Schmankerl Stube, Hagerstown, MD

I was unwilling to accept the long drive to Hagerstown only to be told Schmankerl Stube was completely full on a Saturday night, so my friend and I showed up at 8:30 PM. Sure enough, they were full, but the owner (whose picture is plastered all over the entrance foyer with various celebrities) said to come back in thirty minutes.

Let’s start with Schmankerl Stube’s wine list: avoid it like the Bubonic Plague. Unless there’s a reserve list I didn’t see, the one on the menu is littered with generic, non-vintage names such as Zeller Schwarze Katz. Need I say more?

But let’s not forget Bavaria is Southern Germany, and that means beer, and in my case, it meant a half liter of Hacker Pschorr Münchner Hell ($6), no really, that’s what it’s called, and it’s the rare pale lager that has a malty backbone – a great beer that I wish I could find in the DC area. Remember when you come here: drink beer, not wine.

The food was consistent across-the-board, and it was consistently good. Not great, but good, and good enough to consider coming here on a weekend if you’re in the mood for a mini-getaway that doesn’t involve an overnight trip.

Kassler Riperl ($19) is described as smoked pork loin, but for all practical purposes is a good, thick piece of bone-in ham, flavorful and smokey. It was served with sauerkraut, good carrots (the vegetable of the day), house made Spätzle, all atop what they term “Hunterstyle Sauce.”

Herzhafter Sauerbraten ($20) is pot roast marinated in a sweet-and-sour sauce, served with apple-flavored red cabbage, the carrots, and a homemade bread dumpling. This was the sweet and sour plate that complemented the salty and smokey pork loin beautifully.

Our server was nice enough to bring a side order of Potato Salad ($4) which isn’t normally an a la carte option. Like most German potato salads, it was based on vinegar, not mayonnaise.

There was nothing at all complex here; just good, straightforward food served in a really comfortable atmosphere. There’s no doubt this is a slightly touristy restaurant, but it’s also one whose quality didn’t seem compromised.

You will be making a big mistake if you come here on a weekend without a reservation.

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