Welcome to our list of favorite dining destinations in New York's Hudson Valley and Adirondack regions. We visit restaurants, wineries, barbecues, and a smattering of off the beaten path culinary destinations like maple sugar shacks and fromageries. My friends and I have been dining out together weekly for over twenty years. The locations we write about are our favorite destinations. We are not claiming they are the best, just our favorites. The posts are not "reviews" in the classic sense. - we offer only our picks, not pans. We will leave the criticism to others. We are a happy blog. We much prefer a good bistro to "haute cuisine", especially if they also have a nice bar. We prefer a crock of cassoulet and a bottle of Beaujolais to just about anything else. If you enjoy simple home style rustic cooking with a decent (but not too expensive) bottle of wine, then pull up a chair and join us.
Friday, February 8, 2013
Mountain Brauhaus Restaurant, Gardiner, New York
3123 US Route 44
Gardiner, NY 12525
845 255 9766
Lunch and Dinner, Wednesday through Sunday
Closed Monday and Tuesday
This perennial Hudson Valley favorite has been serving up great food and great times since 1955. We have been dining here regularly for over thirty years. The proprietor, Mark Ruoff, is the third generation of his family to greet diners at the door, and the Mountain Brauhaus seems to just keep getting better.
Classic German platters of schnitzels and wursts and rouladen and sauerbraten with spaetzle and sauerkraut are now complemented with daily specials featuring new American variations on traditional themes.
The restaurant's location, nestled under the Shawangunk ridgeline on the Minnewaska Trail / Route 44, only adds to the Brauhaus experience. It is as close to Bavaria as you can get without getting on a plane. The waitstaff dresses in traditional German garb. Local photographs of the surrounding Gunks look like they could gave been taken in Germany.
In my most recent write-up of the Brauhaus, I tried to describe the atmosphere but I'm not sure that I succeeded very well. This is first and foremost a "local roadhouse" restaurant and tavern that just happens to be German. Everyone in the dining room seems to know each other. All of the couples sitting at the bar quaffing tall glasses of wheat beers and over-sized sudsy mugs of Franziskaner Hefe-weiss all seem to be regulars too. The place is always busy, but that just seems to add to the "party" flavor of the place. Picture a German "Cheers" with humongous platters of fantastic food (and soft pretzels and no Norm).
For all of the above reasons the Mountain Brauhaus is one of our favorite places to dine on our weekly Wednesday outings. We will typically start at the bar with a glass of Spaten, or share a bottle of wine from the restaurant's wine list. From our vantage point at the bar you can usually peruse the blackboard specials at the entrance to the dining room. If we can we secure a table in the bar area, but on our last visit those tables were all taken by 6 PM and we dined in the main dining room.
One of the appetizer specials caught my eye - a schnitzel of freshly caught wild mackerel. Mackerel is one of those fish that you frequently see as "recommended" on lists of sustainable seafood choices, but you rarely ever see in a restaurant. It is an oily fish, but very tasty, and I would never have thought to prepare it as schnitzel, adding additional oil. I had to try it. The fish arrived as advertised - two small fillets, breaded and pan fried with some capers, and plated on a a nest of baby arugula and spritzed with fresh lemon. It was fantastic, (and not at all oily.) How the chef did that I have no idea. The nutty flavor of the arugula was a perfect complement to the dish.
The appetizers at the restaurant tend to be meals in themselves, and you really need to watch what you order unless you want to bring it home with you. George's appetizer of Konisberger Klops is a case in point. Two over-sized meatballs of ground beef and veal are served on top of platter of spaetzel, drizzled with a brown pan gravy. This dish would suffice as a dinner for most normal appetites, especially when you add in the basket of pumpernickel bread that arrives with it. Of course there is nothing normal about our crew so we will usually move on to a table full of our favorites for dinner.
Schweinshaxe is at the top of that list. The kitchen's braised pork shank does not appear on the regular menu, but more often than not you will find it listed with the evening's specials. Try it, it's great. Fall off the bone tender, the dish is usually served with spaetzle and cabbage. Any of the schnitzels are first rate - Jaeger schnitzel, served with a creamy mushroom sauce, or a la Holstein, fried with briney capers and anchovies, topped with a fried egg.
My personal favorites are the wursts ~ bratwurst and bockwurst and knackwurst, available individually or in combination as a "sausage medley", served with different styles of mustard for dipping. Last week the kitchen plated them with some local beets and a tangy sauerkraut side. What's better than that?
If you do stop in please let our other readers know about your visit in the comments section.
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Ideas? Recommendations? Email me at NorthCountryJoe@gmail.com