I'M GOING TO BLAME Willy Wonka here, but whenever I get within 20 yards of German cuisine, I can't help but feel like Augustus Gloop: apple cheeked and ready to plug up a pipe with my ample belly. I can hear my inner Rheinlander mother imploring "save some room for later!"
That's a voice best silenced at Stammtisch. The sister spot to the wildly-popular Prost!, Stammtisch takes the sophistication and selection of the original on Mississippi, and turns it up to zehn. (That's 10 in German! Learning!)
Which isn't to say the food is groundbreaking—far from it. Stammtisch isn't a place to sample exotica. Rather, these are comforting European standards—spatzle, roasted chicken, potato cakes—drenched in butter, pan fried, deep fried, gravied, and paired with delicious German beer. In no time, you, too, will have set free your inner Augustus.
Occupying the former Spints Alehouse corner brick building on NE 28th, Stammtisch is busy, dim, and noisy. With ornate glasses of beer pouring steadily from the bar, it's what I'd imagine an actual Bavarian beer hall is like. Stammtisch, meaning "regular's table," asks people to "sit here always." After a bumpy start where a waitress gruffly informed metric-illiterate me that .3 liters is not a size appropriate for a tasting flight (I think they are tired of telling us American Gloops that we cannot order more than one beer at a time), service was super friendly and willing to drop hints about which beers we might like best.
Case in point: I heard several waitresses direct hops-addicted Portlanders to the Grevensteiner ($4.25 for .3L), an unfiltered lager that indeed went down like an IPA. And when it was time to have the wienerschnitzel, an impressively apportioned pork loin breaded and fried with a mushroom gravy and bright orange vegetable remoulade ($15), our server led us to tackle the excellent Maisel's Dunkel Weisse ($4.25 for .3L), a caramel-colored brew with hints of spices that played well with the fried food. The currywurst ($6), a delicious specimen of sausage and fries that needed a touch more of that tasty curry ketchup, was stellar with the standard Bitburger Pilsner ($4 for .3L).
On another visit, sitting in the heat in an outdoor booth, a liter of Kolsch ($12) shared between two people was a refreshing match for the Bretzel ($5), a fluffy Bavarian twist that my hyperbole-prone dining companion called "The best pretzel I have ever had." It's served with stone-ground mustard, a cheesy obatzda, and glorious schmaltz, which may be my new favorite thing. Feel free to triple dip.
Not every dish is a winner. A trout braised in Riesling with a lemon, wine, and butter reduction ($15) was small and salty, and the apple strudel was dry; the money is better spent on a slice of pie down the block at Beulahland.
But that's made up for by the greats—the veal and pork weisswurst ($8) with house sauerkraut and mustard is tender and delicately flavored. Add a second, probably the bratwurst, for $11, and before you complain that seems steep for two sausages, note that Gustav's asks for $12.95 for two links. A Hasen Rouladen ($12) was a beautifully sliced preparation of rabbit, enhanced by being rolled together with softly sweet caramelized onions and tangy gurkens, paired with spicy arugula.
If there's ever a line, I can't say that I'd wait to get in–there are very few places I will wait for. But should I snag the golden ticket of a free table, there's a good chance–thanks to those 18 beers on tap and ample application of butter and meats–that not only will I sit there for seemingly always, but I'll also need a set of Oompa Loompas to roll me out of there, waving a merry Auf Wiedersehen as I go.
Open 3 pm to 2:30 am daily. Outdoor seating available. Under 21 allowed until 10 pm. Wines and German spirits also available.