It's before noon on a Friday and I find myself hungry.
I quickly check Bier Haus' Facebook page to confirm they are open, motor on over and am happy to find that I can actually park in the normally busy lot, shared by Ta Ca & Screamin' Mimi's on Price and Oglethorpe.
I walk in, and there are charming little pottery vases holding some cut flowers on every table, and that's the only thing I see. When a restaurant doesn't have salt and pepper on the table, the message is loud and clear: "Our food is so good, you don't need to season it!"
The gauntlet has been thrown down and frankly, I think it's pretty badass and I like the arrogant confidence - as long as you deliver. I'm greeted by my server, Keith. He's positive, lively and incredibly helpful. He says everything is fresh. There is no freezer.
At Keith's suggestion, I try the Spinach, Mushroom and Cheese CrÃªpes. French cuisine is one of my absolute favorites, so I'm surprised to see them on the menu. I decide on pommes frites for my side with Cajun remoulade as my dipping sauce, and an extra selection of the hellfire mayo made with ghost peppers, along with a side of grilled vegetables.
The crÃªpes placed in front of me look like an omelette with the thickness of one.
The taste is reminiscent of Green Giant's frozen spinach and cream sauce and tickles memories from childhood. The thick, spongy pancake is the furthest thing from light, airy, delicate crÃªpes.
I turn my attention to the vegetables to find a great mix of asparagus, butternut squash, zucchini and yellow squash. It's tasty, but everything is inconsistent in the width of the cut: the zucchini is sliced paper thin and the yellow squash is cut super thick, leaving one overcooked and one undercooked, with the rest being just about right.
I try some frites and they are cold, limp and look unevenly cooked. As Keith apologetically brings me another order, this time piping hot, I notice the same unevenness in the cooking. The Cajun remoulade and the hellfire mayo dipping sauces are very good. I expected the hellfire mayo to be really spicy, but it is pretty tame, although it still has a great flavor.
I should note that Marshall, the owner, is sitting in the dining room.
We're the only two people there and I'm surprised he hasn't come over to address the issue.
Looking to wrap up my meal on a good note, I go with German Black Forest Stout Cake on Keith's recommendation. I replied that I'm not a big cherry fan, to which he says there are no cherries in it. He explains the cake is filled with a layer of ganache and chocolate chips. The deceptively small piece comes out, and it is rich and has a fudge-like consistency. It is decadently rich and tasty.
After my initial visit, I started asking around, and people are loving this restaurant - eager for the beer to arrive, but still going for the food. I decide to bring my friend Charlie, who is fluent in French and German and familiar with German food. We go for an early dinner a few days later.
We start with the Mushroom & Walnut PÃ¢tÃ©: "A variety of exotic mushrooms, walnut, olive oil, thyme, shallots and roasted garlic blended to make a wonderful and healthy appetizer! Served with a side of crusty breads."
Um, heck yeah, this is what I've been waiting for. Knock your socks off, full of flavor awesomeness! This is a good portion (about a cup and a half) and the five little crostinis, while flavorful, aren't enough.
Our server, Destin, is such a sweetheart; she has the kitchen toast some more. Unfortunately, they come out black. Yes, burnt and charred. Whoever was in the kitchen apparently thought that was fit to send out.
We get the combination platter of schnitzel and sausages, allowing us to try all four of their sausage offerings, as well as four different sides. The sausages offered that day are Bison, Brat, Bier and Kielbasa. I don't know if it is the lack of fat or if they are overcooked, but they are dry. Where is the oozy, drippy, sinfully moist fat? On the other hand, holy schnitzel! Those are amazing.
Unfortunately, our sides are a mixed bag. We're looking forward to trying their German Potato Salad, which sounded authentic: vinegar-based with scallions and bacon, served warm. Sadly, this isn't it.
It's room temperature, weak and needs more everything. There are no satisfying chunks of bacon in it, just a powdery dust that adds no flavor, lacking salt and vinegar. We have the pommes frites with truffle oil, and these are really good. The truffle oil makes a world of difference! The green olive dipping sauce is really bright, with fresh lemon coming through.
The last two sides are hopeless. The blandest mashed potatoes I have ever had the misfortune to eat are on my plate, and they are ice cold. They taste like they have been blended with just water and refrigerated, only to be brought back out to be inadequately heated.
My sauerkraut is room temperature and doesn't taste great.
The Belgian Waffles, we're told, won't be available until business picks up, so we go with the Belgian Truffle Cheesecake. It comes out looking a mess. There's a slight tang at the end that is off-putting. It either needs to be more tangy, or not at all. The tang makes it seem like it had soured and spoiled like curdled milk.
Again, Marshall is in the dining room, this time hammering nails into the wall and putting frames up, which fall with a crash. Not exactly something you want going on in a restaurant while you're eating. It made me feel like my enjoyment of his establishment was of little importance to him.
As with any new restaurant, there are some kinks to work out. Timing their sides to go out hot with their entrees will hopefully get smoothed out. My main hope is that their quality control and standards improve, because I can see it as a good place to have the mushroom pate with a big glass of red wine ... and hopefully with properly toasted crostinis.
Overall, the amazing service by Keith and Destin made me want to go back. Bier Haus has been experiencing growing pains, but if they can work on their consistency, I think they could really do well.
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