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Restaurant Review: Hearty German cuisine and brews attract fans to Old Stein Inn

Mar 25, 2016 09:00AM ● Published by Cate Reynolds

Prost! Hearty German cuisine and brews attract fans to Old Stein Inn

Old Stein Inn 
1143 Central Ave, Edgewater. 410-798-6807. oldstein-inn.com.  $8–31. Open 4–9 p.m. Wed.–Thurs., Fri.–Sat. ’til 10 p.m.; Sun. noon–9 p.m. Major credit cards accepted. Wheelchair accessible. Three marinas in walking distance. Music on weekends in heated beer garden.

By Mary Lou Baker // Photography by Tony Lewis, Jr.

Like the proverbial phoenix, the creature in Greek mythology whose life ended in flames and signaled the rebirth of another from its ashes, the Old Stein Inn rose from a devastating fire on New Year’s Day 2011—reopening nine months later. Its heroic rebirth was inspired by the determination of owner Mike Selinger, the son of Ursula and Karl Selinger, natives of Germany who opened the inn in 1983 as a community gathering place. Selinger is quick to share credit with his wife Beth and the neighbors and friends who pitched in to help.

Diehard fans of German food who live far from Edgewater have made the Old Stein Inn a destination restaurant, while locals still gather in the souvenir-filled inside dining area or in a charming outdoor biergarten heated for year-round comfort. Families love the informality of this outdoor space, gathering around large group tables and head-bobbing to weekend performances by a jolly accordion player named Sylvia and a rotating series of German bands.

Beer is the preferred beverage here, with a choice of 10 brands on tap (ask your server about “Tap 10,” the seasonal selection) and an $8 sampler of light or dark seasonal beers. And, if you’re a “beer novice,” ask for a short Beer 101 class in all the brews Old Stein has to offer—many of them suggested as pairings for items on the regular menu as well as daily specials. My personal favorite is Lindeman’s Framboise, an effervescent raspberry beer fermented in the Champagne method and served here in an elegant flute. My partner, somewhat of a connoisseur. was impressed with the draft choices, and scored with a full-bodied Franz Dunkle from Munich.
On to the edibles. Chef Ian Douglas may be a born Brit, but he knows how to make all the German favorites—often adding his own twists and supplementing the regular menu with “kitchen specials” like venison carpaccio or quail with a red currant glaze nested on a bed of roasted butternut squash. Neither was featured on our review visit so we stuck with the classics. A generous plate of thin and crispy potato pancakes partnered well with a side of sour cream and house-made apple sauce. A bowl of rich and hearty beef goulash was thick with meat and vegetables—a dish that warms you up in cold weather. Vinaigrette sweetened with maple syrup dressed a pretty salad of roasted butternut squash, baby kale, dried cranberries, and cheese made from local ewe’s milk.

Chef Douglas buys locally (vegetables, cheeses) depending on availability—but relies on Schaller & Weber on Second Ave in NYC (known as “masters of charcuterie”) to supply him with the finest German meats. So no wonder you are pleasantly surprised at how good sausages made with veal or smoked pork or beef sausages can taste, especially with the inn’s homemade honey mustard and toasted pretzel rolls.

Having “snacked” so generously on appetizers, my partner was taken aback when his entrée of Munchner Schweinhaxe arrived in a massive bowl to accommodate a huge pork shank sided with spätzle and red cabbage. This dish is a German classic, elevated to a higher level with the chef’s addition of a Shiraz wine sauce that moistened the fork tender meat. Spätzle (squiggly German-style pasta) can be tasteless, but the inn’s version was delicately flavored with cheese and butter—a perfect foil for the bite of slow-simmered red cabbage on the plate.
People are picky about their schnitzels—available here as chicken, pork, or veal. We opted for the veal, the most authentic, and gave high marks to the generous portions of tender slices of meat encased in a pillow of flavorful crust—marvelous as the centerpiece of an entrée accompanied by red cabbage and spätzle. Sauerbraten, another classic, was made with slow-cooked beef short ribs in a sweet and savory gravy with flavors of juniper berries and red wine vinegar. Again, red cabbage and spaetzli were the accompaniments—though I wished for more vegetable options. Actually, there is a vegetarian entrée featuring fresh vegetables of the season escorted with leeks and sautéed vegetable—at $14, something to share as a side dish when ordering entrees.

Keeping to its European roots, the inn offers its version of Sacher Torte, the iconic dessert created in 1832 by a young chef at Vienna’s Sacher Hotel. Rare on restaurant menus, this is your chance to see what makes this dense chocolate cake, its two layers interleaved with apricot jam and frosted with a thick chocolate frosting, so special. The inn serves it properly with a mountain of “real” whipped cream—and the result lives up to the legend.

I respect the authenticity of the Old Stein Inn—the beers, the quality of the Chef Douglas’ food, the fun of the biergarten, and the sweet service that has made it one of the county’s most venerable and well-loved restaurants.

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Mary Lou Baker is a frequent contributor to What’s Up? Media publications and self-professed gourmand. She has authored numerous culinary articles and recently penned the book Seafood Lover’s Chesapeake Bay: Restaurants, Markets, Recipes & Traditions.

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