When friends mention “beer hall”, most people think, “ah, we’re going to Queens!” — and then you’re let down by the crowds of hipsters (and worse) clogging up the place and in general not acting like elderly German men hoisting liter after liter and singing German beer hall songs. Or maybe that’s just me. At any rate, the crowds skew young and obnoxious at the usual suspects in Astoria and Williamsburg.
What to do, what to do… ah! Have friends with cars offer a trip to Zum Stammtisch, and old-fashioned German schnitzel place waaaay out in Glendale, Queens, a good twenty minutes’ walk from the nearest subway stop. The half-timbered façade mixed with brick absolutely screams small-town America.
We parked — street spaces abound in this detached-house neighborhood — and strolled in, greeted by this friendly relic from probably the first days of Zum Stammtisch’s existence. The whole restaurant is a sea of connected rooms, with a large bar area rimmed by a red nauga banquette for an extra twenty beer-hoisters on those special nights.
As we sat down and placed our orders with the dirndled waitress (there don’t seem to be male waiters, costumed or otherwise), our bread was delivered, warm and moist, and we set to work eating pretty much all of it before any food arrived.
A Stammtisch, as the menu will explain to you, is the “family table” or “regular table” — a place to sit around all day, drinking beer and shooting the bull. We obliged as best we could.
Of course the beer arrived first. Most of the draft is Hofbrau — you can see their shingle in the façade pic; they also just opened a Hofbrauhaus in Midtown, too — and I enjoyed a quite serviceable half-liter of the Dunkel from this lovely stoneware mug, while my companions drank the Reissdorf Kolsch.
The room where we sat was lit by chandeliers with little orange shades, making picture-taking rather a bit of a chore. To compensate, we ordered a ton of food, which trickled from the kitchen at a slow-enough rate to allow for several steins of beer to be consumed.
We each ordered an appetizer to share, though of course we did that to varying degrees. Ben picked the smoked trout with horseradish sauce. Adorned with slices of egg, the trout was dense and a bit fishy in flavor, though it coated my mouth with tasty smoke. The horseradish was quite pungent and strong, and required a bit of beer (oh no!) to wash it down, but this was gone too quickly. We agreed this was a highlight of the dinner.
Steve’s goulash arrived at the same time. While it was next to impossible to get a good shot of it, and sharing was less possible as he had the only spoon, this was a rich soup with several beef chunks. I expected more of a stewlike consistency, but it was meaty and solid. I don’t think I’d need to order this next time, though.
I looked at the next table and they had potato pancakes. Hey, those aren’t on the menu as a side item! We want those too! So we asked for those, and they arrived with the main dishes. A little greasy, but soft and lightly herbed. I’m not normally a fan of applesauce, but this wasn’t overly sweet and its cold temperature made for a nice contrast with the hot pancake.
Those main dishes? Yeah, hope you like schnitzel, because we sure do. Ben got the jägerschnitzel, a huge, thin slab of veal covered with a rich mushroom sauce. Obviously the beefy sauce dominated the taste of those bites, but the texture of the tender baby cow still shone through. While I avoided the mushrooms for my taste, he most certainly did not, and he absolutely loved it, as did Steve…
… who ordered the basic wienerschnitzel, which came out a bit dry though just as enormous. The veal was perfectly good, and a mere $20, each arriving with a pile of soft, delicious potatoes.
That leaves me. How could you see “Veal Cordon Bleu” on the menu and not want it?
A veal cutlet, wrapped around German ham and Swiss cheese, then fried. How in the world could I resist? This arrived piping hot, and I contented myself with eating those potatoes while waiting for the veal to cool. When I took my first bite, I knew I made the right choice. We’ve all had chicken cordon bleu, but as veal? Just a great combination, and there was plenty of molten cheese in the center of this roll. Damn. Just, damn.
We made do with three rounds of beer in addition to all of that. Two hours of eating, drinking and conversing in a relaxed environment came to under $50 each. Just a perfect start to the weekend: Meat. Potatoes. Beer. Man talk.
I recommend Zum Stammtisch if you can drive there (and not overindulge on the libations). Judging by the other parties in our room of the restaurant, it appears to be a great place for families, reunions, and even girlfriends having a night out with beer, cocktails, and heavy, filling, delicious meals. What other places can say that?