A Sampling of German Tradition
Nov 03, 2018 12:00AM
● By Brian Saucedo
By Rita Calvert Photography by Stephen Buchanan
We were amused even before entering the Old Stein Inn, located in Edgewater—the whimsical Volkswagen van mailbox made us smile, as did owner Mike Selinger’s large family garden that supplies fresh mint and herbs for the restaurant.
Ah memories! As we entered, my friends explained that years ago in the fall, they had the opportunity to visit the real Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. How reminiscent of that they found the Old Stein’s outdoor beer garden, tagged the Bier Bar, with its soaring ceiling, much like Munich’s annual festival tents, sheltering large groups enjoying famous beers and sides of wurst. Old Stein’s version is kept light and airy with four sliding glass garage-style doors, which are open, weather permitting. What a place to cozy up to the bar with a stein and beer snacks! Old hands at beer drinking will find the beer menu an interesting read—nine drafts, plus an ever changing seasonal called “The Tenth Tap,” and 30 to 40 rotating German bottled beers. The Bier Bar also has upwards of 49 local and other international beers.
The 35-year-old family-owned location has remained authentic to its German roots even after a fire renovation in 2010. Inside, the walls sporting beer steins, hanging lanterns, and rich pub-style browns in the fabrics and paintings, speak to the German heritage and true to that, two very large parties celebrated this Sunday evening. Old Stein Inn began as a family legacy with Karl and Ursula Selinger showcasing their immigrant heritage. Karl prepared his country’s traditional cuisine and Ursula tended the front of the house. After years of serving the community, Karl and Ursula passed the torch to their son, Mike, and his wife, Beth. Mike carries on his parents’ tradition of connecting with the community.
The restaurant is a sure sell for large groups and most of all, Oktoberfest, with the draw from locals and mid-Atlantic beer fans alike.
Upon arriving, we made our game plan. First to sit outside and secondly, try the food standouts: a selection of Bier Snacks, Muenster Cheese and Crab Suppe, Jagerschitzel, and Sauerbraten. However, there were many other dishes which looked enticing. Good to know: there were also accommodations for gluten-free diners.
The specialty Mojito with Fresh Strawberries and rhubarb syrup married many smooth flavors and actually drew oohs and ahhs! The lightly muddled garden mint imparted just enough fresh essence.
While charcuterie has become a rage with a strong focus on contemporary butcher techniques and recipes, it has always been de rigueur at Old Stein with its connection to one of the oldest master German butcher shops in New York City. Landjager was the beer snack we shared. Sliced German-style air dried salami (delightfully unique depth to it) and some tiny dill pickles beautifully served in a modern white porcelain divided dish proved just enough to whet the appetite. Spaten Lager beer paired perfectly and was declared rich, smooth, and with just enough alcohol.
Muenster Cheese & Crab Suppe arrived with spoons to share three ways and was consumed to the very bottom. Melted Muenster cheese added a double richness when combined with heavy cream. The soup had thick texture with the small pieces of crab. Another intriguing Bier Snack, Fritierte Gurken, was ordered to see how the Germans fry their pickles. This was unusual as the dill pickle was sliced lengthwise into thin strips and then coated with beer batter before frying. A crock of honey mustard paired well with the salty snack.
Yes, we did try the Old Stein Short Rib Sauerbraten which was above grade with short ribs, rather than a lesser tougher cut of meat often found in this classic. The meat texture was rich and tender and the sauce was a subdued version of the tart vinegar and gingery flavor I’m accustomed to.
I opted to try the grilled chicken version of Jagerschnitzel rather than the pork which would be breaded and deep-fried. The chicken version was nice with the mushroom sauce sporting a hint of sherry. The red cabbage was mellow and fruity while the spaetzle (a soft egg noodle pushed through a colander) was very good and is best consumed while hot.
Our friend promptly ordered Munchner Schweinhaxe before we had even glanced at the entrees. He was rewarded with a very large cut of pork shank cooked slowly to a “fall off the bone” state and found the meal delicious.
As we turned towards dessert, we still wanted to try German specialties. Rhubarb Strawberry Strudel was the seasonal option. The dessert was described as a “purse” which means the puff pastry dough is brought up around the filling and knotted at the top. A grand plate arrived with both ice cream and a large dollop of whipped cream. Another seasonal dish caught our eye: Lemon Creme Brulee. It had the perfect golden crackly sugar and artistic garnish of sugared blueberries and fresh mint. Both dishes were attractive and pleasing.
Not to be missed another time: Old Stein Inn’s new attraction—a traditional Spanferkel, a pig roast held on the first Sunday of most months from April through October. Depending on the size of the hog from an Eastern Shore farmer, it may take 15-plus hours to roast over the open fire—the reward being smoky, moist, and succulent meat. This ritual is celebrated with live German entertainment and is a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Make sure to call first.