It’s October, and that means it’s time for Oktoberfest. Over in Munich, the revelers cheered as the new Bürgermeister stepped up and tapped the ceremonial beer barrel with three swings of the hammer—not bad for his first time. Meanwhile, out here on the East End the folks are looking for a place to order up a big plate of wurst or sauerbraten and celebrate that German spirit.
Zum Schneider Montauk, an outpost of the New York City-based biergarten, is a place to do that. In Montauk, it’s a family-oriented, relaxed place with lots of German beers on tap and a reliable list of German specialties on the menu. It’s casual enough for kids, and youngsters certainly love the food: no question about it, a wurst is a lot like a fancy hot dog.
The very fact that a pale derivative of the mighty wurst, one of Germany’s signature foods, long ago devolved into the American hot dog probably helps account for German cuisine’s low reputation in the U.S., and partially explains the dearth of German restaurants. At first glance, it all might seem like a selection of fancy frankfurters. But anyone who has eaten German food in Germany—sampled the Schäufele at Heilig-Geist-Spital in Nuremburg, or savored tiny Rostbratwurst three to a roll with sharp mustard—will tell you the same thing: German food can be amazing.
It’s all in the details. Käsespätzle, tiny little dumplings baked with butter and onions and cream and Gruyere, is food fit for the gods. Zwiebelkuchen, an amazingly tasty, eggy onion tart seasoned with caraway, is one of the best comfort foods in the world. Even sauerkraut becomes compulsively edible when prepared in the right way—sweetened, seasoned and simmered in stock.
Zum Schneider in Montauk gets some of these details right, as a recent visit revealed. A plate of Nürnberger bratwürst’l was six of those tasty little sausages, nicely roasted, with generous dollops of two different kinds of mustard—the sharper, hotter mustard was perfect for making these puppies pop.
These were preceded by the Reiberdatschi, an appetizer of tender potato pancakes which were filling, although the accompanying applesauce seemed to be straight off-the-shelf.
Better was the käsespätzle, a substantial plate of this homey pleaser served with a side salad dressed in a mustard honey vinaigrette. The käsespätzle was tasty, in this case studded with morsels of bacon, and the mustard dressing on the salad was a welcome detail.
Of course, the most important ingredient for an authentic Oktoberfest is beer, the national beverage of Germany. Zum Schneider Montauk has a wide variety of German beers on tap and in bottles, from the lighter varieties, like the refreshing kölsch (a regional beer style made in Cologne), to the heavier doppelbock. Or, for something truly exotic, try the smoky rauchbier, a Bavarian specialty from Bamberg. Prost!
Zum Schneider Montauk, 4 South Elmwood Avenue, Montauk. 631-238-5963, Montauk. zumschneider.com .