Last night I ‘checked in’ at Brat & Brau, the new Hermosa eatery that replaced No. 9 noodle shop at the corner of 14th Street and Hermosa Ave. Quickly, a string of comments popped up asking, “How is it?”
It’s difficult to write anything critical about restaurateurs that have the courage to open a business under our current city management. The City of Hermosa treats restaurateurs about the same as seagulls treat bread crumbs on the beach – peck, peck, peck until they’re gone.
But, in addition to courage, Brat & Brau has a lot going for it.
The decor is warm and inviting and the staff are friendly locals you’ll recognize even if you’re not sure you know them. The owners have used the small space well, arranging community tables in the heart of the room and adding a small bar toward the back. The community tables are meant to remind you of Munich during Octoberfest and the wall murals evoke the mountains Julie Andrews danced on in The Sound of Music . To encourage the idea of a casual gathering place, the owners have made a handful of board games available to play while quaffing your steins of lager.
Brat & Brau has an excellent, wide selection of German lagers, pilsners and hefeweizens. There are about a half dozen on draft and more by the bottle. That’s 25 brews to try in total. The draft beers – I tried a Holsten Lager and the always reliable Paulaner Oktoberfest – are available in three sizes up to a ‘boot.”
German drinking boots – oversized steins that are shaped like, well, boots – have been a thing in Deustchland since the mid-1800s. They jumped the pond to America after one appeared in the 2007 cult film comedy BeerFest. Knowing that I would have to walk the four blocks home all by lonesome, I stuck to a liter each of the Holsten and Paulaner (around $8 – $9 per).
I paired my beers with a traditional bratwurst topped by sauerkraut and sweet peppers. I dipped that into a healthy dollop of superb spicy mustard. All of Brat & Brau’s sausages are homemade and cover the gamut from vegetarian through traditional all the way to a duck and red wine sausage special.
My first introduction to bratwurst was in the cavernous Munich train station while on a ski trip in the mid-80s. While waiting for my train to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, I presented my woefully limited Deutschmarks to the fraulein staffing the lunch counter and in return received a monster of a bratwurst, a dollop of German mustard and a beer pretzel.
Brat & Brau’s traditional bratwurst did not quite measure up that travel memory. Still, it had an excellent mild flavor and I was pleasantly surprised that the bun did not overwhelm the meat. Unfortunately, that was mostly because it was a small bun. Their traditional brat was a bit skinnier than I expected, not unlike a Dodger Dog, though with more flavor and less violence.
The sauerkraut was decent but underwhelming. I want sauerkraut to have a bit of a tang to it. It should posess some bite in its flavor. This kraut was, like the brat, rather mild. The bratwurst itself comes with two small toppings (like sauerkraut and a few slices of sweet peppers) and costs $6.50. Sides, primarily a variety of seasoned french fries, are extra and about the same price as the traditional bratwurst. The other sausages available ran a buck or two more than the traditional and I think a beer pretzel was $4.
All in all, I had a pleasant stop at Brat & Brau. It broke up the monotony of a wet winter evening but I think it was a bit overpriced. A single brat and brew (no sides), plus tax and tip, will run you a few pennies over $20.
There has been a tendency lately to take comfort food items, like brats, burgers and tacos, fancy them up a bit, call it gourmet and start charging more while serving less. In the end, if I go to a brat place, I’m not looking for duck and I’d like an order of brat and sauerkraut ample enough to leave me full. Brat & Brau is a pleasant place and I’d like to see it succeed but I think their prices may mean they will struggle for awhile then disappear from our cost-conscious beach community.
In the meantime, I’ve only tried two of the 25 beers and one variety of bratwurst, so I’ll be back. I just may need to stop by Mickey’s deli for a lotto ticket first.
I encourage you to check Brat & Brau out for yourself. They are currently open 5PM – 11PM and are hosting their official grand opening this Monday, January 11.