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cdh

German restaurants on the wane in the US?

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Posted (edited)

Saw this article in the Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/grandmas-food-how-changing-tastes-are-killing-german-restaurants/2018/03/19/de4c4994-0b93-11e8-8b0d-891602206fb7_story.html?tid=sm_fb.

 

I wonder if the issue is that German restaurants that had the social cache to be big money fine dining venues have lost that advantage.  I've never been to any of the spots mentioned in the article.  The best German food I've found in my corner of the USA is adjacent to Fort Dix in NJ, obviously aimed at folks who had been stationed in Germany and gained an appreciation of the local food there. Not a fine dining joint by any means.  Looks like its building began life as a fast food joint and got retrofitted into what it is now. Excellent schnitzels and spaetzles. 

 

What is your experience of German food in the USA (or where you are) lately?


Edited by cdh (log)

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Posted (edited)

In Portland OR we were fortunate to have restaurants run by Horst Mager.

i no longer live there and he has since passed but his restaurant in  my local area was my favorite restaurant!   Great  food, German beers, sausages and schnitzel and so much more.  Oh to go back!


Edited by lindag (log)

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Don't know about anywhere else but the one long term German restaurant here has meh food.   Yeah you can get beer OOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHHH can we say DWI?    

My husband and his buddies used to go and he would bring me some "leftovers" ..... one of his friends likes to order tons of appetizers to "share".  I finally told him please don't bother to bring home the leftover spaetzel( stodge without salt), gravy (what , no ginger taste?!!) or sauerbraten ( no sauer in that braten!!!!)   the only thing worth eating was the red cabbage and then they didn't bother including applesauce.

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Not much around me unless you count Pennsylvania Dutch, which is German-ish. Starchy, heavy food. Plenty of that in Lancaster County and its doing well as far as I can see. Phila. has a few regulation German places in the outlying districts, I think.

 

WaPo is right, its image is grandma food. Unsubtle and heavy is my mental picture...though I love schnitzel, sausage, goose, potatoes, cabbage and all that.  Image is the deal here. 

 

Open a German restaurant and call it Alsatian food.

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@gfweb -- in the Philly environs, I commend to you the Austrian Village, in Huntingdon Valley. Nowhere near a fine dining restaurant, but damn, it's good. There's also a place called Otto's, out somewhere in that general part of the world, that was good. The Blue Ox, I think, has closed. But the AV has marvelous red cabbage, potato salad, housemade bratwurst, good sauerbraten and good schweinbraten. 

 

In Memphis, for many years, there was ONE German restaurant, Erika's. It was good, but it, too, was not a fine dining establishment. Good solid workingclass German food. I wept when it closed, not due to lack of business, but because the owner wanted to retire. A couple of places tried to take its spot -- one was downtown, and was pretty awful. The other was quite good, but went overboard on the beer hall atmosphere -- all communal tables with benches, very loud. I'd prefer a separate table and the ability to carry on a conversation. I think the first one has closed, and the second decided to switch over and become a barbecue restaurant (like Memphis needed another one of THOSE), and I'm not sure whether there's a German restaurant left in town or not.

 

Little Rock offers a couple of good ones -- The Pantry and its sister restaurant, Pantry Crest, which are both excellent. My pick of the litter, though, when I'm over there is Steinhauskeller in Hot Springs. Just absolutely marvelous. Mid-range, but you can go above or below that level; very nice atmosphere, although I really miss the tuba and accordion duo who used to play there (you have not lived until you have heard Van Halen's "Jump" on tuba and accordion). 

 

Fortunately, in self-defense I have been forced to become a fair hand at cooking German food. 

 

 

 

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Posted (edited)

I think it is just not appealing to the fresh facing younger crowd. We have Rockenwager http://rockenwagner.com/ but it is not hot on the scene. It is more a nostalgia thing. However...Kenji of Serious Eats is opening WurstHall soon I think - that may fuel a change?  https://sf.eater.com/2018/1/10/16874790/wursthall-san-mateo-menu-kenji-lopez-alt-restaurant


Edited by heidih (log)

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I went to school in Swabia in the 60's; did extensive European business travel 80's to 00's,
and worked three years at a sister company in Bavaria.

 

in my experience, what passes for German food in USA could not be given away in Germany to the homeless - they would not eat it.

I suppose there are/were some good USA places - but for the most part it's a real joke.  when there's no difference between the local diner and a German restaurant - they're not going to survive.

 

we had one local place that made decent German food - last visit it was pretty much Sysco-in-glop.  the original owner retired and all they kept was the 20 character long dish names.  it promptly failed.

 

even in Lancaster county / Amish country what is presented in commercial restaurants is s very very sloppy imitation of "Pennsylvania Dutch" food.  the places are essentially tourist traps.

 

even an extremely simple example:  salad.  what kind of salad does one see/get/eat in Germany vs. what is _served_ in a USA "German" restaurant?  it starts there and goes downhill real fast.

 

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I love German food.

 

in my area  ( BOS ) there is or was

 

http://www.jacobwirth.com

 

fantastic Sauerbraten , red cabbage and they used to make their own Bock Beer , and bake their own black bread

 

I think its closing due to poor management

 

the day after Prohibition , it was packed and they ran out of their bock beer in a few hours.  I of course missed that

 

but my father was there !

 

and then there was 

 

https://www.theberghoff.com

 

the lunch menu was the same as the dinner menu but cheaper.  same portions

 

ended at 3 pm.

 

I used to save up when I was attending the UofC and get there at 2;45 !

 

again  not really a pro to the topic.

 

German Food Ive had here and n Germany and Austria  tended to be both delicious and very filling  .

 

maybe too filling for tastes these days.

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Jacob Wirth is (and most likely soon was) a horrible restaurant with unbelievable low quality food and had very little to do with German food.

If you want German (or better Central/Eastern European) food in Boston the only good option is Bronwyn

 

http://bronwynrestaurant.com/

 

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@Honkman

 

thanks for that tip.  Ill look into Brownwyn

 

I haven't been to JW in a long long time

 

1972 or so.  so it probably changed for the Wurst.

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13 minutes ago, rotuts said:

 

1972 or so.  so it probably changed for the Wurst.

I was waiting for that. For once, I didn't want to be the one to do it. 

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in the low '80's  I used to work almost across the street

 

it was a fine place to get a pitcher of beer on Fridays after work

 

when they still made it.  but I stopped eating there when the Sauerbraten was still good , but

 

the home made BlackBread vanished.

 

:S

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On 3/20/2018 at 5:28 PM, gfweb said:

 

 

Open a German restaurant and call it Alsatian food.

 

xD

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I will chime in if I may, not that my experience is with American German food. German speciality restaurants are things I have come across fairly often in 'Posh/Kitsch' touristy spots usually in various 'Hinterlands' in Queensland. I have always been in awe of their businesses plans. Maybe 8 things on the menu, schnitzel, sausage, knuckles - simple, mostly delicious, restaurants packed with people for the novelty of drinking a beer from a stein and the price mark up - wow. 

My last visit was to a German Restaurant in the Tambourine mountain region, my husband and I, and 90% of the rest of the customers, got their signature dish, Pork Knuckle, Sauerkraut and mashed potato. Tasty, uncomplicated, cheap to prepare and sold at $45 dollars a plate. :o

 

And nobody bats an eye (not even those of us that do the math - not out of miserliness but out of the aforementioned awe at their ability to turn such profit from what is usually a waste product to most households - even if you buy half a pig from our local butcher, you're not offered knuckles and below unless you ask).

 

I guess here its still kitsch, a novelty and we're on holiday - despite the pretty large numbers of German immigrants. 

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38 minutes ago, CantCookStillTry said:

 

My last visit was to a German Restaurant in the Tambourine mountain region, my husband and I, and 90% of the rest of the customers, got their signature dish, Pork Knuckle, Sauerkraut and mashed potato. Tasty, uncomplicated, cheap to prepare and sold at $45 dollars a plate. :o

 

I am seriously considering quitting my job and moving to the US. I had no idea ...

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My experience in the US is that the German restaurants are almost all Bavarian in focus and the menus haven't been updated in the last 50 years.  Even in Bavaria the times have changed and the food in Munich is much more interesting that what is served at the Bavarian restaurants in the US.  There is an opportunity in the US for new German cuisine if somebody wants to take advantage of it .

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6 minutes ago, BrentKulman said:

 

My experience in the US is that the German restaurants are almost all Bavarian in focus and the menus haven't been updated in the last 50 years. 

 

Speaking for myself, the experience I am looking for in a restaurant from “the old country” (whatever that old country may be) is what I remember when I left there. :D  

 

I don’t think I am necessarily the odd one out here but I do get that some people prefer to see restaurants in the New World keep up to speed with those in the Old. 

 

 There is a sameness about modernization and such a blending of cuisines that it is hard to  distinguish one from another. 

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16 minutes ago, Anna N said:

Speaking for myself, the experience I am looking for in a restaurant from “the old country” (whatever that old country may be) is what I remember when I left there. :D  

 

I don’t think I am necessarily the odd one out here but I do get that some people prefer to see restaurants in the New World keep up to speed with those in the Old. 

 

 There is a sameness about modernization and such a blending of cuisines that it is hard to  distinguish one from another. 

 

I'm with @Anna N here. My "old country" is the American south, and when I go to a "down home" cooking establishment, I want my green beans cooked to death, my corn cream style with butter, salt and pepper, my peas stewed a long time and seasoned with cured pork, my pork chop fried, my cornbread light, not sweet, and devoid of additives. And my okra breaded and fried properly (as opposed to the battered frozen stuff suitable only for loading in a cannon as a substitute for grapeshot).

 

Which is not to say I don't enjoy Nouvelle South cuisine, with its influences from French, Latino and Asian cultures; I do. But not at a down-home, country cooking restaurant. If there were a Nouvelle German and a Traditional German restaurant sitting side by side, I'd go with the traditional German, because that's what I know and love. The next night, I'd try the Nouvelle German to see what it was like.

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8 hours ago, Duvel said:

 

I am seriously considering quitting my job and moving to the US. I had no idea ...

 

Queensland is closer.

 

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On 3/25/2018 at 8:10 AM, BrentKulman said:

My experience in the US is that the German restaurants are almost all Bavarian in focus and the menus haven't been updated in the last 50 years.  Even in Bavaria the times have changed and the food in Munich is much more interesting that what is served at the Bavarian restaurants in the US.  There is an opportunity in the US for new German cuisine if somebody wants to take advantage of it .

 

Coming form Germany I am still surprised what money people in the US think characterizes German food today. Most of the people tend to think that the stuff served in most of the "German" restaurant is indeed what most Germans eat on a regular basis even though it couldn't be further from the truth.  (But most Germans also still think all Americans eat only burgers, ribs and mac'n'cheese everyday.) 

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Last week, in sort of a follow-up to the Washington Post article, Evan Kleiman interviewed an Austrian chef, Bernhard Mairinger, whose Beverly Hills restaurants have closed on her Good Food Podcast. 

Listen at this link.

 

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This just isn't my experience where I am - Richmond VA.  We have a number of German restaurants here - some recently opened by young, very good chefs.  Just lucky, I guess.

 

@AlaMoi and @Honkman - I'd be really interested in what is authentically German.  I've never been, but my husband and some other family members have been and were lucky enough to eat in both homes and restaurants and loved the food.  Other than a Bavarian restauant (that we love) in nearby towns and the more upscale, modern ones I mentioned above (which we also love), I haven't eaten much in the way of German food, but am very interested.  I always think of German food as being very meat and carb-centric and that is right up my alley!  Thank you!

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6 hours ago, Kim Shook said:

This just isn't my experience where I am - Richmond VA.  We have a number of German restaurants here - some recently opened by young, very good chefs.  Just lucky, I guess.

 

@AlaMoi and @Honkman - I'd be really interested in what is authentically German.  I've never been, but my husband and some other family members have been and were lucky enough to eat in both homes and restaurants and loved the food.  Other than a Bavarian restauant (that we love) in nearby towns and the more upscale, modern ones I mentioned above (which we also love), I haven't eaten much in the way of German food, but am very interested.  I always think of German food as being very meat and carb-centric and that is right up my alley!  Thank you!

 

It is not possible to answer what is authentic German food as it would be similarly impossible to say what is authentic US food. Everybody would say that there are way too many different parts of the US and all of them have very different food cultures, dishes etc. And it is similar in Germany as for example the Northern part of Germany around Hamburg has often quite seafood heavy dishes (with dishes like Finkenwerder Scholle (plaice) or Labskaus (dish with potatoes, red beet and mixed smoked fish) whereas areas in the south like Baden-Wuerttemberg have dishes like Kastaniensuppe (soup made out of chestnuts), Flammkuchen (Quiche Lorraine) or Gefuellter Saumagen (stuffed pig stomach). In addition over the last 50 years Germany had a significant influx of foreign workers from Turkey, Croatia, Italy, Greece which often live now here in the 3-4 generation and so a lot of those dishes, food cultures are also have now become part of Germany or created “fusion” dishes (Doener (with its Turkish roots) for example is the most popular fastfood in Germany). 

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9 minutes ago, Honkman said:

 

It is not possible to answer what is authentic German food as it would be similarly impossible to say what is authentic US food. Everybody would say that there are way too many different parts of the US and all of them have very different food cultures, dishes etc. And it is similar in Germany as for example the Northern part of Germany around Hamburg has often quite seafood heavy dishes (with dishes like Finkenwerder Scholle (plaice) or Labskaus (dish with potatoes, red beet and mixed smoked fish) whereas areas in the south like Baden-Wuerttemberg have dishes like Kastaniensuppe (soup made out of chestnuts), Flammkuchen (Quiche Lorraine) or Gefuellter Saumagen (stuffed pig stomach). In addition over the last 50 years Germany had a significant influx of foreign workers from Turkey, Croatia, Italy, Greece which often live now here in the 3-4 generation and so a lot of those dishes, food cultures are also have now become part of Germany or created “fusion” dishes (Doener (with its Turkish roots) for example is the most popular fastfood in Germany). 

Ok, that makes sense.  So, I guess the better question is "What is it NOT?".

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