After my long hiatus, I was looking for a restaurant to review that would be different. It is the first issue of the semester, after all, and starting the reviews off on a high note seems like a good policy. Still, drinking can be fun. And drinking with good food can be even more fun. I just had to cleverly incorporate the two together.
Well, first a mildly researched lesson in history. Biergarten, which I think loosely translates to “bear: guarding,” is a historical term for when bears were employed to guard the large and valuable deposits of beer. The bears were a hardy breed, trained in all forms of martial arts, and were prepared to defend the precious, precious beer at all costs. Today such cumbersome and expensive bears have been replaced with the more modern lock and key, but the name has stuck on as a throwback to the pioneering days of beer storage.
For those of you interested in beer, and perhaps German people, Albany has their own Biergarten. Formally known as Wolff’s Biergarten, it’s located just a few minutes past The Pump Station, creating a one-stop destination to fantastic food and beer. I should make it clear that Biergarten is a bar-type setting, much more so than The Pump Station. A dart league on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and loud music distinctly set the mood away from family restaurant. They do have a fantastic selection of authentic German food, but their main attraction is very clearly their imported selection of both draft and bottled beer. Some of the amazing draft selection includes: Spaten (Oktoberfest) Ur-Märzen, Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier, and Spaten (Optimator). Their website has a much more comprehensive list of beers, and I’m certain that there are some much more knowledgeable reviews out there for those, but what I’m going to delve into is the food selection.
For starters, if you go for the beer, you should certainly order some of the sides to munch on as well. They have “pommes frites,” which are Belgian french fries ($4.95). At first I was a little put off by how soggy they were, but the flavor swept that aside. The entire basket is strongly spiced and salted, but not overly so. Each basket also comes with a cup of mayonnaise to dip them in, but I personally have to draw the line somewhere. At some point it’s just self-preservation. They also have fantastic onion rings ($4.95) with a batter that somehow manages to stay delicate and sweet while wrapped around powerful onion strips.
In addition to the variety of sides, they also have entire dinner plates you can order. Being German, there are four different wurst plates to choose from, in addition to Schnitzel ($12.95), Gurkensalat, Fleischkäse, and Schwäbische Rindsrouladen. (According to babel fish that last one means: “Swabian Rindsrouladen.” I feel closer to their culture already.)
To be different, I sampled the Currywurst sausage plate ($9.95). The two sausages are painted with a delicate red curry sauce and come with a heap of the Belgian fries. The actual sausages were only mildly curry-like in flavor, while the sauce was much more tangy and strong, making for a unique combination. However, I was disappointed by their German pasta and cheese dish. It supposedly had a mixture of a few cheeses with ham and pasta, but it was surprisingly weak and didn’t hold up to the more flavorful dishes offered.
Lastly, if you go there and buy nothing else, get a plate of their potato pancakes. I have tried potato pancakes from literally dozens of sources—from Ezra’s down on 15th Street to an authentic recipe from a Polish-American. These are, unequivocally, the best. They were perfectly fried and so packed with different flavors it was unbelievable, so good that the sour cream and apple sauce they served them with was completely unnecessary. I hear Thursdays are all you can eat pancakes, so it sounds like your Thursday night just got very full.