Around the festivities that celebrates certain country or culture, it is so much fun to visit a restaurant or establishment of that specific country and culture. During Oktoberfest, we visited an area in UES that is known as Little Germany. After having some awesome quick snack at Schaller’s Stube (you can read more about it here: http://www.foodlovergirl.com/schallers-stube-sausage-bar/), and nice stroll through the short block celebrating Oktoberfest with super fun German band consisted of rather old gentlemen (this was awesome!), we decided to have desserts at the Heidelberg.
The Heidelberg is one of the oldest family-run German restaurants in the US, established over a hundred years ago, when this area was more than “little Germany” but a a bustling German neighborhood. The restaurant is hard to miss, with American and German flags proudly swinging in the wind, and nice outdoor seating with blue and white checkered pattern table cloth. With the subway construction, I can’t say the outdoor seating is not super great, but with the shades from trees and plants around the tables, it still gives a nice enough atmosphere.
The inside was a bit dimmed, without large windows to illuminate the entire restaurant. To the restaurant was divided into two areas, right side was dining area, and left side was a bar, so it is a bit narrow. The staffs were all wearing traditional German attire, which was fun.
The dining area expands half way to the back, allowing more bigger sized tables for larger groups. The interior was heavy with dark wood, from floor to ceiling. It definitely had that “old” feeling to it. The decor is also heavy on “old” with several large paintings of from long, long ago.
From the larger dining area, you can see most of the restaurant, all the way to the bar. And this area has the most amount of old-fashion decor. It had more of an old mountain cabin feel to it (to me, anyways), with antler light fixture, and coat hanger in a shape of animal’s feet…yep, they are serious about their decor.
The other side where the bar is, also expands midway to the back. The back of the bar is a semi-separated dining room. It doesn’t have much privacy from the rest, but it gives a little more seclusion from the rest of the restaurant. A good set up for, say, birthday party or something like that? It had several beer steins hanging on the wall, and had a view of the bar.
The bar was also heavily decorated, with the same color of blue and white, and other antique-looking decorations. The bartender had the similar checkered style shirt on, he could totally blend in with those umbrellas.
And since this restaurant has been here for over 100 years, I bet most of everything that is in the restaurant, if not all, are antiques. There was this interesting sawing machine that was turned into a table lamp at the entrance, and a pretty stained glass in that semi-separated dining room that is lit by a light source from behind. I love these old establishment that is also like a museum from the past.
So, we were here for just desserts, but we ended up getting a small appetizer item, and a dessert. We got Gebackener Camembert ($13.50), and Apple Strudel ($10.50).
I love Camembert in puff pastry, so I wanted to try their version of similar dish. Gebackener Camembert is a wheel of Camembert cheese, breaded, browned in a pan, then finished in the oven. Yes, alot of process there to finish this baby up. It is served with sliced pear, cranberry sauce, and onion. Kind of interesting mix. It was much smaller than I wanted (usually the case with Camembert…), but very well prepared. I loved the breading, it was crunchy and light, since it was baked instead of fried, not greasy at all. The Camembert was soft and gooey in its own fully way. The pear and cranberry sauce provided extra sweetness, and onion was not that big player here. It was more of a very small side salad to give that freshness.
Apple Strudel was a nice size, it was actually bigger than the Camembert. It is made with flakey pastry dough filled with apples and walnuts, seasoned with cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar. It was quite good, with good amount of fresh apples still holding onto its firm texture and juicy-ness. It had a great nutty flavor from walnuts, and subtle but very noticeable flavor from cinnamon and nutmeg. Everything worked together in perfect harmony.
We also had a beer, Hofbräu Dunkel ($8/medium). It is a dark lager with subtle caramel notes, malty and mildly spicy. Even though this was the smaller size of the two sizes they offer, it was still a big size. However, I have seen they have a boot shaped beer mug, as big as real boot size! This beer was solid, a bit heavy, but had good flavor, and quite refreshing.
The cool thing that happened was that the waitress brought us soft pretzel and bread on the house. The waitress told us that they had one extra pretzel, (and seeing we were not eating much, I assume) she gave it to us. It was a very sweet gesture, but unfortunately, the pretzel was already half way or more hardened from being left there for an extended period of time. Otherwise, it would have been a good pretzel.
They are true to their German roots when it comes to the sign on the bathroom door as well. I liked the wooden curved sign, and wording “Damen” (same for the men’s bathroom door as well). I liked these little touch.
All the way at the back, they had a sign on a printed paper with arrow that said “Biergarten” and we got curious. So, after we finished with our meal, we decided to go check it out. The way to get to their Biergarten was a bit odd. You have to go through the same stairs that the kitchen staff and waiters use to bring the food and dirty dishes back and forth between the dining area and kitchen that was a level below the dining area. Narrow and lined with rubber mats since it could be slippery. Once we managed to get to the bottom of the stairs, we found a courtyard with the same blue and white checked table cloths on picnic tables. It was not very big, but it was a good size.
The service was ok, friendly and polite. It seemed like they had some confusion on where the food goes (which tables, inside or outside at the Biergarten???) which was a bit funny. They did sort them out quickly enough each time. It was a lively and relaxing atmosphere, and we had a good time here. I heard they have great dishes that are still made in old fashioned, traditional way, so I would like to go back for some of their sausages and other dishes in the future.
Heidelberg Restaurant – 1648 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10028