Sunday, March 8, 2009

Suppenküche (San Francisco, CA) - 3/7

"Cooking is a little like witchcraft, like alchemy, to transform people from angry and tense to relaxed and warm, happy. Therefore the right witch doctors in the kitchen can perform magic on the customers..."
- Suppenküche owner, Fabrizio Wiest -

For the past couple of years my bff, Candace, has been trying to drag me to Suppenküche, a traditional style German brauhaus /restaurant in the Hayes Valley neighborhood of San Francisco. I have only heard amazing reviews from previous patrons of the restaurant, including many native Germans who claimed its the best German beer and food they have had outside Germany. So using my birthday as an excuse to finally check out this local favorite hot spot, Candos and I pitched up for an early dinner last Saturday night. (Suppenküche is a small restaurant and sits people together at their long tables. Because of this, they only takes reservations for parties of 6 or more, so its wise to try to get a table early or be prepared for a long wait.) After a long week, I was looking forward to some hearty beer and the meat & potatoes fare.

According to the restaurant's website, Suppenküche owner Fabrizio Wiest came to San Francisco in 1993 from Munich with the concept of opening a traditional German Wirtshaus to show Americans something about German beer, as well as the warmth of the atmosphere from his home. Fabrizio's grandfather had a small country brewery which delivered beer to several dozen Wirtshausen in the small region of Mengkofen until 1970. Fabrizio has fond memories of being at the old beer places with the local people, eating, drinking, talking, and being raised in an environment with farm people. It is from this tradition that the Suppenküche originated. "Many valuable things were lost from the old time, the old ways of living.The connection to the land and to the people who lived in such traditional ways," states Fabrizio. "Suppenküche brings a bit of the atmosphere from that small Bavarian village to San Francisco, merging the monastery with the Wirtshaus, serving a cuisine developed throughout the ages, in a place that is safe and warm."

I arrived early and thought I start on a beer while I
was waiting for the rest of the party to arrive. I was surprised at how full the restaurant already was at 5:30pm on a Saturday. Overwhelmed by the massive German beer selection, I chatted with the very friendly and knowledgeable bartender who convinced me to try a delicious dunkelweizen (a dark wheat beer) called "Celebrator." When Candos arrived, we beat the crowd and had just e
nough time to order a couple kinds of dark hefeweizen (an unfiltered wheat beer) before we were seated. Candos were full of great suggestions from their travels to Octoberfest in Germany last year and were surprised the food and beer at Suppenküche was even better than some of the fare they tried on their travels. As both the beer and the food are filling, we decided to order family style and shared the appetizer of asparagus wrapped in bacon in a lemon-butter sauce, the special entree of succulent pig with a bread ball smothered in a rich, thick mushroom gravy, and a second entree of "Jägerschnitzel in Champignonsoße mit Spätzle und grünem Salat" or Sauteed Porkloin in Mushroom Sauce served with Spätzle, sauerkraut and Green Salad. All in all, the food was authentic, delicious, and served in huge portions. I would give them 5-stars all around. The biggest surprise of the night was when Candos talked me into trying a Berliner Weisse, a "white" beer from Berlin that is brewed from a mash that is three-quarters barley, one-quarter wheat and add a little raspberry syrup, to take the edge off its sharpness. It was delicious.

We sat at the table with a group visiting from out of town and were happy when they ordered the house specialty, 3 liters of beer served in glass boot that is called "das boot" by the locals. We quickly made friends with our fellow diners and ended the dinner with a delicious German black forest raspberry cake and a hysterical (albeit slightly drunken) rendition of happy birthday sang to me by our fellow diners.

After my evening at Suppenküche, I would happily say that Fabrizio Wiest delivers a magical evening all around with delicious authentic German food served in a safe and warm environment. Suppenküche is located at 525 Laguna (at the corner of Hayes and Laguna). It is open every day for Dinner from 5:00 to 10:00pm, and for Brunch on Sundays from 10:00am to 2:30pm.

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