Review: Würst Bier Hall less about Germany, more about decent bar food, good brews
FARGO - Cuisines are chameleons. They change with background, and that partially explains the food at the Würst Bier Hall.
In the interests of full disclosure, I grew up with German food. My father, a baker, and my mother, a cook, immigrated to Canada in the early '50s from what was still referred to, in those days, as the old country. Between the two of them, there wasn't much north of the Alps and east of the Rhine that they couldn't put on the table in spectacular ways.
It's true that things change. But for those of us for whom nostalgia still has some value, it's sometimes hard to know why. From the misplaced accent over the "u" to deep frying pretzels, the Würst Bier Hall is less about Germany and more about decent bar food, good beer and a bit of Teutonic comradery on the prairie.
The atmosphere at Würst is unique, fun, eclectic, and given that in Fargo you can't wander from traditional Bavarian beer gardens to techno dance clubs at will, it's a pretty good stab at being it all. It mixes traditional community tables with industrial German décor and a bit of college culture.
If you ask about "das boot" they are likely to explain the drinking game that goes with the glass rather than the glass itself. But there's a respect for good beer and a courageous attempt to make us socialize like the Germans at shared tables and not huddle in booths tucked in corners.
I like the feel. I like the beer. I like the service. I like that Fargo is filling up places that are unique with people who are unique. And, for the most part, I like the food, if not always their particular take on what it means for food to be German.
Good choices on the menu are the porketta ($7), a salty, piquant, pork roast rolled with peppers and spinach, sliced in short pieces and served in a bun. This is actually a mainstay of Italian-Canadian restaurants and finds a hundred variations in places like the Iron Range. It's substantial and does as well on a bun as it might as a single slice on a plate.
Another excellent choice is the game sausages ($8.50), something not easily found in eateries around town. They're lean and meaty, and served with kraut and onions, they turn into a nice interpretation of the kind of thing you'd find at a German fest on any summer weekend in Bavaria.
The bread served with either of these dishes is substantial and holds its shape.
The jaeger schnitzel is a substantial piece of pork breaded or grilled. It's a bargain at $10, but a jaeger schnitzel is all about a very significant mushroom gravy, and it falls down a little in this regard, the gravy being a little two thin and a little too short on the mushroom.
Almost everyone I talked with raved about the deep fried pretzels ($4). I just don't get it.
Side dishes are generally good. The spätzle is a little too firm and the red cabbage a little too sweet, but for the most part, they keep to the tradition, and a glass of beer solves a great many culinary shortcomings.
The beer list is essentially the same craft beer catalogue as most of the independent beer-serving establishments in Fargo. It's nice to be able to write that because up until recently, there were very few beer options in town.
The exceptions to the craft beer generalization are the few standard American beers like Bud Light, and happily the big name Bavarian beers like Ayinger and Hofbräu. The German Pride flight ($9 for four 5 ounce samples) is a very balanced introduction. Or you could do the right thing and order a glass of the Paulaner hefeweizen, which goes with everything.
The quest for "authentic" can be a fool's errand. Würst Bier Hall is about beer. The food gives you a taste that augments the atmosphere and makes it possible to see at least a little of the old country through the knotholes in the beer garden fence.
What: Würst Bier Hall
Where: 630 1st Ave. N., Fargo
Cuisine: German and Beer
Food: Three stars
Service: Three stars
Ambiance: Three stars
Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday; 21+ after 4 p.m. daily.
Phone: (701) 478-2437
Reservations accepted: No
Alcohol: Beer (no wine)
Dress: As you like
Credit cards accepted: Visa, Discover, MasterCard, American Express
Eric Daeuber is an instructor at Minnesota State Community and Technical College. Readers can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.