Los Angeles has seen a spate of German-themed bars and restaurants open in the past few years (Wurstkuche, Biergarten, Steingarten, the upcoming Currywurst), but very few of them (Berlin Currywurst is a notable exception) are actually run by Germans. Set to officially opening this Friday (July 29th), Wirtshaus hopes to carve a niche for itself with a menu of updated German classics and a menu 30 German beers, including a few rarities that should make hops-freaks gleeful.
[Photo gallery after the jump.]
First things first: Wirtshaus is pronounced "veerts-house" not "wurts-house" or "rist-house." Sure, it sounds better when German expat and Wirtshaus co-owner Bjoern Risse says it, but it's not that hard to master.
"A woman and a glass of wine helps, even on your worst day."
--old German proverb
Along with his business partner Bülent Yildirim and German-born chef Kenny Seliger, Risse has devised a menu that he describes as "authentic German but with modern elements," i.e. more than just sausages.
"As a German living here, you're sometimes really craving German food, and there's not much around except for Red Lion, which is very old world German food," says Risse, who cites Suppenküche in San Francisco as one of his favorite stateside spots for a taste of home.
Though the menu feature four kinds of wurst including weisswurst, bratwurst and a vegetarian sausage (all of which will be made in-house starting in about a month), it also includes potato pancakes with mascarpone applesauce, schnitzel, cheese spaetzle, pretzel rolls, three kinds of house-made mustard and "spaghettieis."
What are spaghettieis (pronounced "spa-getty-ice")? A popular German dessert made with vanilla ice cream that's shaped like spaghetti noodles and topped with cream, strawberry mousse, fresh strawberries, white chocolate or coconut shavings (to resemble Parmesan cheese) and chocolate flakes (black pepper).
To go along with the food, Risse has a list of over 30 beers (17 on tap), all German except for a couple friendly Austrian brews. There are no American beers anywhere on the menu. The most recognizable beer is Beck's, but Risse delves deeper into the playbook, offering the Goethe favorite Koestritzer Schwarzbier, the popular Bavarian Hacker Pschorr Lager, a pair of rare (at least on these shores) Koelches: Reissdorf and Gaffel, Schneider Aventinus Weizenbock and Jever, a strong pilsner that advertises itself with the tagline, "If you're looking for Bud Light, you'll hate this." Indeed.
"He who does not kiss and does not drink is dead."
--another old German proverb
For Risse and his partners, the key is making the outdoor space into a proper biergarten. Wirtshaus is replaces the old Sante La Brea, which even Gordon Ramsay and his "Kitchen Nightmares" crew couldn't save.
They've torn out nearly everything, inside and out, so the interior is now anchored by an L-shaped bar and a pair of communal tables. The side-patio will, theoretically, be extended to the sidewalk in front and, in back, leads to a ping-pong table that will host weekend Around The World tournaments.
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All of this seems vaguely foreign but still completely within the realm of American, and more specifically, Angeleno, drinking habitats. What may be utterly unpalatable to Americans, as Risse acknowledges, is the mix of beer and soda (usually Sprite or Fanta) Wirtshaus will offer. It's a popular libation in Germany, especially at lunchtime when "you want a beer, but you don't want to get wasted," Risse explains. (The proportions are usually 75% beer and 25% soda.) Good luck selling that one in this town.
Wirtshaus opens at on July 29th and will be open seven days a week from 11 a.m. until midnight.
Wirtshaus: 345 N. La Brea Ave., LA. (323) 931-9291, www.wirtshausla.com.