Kraut-ed Haus

Feierabend's food appeals to snobs, dudes, and everyone in between.

In the interests of wriggling out of the clutches of the cliché, I decided I would attempt to write a review of Feierabend without using the word hearty. After all, if Georges Perec could write his novel La Disparition without the letter E, it couldn't be that difficult to review a German pub-restaurant without using one lowly adjective. But what other word best describes a 1-inch-thick smoked pork chop— actually, two 1-inch-thick smoked pork chops—braced against a mound of sauerkraut, with a pound of potato salad sprinkled around the plate for garnish? Or cleaved-plank tables, ringed with benches, that seem as much Middle Earth as Mitteleuropa? Or the fact that the restaurant measures its beer in liters, not pints, resulting in glassware that often tops the 1-foot mark? An H-word spirit pervades Feierabend, the newest of owner Chris Navarra's trio of German taverns—Prost! in Phinney Ridge and Die BierStube in Roosevelt are the other two—but Navarra embeds it in a warmly modern decor that's echt South Lake Union. Located on the ground floor of a condominium complex, one-year-old Feierabend has gotten good marks for its German beers on tap. Unlike its brethren pubs, it also serves a full menu, and the food turns out to be as solidly executed as it is solid. Some Germanophile types of my acquaintance even claim that a few of the dishes taste as authentic as anything you'll find in the States. Case in point: the currywurst, two bites of which brought on an attack of the nostalgias for one friend who used to snack on the sausage in Berlin's subway. Sure, Feierabend's currywurst comes on a real plate, not paper, with silverware instead of plastic picks for eating, but the plump, pale sausage—like a boudin or a weisswurst, only spongier and blander—tasted the same, as did the all-important curry ketchup squiggled over top. Curry ketchup tastes exactly like it sounds, only tastier. Which is a good thing, because it shows up often, drizzled over the Mickey D's–style fries and as essential a part of the sandwiches as the bread. Curry ketchup even comes with the fried pickles, more Memphis than Munich and not as fun as they sound. The currywurst and fried things are all part of the "vorspeise" (small plates) menu, which can be put to use as appetizers but better serve as drinking snacks. The menu's star is one of the best soft pretzels I've ever eaten. Straight from oven to table, the warm, yeasty pretzel is twice the size of its mall-court version and more air than leather. It comes with a spread of pureed Brie, onions, and paprika (think cheese ball, also apparently authentic), a pile of coarse salt, and two small pools of mustard sharp enough to keep our table wincing. Not that that deterred anyone from going in for fourths. The best time to order the pretzel is happy hour, when the pretzels are coming out of the oven the quickest. Happy hour fills the room with condo-dwellers, high-tech-firm workers, and people who've spent way too much time in the REI dressing rooms, but they tend to move on after the drink specials end, bringing the noise down from bar to restaurant levels. Even as it empties, the room is designed so that it never feels forlorn. As red as the inside of a curry-ketchup bottle, the walls are a collage of archival photos, advertisements, and bric-a-brac, which unsterilize the architecture's sharply industrial lines. The bar is lit up like an altar, which of course it is. From weissbier to schwartzbier, pilsner to dopplebock, German beer is a great democratizer, appealing to snobs and dudes (no matter their gender). Same with the entrées, which will call out to any "meat and potatoes" eater and won't turn off anyone who isn't one. There's not a lot of culinary showmanship to the food, but the cooks have chosen good products and done right by them. There are plump, meaty bratwurst, split and grilled, wreathed in calligraphic squiggles of mustard. There are jägerschnitzel, thinly pounded pork loins smothered in a creamy mushroom sauce. German-American sandwiches come stuffed with either of these, along with mustard and sauerkraut or a vaguely sweet, mayonnaise-dressed cabbage slaw. A few clunkers: the vegetarian cheese-stuffed portabello, pain-inducingly salted (a ploy to get us to order another round?). A cucumber salad dressed with herb-flecked sour cream lacked oomph. The sauerkraut that accompanied the bratwurst was almost brown with caraway and mustard seeds—after the first bite I marveled at the heady spicing. After the third, I couldn't take another. But the braised red cabbage, not so sour that you can't notice the spoonful of sugar added in, occasioned another attack of the nostalgias for the former Berliners, and the spaetzle—free-form noodles with dumpling ancestry—were eggy and almost ethereal, which made them the perfect vehicle for the sauteed onions and cheese baked on top. And my pork chop was gorgeous, pink-rimmed from the smoke and wet brined so that it didn't dry out, the pork counterbalanced by the tang of (unspiced) sauerkraut. The cost for Brobdingnagian quantities of meat, beer, and cabbage: $20–25 a person. The waitstaff aren't dusting the table between courses, but they deliver the food at about the time you're expecting them to and have an intuitive sense of the moment your glass is one swig away from a refill. One waitress had a hard time remembering our drinks order, but made up for the slip with discounted or free beer—twice. An error for which I offered my heartiest thanks. Feierabend 422 Yale St., 340-2528, www.feierabendseattle.com. SOUTH LAKE UNION. Open 11:30 a.m.–1:30 a.m. every day.

 
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