Owners Scott Bauer and Nate McKinney have tapped into a tiny slice of Germany's famous beer halls at Das Bier Haus in Federal Hill.
Mugs of beer, hearty fare and communal tables have been drawing diners to the convivial corner space since it opened Jan. 7.
Bauer got the idea for the restaurant while visiting Oktoberfest in Munich a few years ago. "This is about beer, pretzels and sausages," Bauer said. "We also put our spin on it with burgers and wings."
When the former Langermann's on Light space became available, Bauer, who has a bartending background, and McKinley, who provides the business acumen, joined forces.
Bauer collaborated with chef Chad Novak, who has a German background, to come up with a menu, which includes Old World dishes with a modern update and fare like poutine with grilled asparagus and a kale Caesar salad. There's also a weekend brunch menu.
While the half-liter, liter and three-liter "das boot" glasses of beer are popular, nonalcoholic drinks like sodas and iced tea, as well as the food, bring in families. Members of the German Society of Maryland are also frequent visitors, Bauer said.
"We're very open to having fun," he said.
Scene & Decor The Americanized German beer hall/sports bar has long tables and benches for diners to scoot next to each other and a large bar area. The clean lines of the room are accentuated by wood floors, brick and stone walls, and a stainless-steel open kitchen in the rear. It's a bright, cheerful atmosphere to nosh on food or to watch a game. An Orioles preseason match was airing when we were there.
Appetizers Bavarian pretzels in two sizes, giant (five inches) and king (10 inches), can be ordered plain or dressed up with options like cheese and crab. We held off on the soft knot of bread until dessert. Instead, we dipped into a robust potato and Pilsner soup ($5) that had bits of smoked bacon and chunks of potatoes and carrots in a mild vegetable Pilsner broth. It was a soothing, flavorful concoction. We really liked the fried potato pancakes, or kartoffelpuffer ($8), accompanied by applesauce and dill sour cream. Our only quibble was that they were overcooked around the edges.
Entrees Sausages come from Binkert's German Meat Products, a local purveyor since the 1960s, and you won't go wrong with the restaurant's Debenziner ($10). A soft bun cradles a plump smoked pork link beneath a blanket of sauerkraut with spicy mustard on the side. A veal schnitzel BLT ($12) was a great adaptation of the classic sandwich with a lightly breaded veal cutlet snuggled among the other ingredients along with lemon caper aioli on lightly toasted sourdough bread. Large plates include beer-braised brisket, German meatloaf and a maple-mustard pork loin, ranging from $11 to $16.
Drinks German and Belgian beers rule here, although there are some American and craft selections. You'll also find an assortment of meads. Wines include two reds and two whites.
Service Servers share the tables, so you may have multiple visitors. Each person was polite, efficient and didn't miss a beat with our order.
Dessert This is one fine pretzel ($8), hot from the oven with a bit of a chew and just enough salt. Add the house-made chocolate and Nutella drizzle to the giant-size creation, and you're in a fine mood. It's also big enough to share. The other option is Scotty B's Rice Crispy Treat ($4), served with a side of chocolate dipping sauce.