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The Baltimore Sun

Oktoberfest in December at Dunderbak's

Of Merge

I hate the mall. I loathe it, even.

Yet, around the holidays, I steel myself for the obligatory mall trip and dive right in.

Thankfully, there is refuge in the mall from crass commercialism. Just follow the polka-esque beat to the first floor next to Macy's where you'll find Dunderbak's Market Cafe, a German and Bavarian restaurant that's been a tradition in the L.V. since the late '70s.

The mood
A few feet into Dunderbak's and you really feel like you've entered a 24/7 Oktoberfest party.

Everywhere you turn there are photos of German countrysides and cities and beer-filled steins are ubiquitous.

Plus, there is a really cool yellow-striped awning covering the dining room, which gives the whole joint the festive feel of an authentic outdoor Bavarian beer tent.

The food
I was immediately impressed by the quality of food here. It may not be as good as going to Europe, but it might be the next best thing.

My guest and I began with the potato pancakes ($6.29) fried in zero-gram trans fat oil.

These were nice and bite-sized and served with sour cream and apple sauce. Without the trans fat, they were also incredibly crispy and not greasy. Definitely a classic app to begin with.

For the main course, my guest ordered the wienerschnitzel with chunky applesauce and hot German potato salad ($11.89).

Overall, he was pleased with the hearty dish. The breaded and fried veal cutlet was incredibly tender with a full taste. It was bordering on being a little dry but the tears you may shed over eating baby cow will solve that.

The applesauce was definitely chunky but nothing special beyond that, but the potato salad was creamy and bold with a bit of a kick.

Meanwhile, I ordered the Dunderbrat grilled wurst for dinner ($6.95).

Basically a standard Bavarian bratwurst -- ground pork and veal in a seasoned sausage casing -- the Dundebrat is served on a steak roll with melted Swiss cheese and weinkraut (baked sauerkraut with apples).

OK, this is not date food, which was good since I wasn't on one. It's pungent and messy, but tasty.

If you can handle the bold taste and sometimes-chewy casing, it's a great meal. It's everything you expect from a brat at a German joint. The seasoning and taste combinations were perfect.

But you will be burping something heinous later.

The drinks
Dunderbak's has a really nice selection of both foreign and domestic draft and bottled beers.

If you're in the Oktoberfest mood, I'd highly recommend a stein of Spaten Optimator dopple bock ($4). This dark brew from Munich is strong but has a smooth malt taste that goes down easy.

If you're feeling really brave, choose the tangy Hofbrau Munchen in a 32-ounce mug ($6.95).

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