Chris Navarra remembers spending summers on his grandparents' farm in Germany, just outside of Frankfurt. "My grandfather worked me like a dog," he says. He used to envy his friends back home who got to loaf around and skateboard, while he was looking after the animals and shoveling all manner of things. "Then, when I turned 15 or 16, and I could go to the local pub and meet my uncle for a beer, it finally hit me. I got it, all of it."
Hence, the dream took root, in the back of Navarra's mind, to open a German-style pub, just like the ones he used to visit in Deutschland. Dream(s) come true: Now he owns three. But first, Navarra enjoyed the dot-com boom of the late '90s, doing well enough to buy a house. Then came the dot-bust, and after holding seven jobs in less than two years, he'd had enough. In 2002, a wine bar only blocks from his house on Greenwood Avenue was looking for a buyer. Navarra used almost all the equity in his home to buy and open Prost! in that small space. Friends were nervous for him, and he knew it was a risk.
"I figured what's the worst that could happen?" he says. "I'd lose my house and have to go back to renting. Or if the bar didn't work, I'd sell it and keep my house."
The first year Prost! opened, Navarra was behind the bar every day, surrounding himself with only two employees. Years of being pounded with that rural German work ethic led him to instinctively know what many restaurant and bar owners learn too late: If you want to run a successful restaurant, you've got to be married to it. That commitment shows when you visit Prost!—regulars are eager to share their favorites with new arrivals, and the place feels like a big living room.
Two years after opening Prost!, Navarra opened die BierStube in the Ravenna neighborhood, which has become a weekend hot spot for the college crowd. And last year, he opened Feierabend in the set-to-pop Cascade neighborhood. "This place is more restaurant than bar," Navarra says of his latest pub. "The building owners wanted us to focus on food a little more, and we're very proud of the menu. Right now, this neighborhood dies around 9, but that will change with 600 condos going in across the street."
All of Navarra's pubs offer only German beer on tap (with the exception of a keg or two from local Baron Brewing), served in properly authentic glassware. The food is mainly German pub fare—brats, curry wurst, and sauerkraut—with treats like fried pickles and a killer bacon burger thrown in for good measure. The house-made spaetzle (Germany's tasty yet ugly version of pasta) and the $12 Wiener schnitzel at Feierabend are also worth the trip.
"I want regulars: That's the whole point to a pub," he says. "And if they're happy and I'm still making money, I don't see the need to charge $16 for schnitzel." &mdash Maggie Dutton —Prost!, 7311 Greenwood Ave. N., 706-5430, www.prosttavern.net; die BierStube, 6106 Roosevelt Way N.W., 527-7019, www.diebierstube.com; Feierabend, 422 Yale Ave. N., 340-2528, www.feierabendseattle.com.