Last Sunday, badly in need of a diversion from the overwhelming sadness of the WTC disaster, Brian Brauts and I resumed out quest for the best German restaurants in the Tristate area. This time Long Island was the chosen search zone. We were guided by a number of German American websites and decided, based on pure laziness, to restrict our search to restaurants which had a menu posted on the web.
Don't be too quick to condemn us for our cautious approach. On a previous trip to a likely looking German restaurant near the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware river we found that they had only 2 or 3 German specialties. In a triumph of adventure over logic Brian Brauts ordered the Jaegerschnitzel and was unpleasantly surprised to be served 2 or 3 small chunks of mystery meat covered with what appeared to be watery Campbells Cream of Mushroom soup. The whole dish was more Friskies than Frankfurt. I, on the other hand, was sensitive to the places' bad vibrations and ordered the perfectly adequate prime rib. He hates me for it still.
Anyway, this time we at least knew that our two candidates served a good selection of German dishes so we had a fighting chance of eating something tasty.
Leaving our Park Slope home base we drove to our first stop, the Black Forest Brewhouse in Farmingdale. And it is, in fact, a microbrewery combined with a German restaurant. Viewing the website (http://www.blackforestbrewhaus.com/) we thought we had discovered the perfect combination. The reality was a bit different. The place is *new* and has the appearance of a mall restaurant. All of the pictures on the website of traditional furnishings were a bit misleading ñ the place looks like it was built last year. Not necessarily a fatal flaw but we soon picked up some strange overtones.
A large square modern bar dominates the main room. We didn't notice any German beers on tap but 3 or 4 of the microbreweries products' were on draft. We tried the lager and the pilsner. Both were watery, mostly flavorless, and unpleasantly bitter, very unlike the German style beers we were craving. Proof that just because something is home made doesn't mean it's good.
Adjoining the bar were a series of long picnic style tables (a very German touch) where a large and happy crowd was seated in front of a muscular German mural which reminded me of something by Thomas Hart Benton. We couldn't figure out why the crowd was so happy if they were drinking the vile microbrews but I guess tastes can differ.
The Black Forest Brewhouse evidently does kiddie parties. Although only adults were seated at the picnic tables, large Winnie the Pooh balloons hung from the walls. At the bar, right next to the taps, sat a giant Blue Slushee machine. Now, I don't know about you but blue slushees are not a part of my ideal German dining experience. The whole place reminded us of some vaguely Germanic Chuck-E-Cheez that served bad beer.
We never tried the food ñ I guess we wanted comfort food in a comforting atmosphere and so we moved on. (We might have this place totally wrong. If you've been to the restaurant please let me know your impressions. You can skip the part about the blue slushees.)
The next, and final stop, was the Plattdeutsche Park Restaurant on the Hempstead Turnpike in Franklin Square where we discovered a real winner.
The restaurant was either built or redecorated in the early 1950s and they've never seen the need to change things. Mind you, everything is in good repair but you just have a feeling that if you looked at a picture taken there 50 years ago everything would be exactly the same. That was just fine with us.
The bar room looks a bit like a giant finished basement with light pine paneling on the walls. In a prominent location a big buck deer head hangs on the wall. Evidently in life the deer was an avid football fan because he's still wearing his favorite Minnesota Vikings jersey.
A large square bar sits in the center of the room; it looks like it could easily serve 150, although when we walked in the entire bar was empty. Undeterred, (and a little thirsty from our trip) we immediately ordered large mugs of fresh Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest and were served by a very friendly and professional bartender. We chatted a bit and found out that he had worked as a waiter at Zum Stamtisch (our benchmark German restaurant) for 3 years. He gave the food at Plattdeutche a high recommendation and we were much encouraged. Soon the bar began to fill up a bit as a meeting of a German American club held in an adjoining room let out. We ordered another round and began to think about food.
We decided to eat at the bar since the dining room was largely empty. (In case you've ever wondered where all those tan bent wood chairs that used to be in old restaurants have gone, Plattdeutche has them all.)
We started with two appetizers - Fried Brie with Almond Crust and Westphalian ham served on squares of toast with German pickles on the side. Both were fresh and delicious. (See the attached website for their full menu, although some of the dishes we ordered were specials.) We ordered another round and waited for our main courses.
I ordered the Schweinebraten (Roast Loin of Pork with Mashed Potatoes and Sauerkraut) and substituted home fries for the mashed potatoes. The roast pork was moist and perfectly seasoned, and both the home fries and sauerkraut were wonderful. (Portions here can be large ñ I took home enough to make a nice sized lunch the following day.) Brian Brauts ordered a large open faced pork sandwich with mushroom gravy which was also excellent.
There is much more to their menu and we look forward to trying it all. Their website mentions that they have a number of Oktoberfest activities scheduled in the coming weeks so we have an excuse to go back soon. In the meantime think of Plattdeutche Park as a wonderful 1950s time capsule that serves comfort food and great beer. You should go.