Monday, January 6, 2014

The Radler

Most of the time, when people think of German food, they think of beer, sausages, and possibly sauerkraut.  Growing up in Michigan near the Bavarian village, Frankenmuth, I also found out about the fried chicken at Zehnder's.  In any case, what most people think of German cuisine is not something that you can really build a sit-down restaurant around especially if it is not surrounded by other German restaurants.  Logan Square, however, would be the exception to that rule.  Formerly  a neighborhood where you might go for Mexican, Puerto Rican, or Cuban cuisine (plus Lula Cafe).  In the last few years, the area has been becoming a locale for international cuisine with Japanese (both sushi and otherwise), French, Barbecue, Burgers, a Brewpub, some very good Cocktail Lounges, and now German food with The Radler.  People that know the name Radler will think of the German beer cocktail that is half lemonade and half beer (equivalent to the English Shandy).  Radler literally means cyclist and the drink was first pitched as a sports drink.  While The Radler does serve Radlers, the name is also appropriate because the restaurant is located on the "Hipster Highway".  A road that has a large amount of bike traffic.  The front of the restaurant has large windows framed by black painted wood.  The dining room is large and open with several communal tables in the center of the room and smaller tables along the wall and near the kitchen in the back.  The kitchen is fairly open and will be home to D.A.S. a small German fine dining restaurant serving tasting menus with beer pairings.  There are several pillars in the dining room that have coat hooks so people can hang their coats.  The side walls are old bricks.  The wall behind the bar on the left side of the dining room has what looks like an old German beer ad.  The left wall has a couple of large paintings in sort of a graffiti style of wolves.  The menu was divided into Snacks, The Best (a selection of plates from small to large), The Wurst (housemade sausages), and sides.  I started with a salad (out of The Best section) which had Honey Crisp Apples, Caramel Roasted Granny Smith Apples, Brandied Raisins, Butter Lettuce, and Burnt Sugar and Hard Cider Vinaigrette.  I like apples and there were a lot of apples in this.  It was crunchy, crisp, tart, and sweet.  The Honey Crisp and Granny Smith Apples brought different apple flavors and went with the lettuce well.
For my snack, I had Confit Brussels Sprouts, Duck Fat, Candied Ginger, Gingersnaps, Butternut Squash, and Apple Cider Mayo.  The brussels sprouts were tender and crispy and had a roasted cabbage flavor.  The candied ginger and gingersnaps added a sweet and spicy flavor that brought out the flavor of the brussels sprouts and the mayo and squash were creamy and brought a slight tartness to the dish.  I like brussels sprouts but these were some of the best brussels sprouts that I have ever had.
For my Wurst, I got the Seared Boarwurst which was served with Carmelized Onions and Cocoa Nib Relish, Beet Puree, Golden Raisins, Spicy Housemade Mustard, and topped with Charred Frisee.  I had never had boarwurst, but as I gathered it was pork, I figured it couldn't be bad.  It was a like your typical German style sausage.  It was mild and was not as peppery as a brat but it was pretty good.  The onion and cocoa nib relish was tender and sweet.  The spicy mustard tasted as if it made with red wine  so it was sweet as well.  The sweetness of the beet puree tied everything together.
For my dessert, I went with a Pretzel Bread Pudding that was served with Roasted Apples and Fig Jam with Powdered Sugar.  This was actually kind of interesting.  The Bread Pudding was a bit more firm and while it was soft, it was firm enough that it was served as a couple of slices.  The roasted apples were sweet and juicy and the fig pudding was full of sliced figs.  The salty sweet of the bread pudding went well with both the apples and the fig jam and it was all very good.  The Radler was friendly and casual and seems to be pretty popular.  The food was very good and I will definitely be back.

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