Where to drink this week: Bierhaus
Tue May 3 2011
Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson
No self-respecting New Yorker would admit to drinking in the city's touristy watering holes, but what about a re-creation of a tourist trap from another part of the world? There's some odd appeal to that wrinkle in the formula, as we've learned on recent excursions to Bierhaus, a raucous second-story beer hall that takes its inspiration from Munich's historic—and highly commercialized—Hofbruhaus. The suds all come from that famed German brewery, long communal tables make up the bulk of the seating, and dirndl-sporting waitresses weave through the throngs balancing sloshing steins and comically oversized platters of meat-and-potato--heavy grub. It adds up to a pretty good approximation of the real Oktoberfest experience at Hofbru-Festzelt, one of the most American-friendly tents at Bavaria's annual booze-athon.
DRINK THIS: Big-ass beers, obviously—the 24 taps dispense five to six different Hofbru brews, available by the half liter ($8) or liter ($16). Though most drinkers don't seem too concerned about what they're pouring down their hatch, you could do much worse than these storied suds (Hofbru has been making the stuff since 1589). The classic lager and refreshing Hefeweizen go down easiest, while the darker Dunkel has a balanced caramel sweetness. This month, you'll want to devote at least one stein to the seasonal Maibock, a strong and malty brew traditionally consumed throughout May. Carbaphobes can knock back traditional schnapps and spirits, such as the herbal liqueur Killepitsch and Williams Birne Pear Brandy.
GOOD FOR: Just about everyone. The tangible absurdity of the place breeds a when-in-Rome conviviality, making Bierhaus a great place to bring a work crowd or any group of friends who will find amusement listening to live sing-along polka tunes from Alpine Squeeze (Thu, Fri 6--10pm) and bashing heavy glassware against the table. Though sausagefest jokes can seem a little too on-the-nose at times, you never know what swath of humanity might be on display for your flirting, fraternizing or people-watching needs. We stumbled upon tables full of postfrat junior bankers loosening their ties, giggly officemates getting to know each other over schnitzel and actual German expats engaging in an elaborate toasting ritual.
THE CLINCHER: All those steins take up a lot of space, but you'd be a fool not to leave room for the surprisingly solid German drinking food. The wurst sampler ($24) features a selection of Schaller & Weber sausages—including juicy, roasted Ksekrainer oozing molten cheddar—plus towering mountains of red cabbage and vinegary, rough-cut potato salad. The doughy pretzels, meanwhile, are imported from Germany, and they make a fine vehicle for addictive beer cheese, a thick mix of goat and farmer cheese laced with salty capers. It's hard not to keep eating long past the point when your stomach has flown the white flag. 712 Third Ave between 44th and 45th Sts (212-867-2337)