer called the "traditional obatzda," only it's served with an herbed -- and somewhat sharp-tasting -- Bavarian cheese spread. For something more universally appealing, try chef Ryan Lattmann's crisp, comforting potato pancakes. And, on a chilly day, a bowl of hearty beef goulash.

Tops among a trio of wursts -- available in appetizer or entree form -- is the well-spiced bratwurst, followed by the garlicky pink bier sausage and, in last place, weisswurst -- white veal sausage, which is a bit bland. To get the best of the wursts, order a classic bratwurst sandwich on a pretzel bun, the plump grilled sausage topped with sauerkraut and served with spiced mustard.

An entree you'll see at many a table is schweinshaxe, a big, crisp-skinned roasted pork shank served with the ever-versatile red cabbage. Instead of the somewhat odd-tasting and weighty potato dumpling (which has a pretzel crouton in the middle), request spaetzle, soft little egg noodle dumplings, instead. The butter-browned nuggets also accompany a properly vinegary sauerbraten, or pot roast, as well as "das jagerschnitzel," a breaded and fried pork cutlet in a somewhat pasty bacon-mushroom gravy. "Das schnitzel" features the same pork cutlet, only naked with sweet lingonberry jam and warm potato salad on the side. It's a plate of food that, while not bad, lacks oomph.

Bypass the somewhat starchy house-made rice pudding in favor of warm, flaky apple strudel -- actually a turnover cut into slices. Capped with vanilla bean ice cream, it's an ideal way to end a meal at this festive, friendly spot.

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