Schwarzwaldstuben & Renger-Patzsch
Schwarzwaldstuben and Renger-Patzsch are both solid neighborhood restaurants in opposite corners of Berlin. Neither are secrets with locals nor tourists. Schwarzwaldstuben, the more Williamsburgy of the two (though it’s hard to tell where the rampant displays of antlers diverges from tradition into irony in Berlin) in Mitte (which I’d characterize as more of a Carroll Gardens) wasn’t exactly a snap to get into.
Unlike, say, a Prime Meats, though, they do take reservations because Germans are reservations crazy, yet calling Monday while at JFK still couldn’t snag us a seat any sooner than that Thursday. I think part of the issue is that unlike in NYC where tables constantly turnover and it’s expected that you’ll promptly vacate after eating, in Berlin, like much of Europe, you’ve essentially booked a table for the night. People get up, smoke, come back, take breaks between courses, order a round of drinks after eating, smoke some more, another round of drinks, no rush.
So, first we ate at the slightly less hectic, but reservations-needed Renger-Patzsch in Schoenenberg, a neighborhood I can’t really peg because the walk from the S-Bahn was dark and kind of desolate with most businesses closed for the evening, everyone tucked into their apartments.
Gebratene Elsässer Blutwurst mit krossem Speck und Rahmsauerkraut. I love blood sausage from all cuisines, but this version was particularly good. Sliced into three pieces, there was more surface area to crisp up and caramelize. I just noticed that my copy and paste from their menu has creamed sauerkraut instead of the lentils I was served. I love pickled cabbage, but the more French leaning legumes were a solid pairing, especially with the bacon.
Tarte flambée végétarienne: mit Lauch, Walnüssen und Bleu d´Auvergne. The menu has Alsatian touches like the extensive list of flammekueche a.k.a. tarte flambée. I love these thin, crackly pizzas but a whole square tart for one person is kind of too much with an appetizer even if the waitress says otherwise. I succumbed to this vegetarian one with sauteed leeks, walnuts, and Bleu d’Auvergne because I can never not order something that contains that soft Brie-like blue cheese. If it’s in the house, I’ll pick at the wedge until it disappears (usually, three days later). The American in me wanted to take my remainders for later, but that isn’t done.
Elsässer Sauerkraut mit Schäufele, Eisbein, Kassler und Rauchwurst. An Alsatian pork platter with knuckle, smoked sausage, salt pork, and shoulder. Plus, boiled potatoes, sauerkraut, and sharp mustard on the side. This was not listed as charcroute garni, but isn’t it?
Schwarzwaldstuben also served flammekueche, but the cuisine is supposedly more Swabian with pasta dishes like maultaschen, a ravioli-like dumpling, and spaetzle. The menu is not huge (and not online, so no German here) with no real appetizer/main convention, and revolved around a lot of bacon-studded potatoes, gravy, cabbage, sautéed mushrooms, and braised meats. And not particularly lightened-up nor downsized, which is not a complaint.
Schnitzels are also served, of course. I am still getting the variations straight and if I’m correct this pan-fried pork cutlet would be schweineschnitzel or maybe schnitzel wiener art (Vienna-style schnitzel).
I didn’t mean to eat roast venison twice in a week; it just happened.
This was a special that was verbally described to me as “deer,” (of course our server could speak pretty good English–and French in addition to German) after miming at the faux taxidermy (there were also real antlers, no heads). Stewed meat and cabbage might not sounds so alluring on paper, but with rich gravy and buttery spinach spaetzle, it’s the best kind of cold weather food.
By the way, the other venison dish, the first thing we ate after landing, was at the Party Haus in the Alexanderplatz Christmas market. Late night, it’s like the German version of a Jersey Shore club: bouncers, screaming, stumbling, fueled by Jägermeister.
At 6pm, it was groups of senior sipping Glühwein and us just pointing to something on the English-free menu: wildbraten, gefüllt mit Pilzen wurzigem kase, überbacken mit Preiselbeeren, Pfännchen, serviert. It turned out be a pan filled with venison chunks, mushrooms, peppers, corn kernels, bound by melted cheese with a blob of cranberry jelly, like the long lost brother of an Applebee’s Sizzling Entree.
Schwarzwaldstuben * Tucholskystraße 48, Berlin, Germany
Renger-Patzsch * Wartburgstraße 54, Berlin, Germany