Oktoberfest season is upon us and one of the best places to celebrate is the Old Stein Inn. We took the quick twenty-minute trip to Edgewater and got right into the spirit of things in Old Stein’s biergarten (beer garden). Think traditional German beer hall with a few modern touches. It’s a big, beautiful space that was rebuilt eight years ago after a fire destroyed almost all of the restaurant.
You’ll notice a few updates like garage doors that open to the outside and state of the art air conditioners and heating units to keep the beer garden running all year long. However, owner Mike Selinger managed to keep that Old World German charm by bringing things in like the massive bar top you’ll notice behind me in the video. One of their carpenters made it from an old row house that was 100 years old. “It’s heart pine from a 150- to 200-year-old tree, so the wood is literally 300 years old.”
Look up and you’ll see a German bear fellow hanging above the ‘bier bär’. Mike explained that the bear is actually connected to their beer garden’s name. The umlaut over the “a” changes the pronunciation of the letter so that bar sounds like bear. Thus, you have a beer bear in a beer bar.
I love a good play on words almost as much as I loved the spread that Mike and Executive Chef Scott Paska had in store for us. It was like a crash course on German cuisine covering some of Old Stein’s Oktoberfest specials and star menu items. I started in on the Metzger “Butcher” Plate first because charcuterie just has that effect on me.
This charcuterie board is one of Old Stein’s Oktoberfest specials and is the stuff dreams are made of. My favorite was the landjäger; a German-style air cured salami. They’re like the best Slim Jims you’ll ever have. Of course, the Schinken (German smoked prosciutto) and liverwurst were a close second and third. I can’t leave out the three styles of pickles and mustards, along with a German bread that was just so good with all of the above.
Next came the Radish Salat, another one of the Oktoberfest specials. This salad presented beautifully piled high with radishes, quick pickle cucumber and onion, arugula, and a cider-dill vinaigrette. It tasted just a good as it looked. Honestly, if you are a pickle fan, this salad is a must try! Light and fresh, I gobbled down a good amount of it before I realized there was more on the way.
Under normal circumstances, gobbling down a salad would have been okay, but I needed room for the last three dishes. (Plus dessert)! The Old Stein Short Rib Sauerbraten is like the German version of meat and potatoes: Sow braised short rib, two potato dumplings, with a side of pickled red cabbage. All of which was delicious in its own right, but the best feature of this dish was the sauce that covered it all – a rice vinegar and juniper berry gravy that I could take a bath in.
After said gravy bath came the Munchner Schweinshaxe, which is German for one of the best things you’ll ever eat. (Or the more traditional translation: Roasted ham hock or pork “knuckle”). Essentially, this is a slow roasted pork shank. When I asked, “how long is it roasted,” the response I got was, “forever – with späetzle, pickled red cabbage, and a red wine gravy.” You might be thinking, “hasn’t she had enough gravy by now?” The answer is there is no such thing. The meat was fall-off-the-bone and the späetzle utterly delightful as is the nature of that food.
I would have saved that pork shank dish for last if it weren’t for the Bavarian Soft Pretzel. Soft pretzels have a tender piece of my heart. I learned this about myself at a young age and never looked back. This pretzel takes me right back to my childhood. Old Stein gets their handmade pretzels from a bakery that does nothing else but make pretzels. They even make them for the German Embassy. It comes with a trio of sauces: Traditional mustard, chili butter and a landjäger sour cream, which has that German salami I mentioned earlier in it. I can’t do this sauce enough justice other than to say that there was not a drop of it left afterwards.
Last, but not least was the Haselnuss “Hazelnut” Torte; a hazelnut perfection served up three different ways and made better only by the addition of Lindemans Framboise “Raspberry” Lambic (fermented in the champagne method with real Belgian raspberries). The Lambic was a treat on its own, sparkling and perfectly sweet. It could have served as dessert itself, but was absolutely incredible after each bite of the hazelnut dessert. These two belong together like peanut butter and jelly, so if you get one, I highly recommend getting it with the other.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention any beer during Oktoberfest – or the poutine. The beers that complement our incredible feast ranged from light (Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse), amber (Spaten Oktoberfest), and dark (Köstritzer Schwarzbier). I loved the dark beer the best by far. Crisp, clean, and flavorful for a black lager with a relatively low ABV. The Schweine Poutine is something Chef Scott described as “one of the best things they make,” so of course I had to make a second visit just to try it and it did not disappoint. A pile of fries smothered in cheese, bacon, roasted pulled pork, and a mustard BBQ was worth every yoga class and then some.
Any time of the year is a great time to visit the Old Stein Inn, but during Oktoberfest, it’s a party you don’t want to miss. Be sure to keep an eye on their live band lineup on the weekends during this month. We were lucky enough to catch Heidi & The Heimat Echo, an ensemble that plays the sounds of Germany. Yes, there was an accordion, tuba, and lederhosen involved. Most importantly, there were many toasts to the sound of “Prost”!
Videography and photos courtesy of Patrick McNamara of Drawn to the Image