Wednesday, September 19, 2012

[HOT LIST] German food

Cheese and sausage platter at the Berkley Front. All photos by Nicole Rupersburg.

Pretzels and mustard. Sausage and sauerkraut. Beer and ... beer. And cheese. And beer. And more sausage. Beer, brot* and brats are the base elements of German cuisine -- much as the Irish stew everything, the Germans grind everything and stuff it inside animal intestine then eat it with beer. So what I'm getting at here is that they're really into sausage -- bratwurst and knackwurst and wieners of various form.

With Oktoberfest officially beginning this Saturday there is no shortage of Oktoberfest-themed parties at brewpubs and restaurants all over metro Detroit (basically it's St. Patrick's Day: The Fall Edition, but with lederhosen instead of leprechauns), but these are the places where it's pretty much Oktoberfest all year round. Some are decidedly German; others are German in spirit if not so much in name and décor. PS, straight-up cheese and meat plates totally count -- in Germany it's called Frühstück if it's breakfast, Abendbrot if it's dinner; either way it is an extremely common meal (served with bread, mustard and other accoutrements; many sauered, of course). Plus bier. Viele bier.

I never said it was pretty.
#1 Richter's Chalet (Dearborn)
I love this place so hard. From the Bavarian chalet-style facade (barely noticeable from the road as it is located right where Telegraph eats Michigan Ave.) and the lovely older ladies who take exceptionally good care of each customer, right down to the German music playing nonstop (everything from polka to German pop, which is really, really bad), this place is homey and quaint and kind of kitschy and totally adorbs. Specialties include Jaeger Schnitzel (sauteed veal with mushrooms in gravy) and Rindsroulade (round steak rolled and stuffed with bacon, rice and onion served in gravy), and schnitzel and sauerbraten and spätzle and Spaten ... German words are fun. They've also got Bavarian chicken dinners as well as American options, and entrees come with about 18 different sides for under $15 so come hungry.

#2 Jacoby's German Biergarten (Detroit)
"Spaghetti and meatballs" in German is Koenigsberger Klopps. That's actually not a literal translation but basically it's German meatballs over slightly crispy spätzle covered in lemon beurre blanc served with a side of red cabbage, and you can get it -- as well as a variety of other German specialties and American pub food -- at Jacoby's Biergarten (though, technically, the name is a misnomer; really it's just an indoor beer hall). They've got a great selection of German beers and other imports with a smattering of Michigan crafts to keep everyone happy, plus they've got those communal tables everyone seems to be so fond of now and have had them for, like, over 100 years. Once upon a time -- in the before time, the long long ago -- the beer hall upstairs was a riot on weekends, but now they just rent it out for private parties. Back in the days when people hung out in Detroit not because there was some intrinsic value attached to hanging out in Detroit but because it was cheap and kind of seedy and nowhere carded or cared was when Jacoby's used to have live music upstairs every weekend, but those days are gone and now people would rather drink in empty lots without indoor plumbing. (Though, to be fair, Jacoby's version of indoor plumbing isn't much of an improvement over an outhouse.)

#3 Dakota Inn Rathskeller (Detroit)
They serve traditional German dishes, but that's not why people come here. People come here for the chicken hats. At the Dakota Inn, located in Detroit's Palmer Park neighborhood and owned by the Kurz family since 1933, Oktoberfest is six weeks of sing-alongs and ceremonial keg tappings. And chicken hats. Design nurds will dig the beautiful Bavarian architecture and rugged antique furniture (and cuckoo clock!), beeries will lurv the selection of seasonal German biers, and everyone will love the polka because polka is the music of The People.

The Dakota Inn.

#4 Wurst Bar (Ypsilanti)
Wat is more German than wurst? The Wurst Bar might not be QUOTE-UNQUOTE "German" per se, but close enough. Beer? Check. (Really killer Michigan beer at that.) Brats? Pick an animal. There might not be sing-alongs or chicken hats, but all craft on draft is $2 after 8 p.m. on Fridays and probably that is all you really need to start your own damn sing-along. To, like, Slayer or something.

#5 Metzger's German Restaurant (Ann Arbor)
They've been serving traditional German dishes like schnitzel and stuffed cabbage for over 80 years, and they also pack some awesome German beers like Einbecker Schwartz. Try the "Haus Platter for Two" with wiener schnitzel, bratwurst, mettwurst, knockwurst, spätzle, sauerkraut, red cabbage, potato salad and house salad or soup for the most delicious of Deutsch-ish experiences. (Alternatively, their fresh lake perch is also a house specialty.)

Bubbling under Ye Olde Tap Room (Detroit), Fort Street Brewery (Lincoln Park), Berkley Front (Berkley), Biercamp (Ann Arbor), Heidelberg Restaurant (Ann Arbor), Schnäck (Detroit-area pop-up), One-Eyed Betty's (Ferndale), Georgio's Apple Orchard Inn (Washington)

*brot = "bread"

 Richter's Chalet on Urbanspoon