Cafe Berlin is a forgotten restaurant, mostly associated with the tourist industry, but I was here a couple years ago and thoroughly enjoyed my liter of beer, so I had another go at it.
The tiny bar isn’t worth it, nor is the ugly bar area (there must surely be an upstairs here, although I’ve never seen it). However, the patio, like that of its next-door neighbor, Bistro Cacao, is a delightful place to have a meal, and is where I chose to celebrate this Oktoberfest during this wonderful Indian Summer we’ve been enjoying this week. I keep telling myself, “This is your last al fresco meal of the year,” and I keep proving to be wrong, so no predictions from this point forward.
Nobody will remember this, but I’ll say it anyway: 25 years ago, Spaten was a wonderful brewery, and in particular Spaten Oktoberfest was, not just good, but flat-out amazing. I’ll never forget one day, back in the late 1980s, when my friend Curtis and I went to “Steak Night” (I think on Mondays, they offered a steak for something like $11.95) at The Saloon (now called The Saloun due to a legal battle over the name) in Georgetown. Anyway, it was during Oktoberfest, and we both ordered a half-liter mug. I will never forget the two of us taking our first sip at the exact same moment, and both of us looking up at each other, in complete awe and disbelief over how amazing this keg of beer was. The look on his face is forever etched in my memory – Spaten Oktoberfest used to be a thing of wonder; no longer.
Nevertheless, I started my meal with a half-liter of … guess what … Spaten Oktoberfest ($7.50), and in retrospect, I really wish my (otherwise friendly) server had given me the option of a full liter (he didn’t ask what size I wanted, although I suppose I could have spoken up – I was pretty sure I’d end up ordering two, which I did). Sadly, the beer is now a very mass-produced product, and tastes like it. It’s “okay,” but completely unrelated to the glorious beer that it used to be a quarter-century in the past. I don’t often pine away for the “good old days,” but my palate memory, if I do say so myself, is nothing short of remarkable, and I ask people to believe me when I tell them that this beer used to be flat-out awesome.
Cafe Berlin’s menu had a separate Oktoberfest insert, and both of my items were ordered off that list.
Bayerische Kartoffelcremesuppe ($7.95) was a bowl of Bavarian cream of potato soup with marjoram, served warm, but about 10 degrees not hot enough (I could have sent it back for reheating, but it was right on the border of being enjoyable). Along with it came a bread basket, served warm from a cut loaf consisting of six pieces, somewhat frozen tasting, all still attached to each other because they had only been sliced 95% of the way through. The basket came with an attractively piped tub of garlic butter. There was something starchy in the soup, other than the widely dispersed potato chunks, and I think it may have been bread.
Bayerischer Schweinebraten mit Kümmelsoße ($22.95) was three slices of roast pork loin drenched with caroway sauce, served with two terrific biscuit-shaped bread dumplings, and a side bowl of marinated red cabbage. Although a touch on the expensive side, this was a very tasty dish that screamed Bavaria. It was a starch-heavy meal for sure, so much so that I reluctantly passed on the dessert menu which included a homemade apple strudel with vanilla sauce.