By Omar Mamoon
By Kate Williams
By Pete Kane
By Molly Gore
By Lou Bustamante
By Anna Roth
Still, it was a lovely meal, and we lingered over homemade apple strudel, a nice pear tart, and a rather seductive warm chocolate bread pudding, praising what we'd eaten and planning to return for meatloaf with bacon and egg served with onion sauce, perhaps, or pea stew with roasted vegetables and sausage.
A day later, Chester and I stopped by Top Dog on Hearst in Berkeley, on our way to see Shanghai Knights. "I'm going to have two linguiça," Chester said. "No," I said, ever the indulgent godmother, "you're going to have one linguiça and split a German frankfurter, a bockwurst, and a bratwurst with me." Chester, who's into listing things by preference (I get a lot of "What are your three favorite Bond movies, in order? Your favorite Simpsonsepisodes? Your favorite Star Warsmovies?" when we're together), was amenable. We loved all of our sausages, but for the record, Chester still prefers the linguiça, followed that day by the brat; I liked the snappy, garlicky German (three-quarters beef, one-quarter pork) best, followed by the brat (all pork, with marjoram) and the fine, pale, milky bockwurst (half pork, half veal).
On Monday I invited Cathy to lunch at Schroeder's. Though she wasn't totally convinced on the subject of German food, she was willing to join me for a meal. (She did volunteer a memory of a lovely lunch in the astonishing food hall on top of the Ka De We department store in Berlin, where I'd spent some happy hours myself.) Schroeder's bills itself as the Oldest and Largest German Restaurant on the West Coast. It's been on Front Street since 1893; for its first 42 years, it was a men-only lunch establishment. In 1935, Schroeder's began serving dinner, and admitted ladies after lunch that same year. In 1970 (the head spins!) ladies got the run of the place.
German frankfurter $2.50
Roast half duck $18.95
German meatloaf $12.95
Potato pancakes $6
Speisekammer, 2424 Lincoln (at Park), Alameda, (510) 522-1300. Open for dinner Tuesday and Wednesday from 5 to 9 p.m., Thursday through Saturday from 5 to 10 p.m., Sunday from 4 to 9 p.m.; for Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Closed Monday. Reservations accepted for parties of six or more. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: easy. Noise level: moderate.
Top Dog, 2503 Hearst (at Euclid), Berkeley, (510) 843-1241. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. No reservations. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: difficult. Noise level: moderate.
Schroeder's, 240 Front (at California), 421-4778. Open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and on Saturday for dinner only from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. Closed Sunday. Reservations accepted. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: difficult. Muni: 12, 41. Noise level: moderate.
Walzwerk, 381 South Van Ness (at 15th Street), 551-7181. Open Tuesday through Saturday from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. Closed Sunday and Monday. Reservations accepted for parties of four or more. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: easy. Muni: 12, 22, 33, BART. Noise level: moderate.
I liked the big wood-paneled room lined with murals, the bentwood chairs, the slightly fusty tchotchkes, and the pleasant food we chose from a copious menu: oniony, moist, thin potato pancakes that tasted better than they looked, a huge half-duck roasted until the milk chocolate-colored flesh could be cut with a fork, fine-textured German meatloaf with smooth mashed potatoes and gravy, easy to eat, entirely enjoyable, and washed down with wheat beer. (The two different kinds of goulash might draw me back, maybe on a Friday, which is Polka Night, with all that that implies.)
Perhaps my best meal of a very good eating week is the dinner I have with Peter and Anita at Walzwerk after my return visit to the August Sander exhibit. I get there early, and am shown to a tiny bar behind the dining room, where I sip a glass of sekt (sparkling wine) as I listen to the two adorable owners converse in German. (One reminds me of Rachel Griffiths; Peter says the other reminds him of Annie Lennox, but I don't see it.) It really feels as though I'm in East Germany: the eccentric thrift-shop décor, the signage, the photos of Marx, Engels, and Lenin that decorate the dining room -- everything contributes to the illusion. This time the potato pancakes are plump, lightly crusted, mashed-potato cakes; the sweet matjes herrings are combined with apples, onions, and pickles in a sour-creamed salad; and we all love a buttery soup du jour filled with halved Brussels sprouts. Peter's schnitzel comes the closest so far to my crisp ideal, arrives with frilly purple kale and excellent mashed potatoes, and goes well with his dark East German Köstritzer Schwarzbier. Anita's chicken, despite being stuffed with bacon and apples, gives the lie to the "heavy" misconception, juicy and subtle as it is under its creamy dried-cherry sauce. I'm tempted by the garlic roast pork, having not yet had my fill of the pig in a very piggy week, but succumb to the sauerbraten, wittily sporting raisins in its winy sauce. We like the names of our desserts (kalter hund, or cold dog, is a chocolate-layered-with-cookies icebox cake; rote grütze is puréed red currant pudding with cream) somewhat more than we like the desserts themselves, but this is the most sophisticated cooking I've tasted all week. Even the Wall wouldn't keep me away.