When the first floor of the German Heritage Society building functioned as an office, letters, pamphlets and spreadsheets presumably accumulated there. Now that the organization has transformed the space into a restaurant, it's shifted its collection focus from paperwork to the best in local Germanic eats.
The adorably sunny Kafe Berlin outsources much of its cooking: The heavy-lifting's done by Bavarian Meats, which supplies the sausages, and West Seattle's Little Prague Bakery, which keeps the pastry case in kolaches, strudels and sweet rolls. The bread's also baked off-site, although the staffer who took my order wasn't sure exactly where: "The owner just shows up with it," he told me. But it's impossible to begrudge the two-month old cafe for curating such an enjoyable edible exposition of German culture.
Kafe Berlin's hours and menu are designed to appeal to hospital workers, who need espresso and hot oatmeal at 6 a.m. There's a dining counter pressed against the front window, but every roast beef sandwich and Asian chicken salad (German's a guideline and a decor principle, not an imperative here) is packaged for take-out.
In addition to sandwiches, salads and soups, Kafe Berlin serves knockwurst, weisswurst and bratwurst plates for $7.95. After sampling the bratwurst, I'm persuaded the restaurant's running the very best hot dog stand on First Hill, which I mean as a high compliment.
Bavarian Meats produces an excellent pork bratwurst, with a swirl of fresh spices and a tenacious casing. It's a lean link, which helps keep the added flavors in sharp focus. Kafe Berlin serves the sausage with a crusty dinner roll; a dollop of petunia pink-sauerkraut, rife with caraway seeds; spicy yellow mustard and a choice of soup or salad. It's a deconstructed dog, perhaps, but it's terrific. And Little Prague's saucy apple strudel, dusted with powdered sugar, makes for a fine dessert.