German food is not the most popular world cuisine. Personally, I love it….but I was born in Frankfurt. For those of us in Atlanta, it’s a quick drive to the faux Bavarian village of Helen in north Georgia for an occassional schnitzel fix. During Oktoberfest, we often visit to celebrate with men in lederhosen (and men with mullets in tight acid-washed denim shorts), drink mugs of German beer, and eat the inevitable bratwurst.
But there is an alternative smack in the middle of Marietta Street in downtown Atlanta called Der Biergarten. Their patio upstairs is reminiscent of Helen’s Festhalle, with picnic table seating and festive lights strung about. Inside, the walls are painted with murals depicting idyllic scenes of castles and forests…..very Brothers Grimm.
I met LC there recently, at the tail-end of a friend’s birthday party. It was late and I was starving. With plans to drive to Helen in a few days, I wasn’t too keen on having German food, but curiosity and hunger prevailed. Guests seated at the bar dined on generous plates of schweinebraten with spaetzle. Tempting, but I chose my standard bratwurst and knockwurst with sauerkraut and potato salad….no schnitzel.
But first, the bartender poured me a pint of Warsteiner draught. Wursts were delivered quickly along with a trio of mustards for dipping….smooth and creamy, somewhat grainy, and slightly sweet with whole mustard seeds. LC noted that none of them were spicy, to which I replied that Germans don’t do spicy. The sauerkraut had a nice vinegary twang. American potato salad was nothing special. Weiners are always wonderful.
A few days later at Old Heidelberg in Helen, LC and I ordered the wurst trio to share, along with some additional sides. Seated on the tiny balcony, we took in the sun and pollen while drinking more Warsteiner and checking out the bikers and their buxom babes eating funnel cakes.
In addition to a knockwurst and bratwurst was a long skinny bauernwurst, flavored with garlic and herbs. Of our sides, the anemic, crunchy kraut was a total contrast to the golden variety at Der Biergarten. Their red cabbage, which often suffers from too much sugar, nutmeg, and cloves, had no such issues on this visit. Spaetzle was greasy and toothsome, drizzled with a little gravy. Green beans provided the only color on our otherwise beige and brown plate.
Satisfied with our sodium and fat intake, we strolled through town, beyond the gift shops and cheesy bars, straight to my parents’ sofa for a brief snooze before heading back to the city.
300 Marietta Street NW 404-521-2728