422 Yale Ave N
Seattle WA 98109
Fried Pickles? Ginormous Wiener Schnitzel? Yep!
By: Bryan R
"Man it's freaking cold outside," someone quietly mumbled as their breath sent up a huge plume of steam while we marched through South Lake Union. Several construction workers, no doubt helping along the area's condo boom, shivered in unspoken agreement. As we rounded the corner we spotted our welcoming refuge, Feierabend.
Also known as "that German restaurant", Feierabend was a welcome relief from the chilly gray outside. As we stepped into the welcoming warmth, the restaurant was quiet; the only real activity came from a couple of guys transfixed on the muted plasma TV beaming in some sort of sports coverage. Since Feierabend is first and foremost a pub, the quietness made sense - happy hour was still a long ways away. But Feierabend does have a menu, and while it may be slightly limited, it makes up for the lack of selection with flavor and hearty German fare not often found in our neck of the woods.
After opting to sit at a window table overlooking a couple of old warehouses (a reminder of the area's historic past), we noticed how the place seemed to be, in its heart-of-hearts, an old fashion pub (back when pub stood for public house). Darkly painted woods, small lamps emanating a subtle orange light, classic wood flooring and various posters commemorating a slew of German beers help give the place an old world feel. It's clear that Feierabend, roughly translating to "quitting time", sees itself as that small and local kind of pub meant to attract a steady stream of friendly regulars for happy hour get-togethers. Large, lengthy tables encourage different groups to sit together and mingle. If you've ever been to Kells on Post Alley, Feierabend will feel like familiar territory.
We weren't ginormously hungry that day, but as we glanced over some of the appetizers, a few become too irresistible to pass up. Deep Fried Pickles (Gewertzed Gerken, $4) seem like something that could be described as a perfect recipe for failure. But lo and behold, it works. The thinly battered jumbo pickles - served hot, but remarkably un-oily - are worth sampling if pickles appeal to your palate. And since we were getting one starter, we figured why not two? We couldn't quite agree on a description for the Bread Dumplings (Semmelknodel mit Pilzrahmsose, $6). One reviewer likened it to thick turkey stuffing while another was reminded of a lean take on biscuits and gravy. However, we all could agree that these bread dumplings, swimming in an onion-mushroom gravy and epitomizing hearty, savory cuisine, were most enjoyable (even for our one reviewer who has a long standing holy war against mushrooms).
Another round later (of water that is, it was only lunch time after all), the main dishes landed at our table. The signature Sausage Plate (Bratwurst mit Sauerkraut, $8) came with three sausage halves, various mustards stylishly spread across the plate, and a mound of sinus-clearing sauerkraut. Mild in flavor, the sausages were palatable and distinctly lacked those little balls of gristle so frequently found in cheap sausage. But given the mild taste, it seemed like the sausages were more a vessel for mustard than anything else. Not for the sensitive or timid, the sauerkraut was about as subtle as an atomic bomb. If you aren't already on friendly terms with intense sauerkraut, this stuff won't make bring you any closer. But if you like sauerkraut, give this tasty stuff a go.
The Bratwurst Sandwich ($12) stuffed with the same sauerkraut and sausage from the Bratwurst mit Sauerkraut plate and accented with hearty mustards and the house-made catsup is another option on the menu. Though we had high expectations for the sandwich, the kraut had a way of dominating the scene with its powerful vinegar like flavor; being able to finally taste the sausage and mustard required some work (...too much work). Jgerschnitzel (Jagerschnitzel in Pilzsose mit Spatzle und RotKohl, $13), a German cuisine classic, is usually a safe bet when trying out German food for the first time. Smothered in a mushroom sauce, the sauteed pork loin at Feierabend was unfortunately a little bland. The pickled red cabbage on the side was tasty, but its juices crept over to the pork loin and simply overwhelmed the mild flavors of the schnitzel and mushroom sauce. A German take on mac-and-cheese, the rich, creamy, and cheesy spatzle was enjoyable as a side and is also available as a separate entree (Ksesptzle, $7).
Ah, but then there's the perennial favorite, the Wiener Schnitzel (Wiener Schnitzel vom Schwein mit RotKohl und Pommes Frittes, $12). Feierabend's schnitzel, which must rank high in the wiener schnitzel pecking order, is an easy recommendation. Made from what must be one of the largest pork lions I've even seen, the finely breaded loin is excellently spiced, fried and flavored with just a touch of lemon juice. Tasty pickled red cabbage and shoestring fries drizzled with the delectable house made curry catsup were scrumptious sides.
With good food, a comfortable, easy going setting, and plenty of interesting new beers to sample, there's a strong temptation to linger a little while longer at Feierabend. Since it was only lunchtime, we had to fight and win over that temptation. But sometimes, even when you win, you lose.
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