Boring… Clichéd… Vacuous…
It would appear, at least to this reviewer, that the Grand Dame of Huntsville’s German culinary tradition has finally goose-stepped its way to irrelevance. The food was uninspired. The atmosphere and ambiance were marred by a small flock of Drosophila melanogaster (fruit flies), which provided ample entertainment for my younger brother. And our waiter, though attentive, wasn’t exactly the “sharpest crayon in the box.” In short, it would seem that the final solution is for Café Berlin to close its doors!
Over the years my family has made it a tradition to celebrate our birthdays with a meal at Café Berlin, so I may justifiably argue that the golden era of this venue was waned. The evening began without incident. Our server was pleasant but overly chatty with a penchant for prattling. However, by the time I placed my drink order I could see trouble on the horizon.
As with most beer snobs, I try to pair good food with a beer that compliments or accentuates certain flavors in the dish. In this case I had my heart set on the honey-orange duck breast, so naturally I gravitated toward the only hefeweizen they had on the menu. It was from the mid-grade German brewery Tucher Bräu Fürth (commonly just abbreviated as Tucher in the States). As a side note, the lack of acceptable German beers on the menu and the inclusion of domestic “beers” should serve as a true indicator of its authenticity.
After the delivery of my drink, I was informed that the kitchen had “run-out” of duck for the evening, and having already consumed some of beverage I was forced to alter my selection in favor of the beer. I finally settled on the honey-pecan crusted trout with German potato salad and a house salad with a balsamic-vinaigrette that our waiter assured me was excellent.
Well our salads arrived, and I was a bit surprised to see an off-gray thick dressing coating my salad. It turns out this was their idea of a vinaigrette. The flavor of the dressing was fair, but was not transcendent and the croutons were exceptionally stale. Imagine, stale croutons?
Our entrées arrived shortly after the salad plates had been cleared. As with most German restaurants in the U.S., the portions were gargantuan! However, as any experienced diner will tell you, size isn’t everything. The flavor of my trout was descent and the pecans added a welcome textural contrast. But…the whole thing was cooked in far too much grease which immediately coated the palate.
Since it was a birthday celebration, our waiter informed us that we were entitled to a free piece of cake. And when we asked what varieties they were serving, he nonchalantly informed us that they were on display and we could go look at them.
Since the 1950s German food has been a gastronomic mainstay in Huntsville. It is an unfortunate loss for the entire community that this beacon of upscale dining has fallen so precariously into oblivion.
Eat good food. Drink good beer. And above all, stay classy.