On a recent morning I was tying one on at The Berliner Gastropub (my Pippimamma apron that is) and continuing a heated conversation with the husband and wife dynamic duo of Dennis and Lydia Mascarinas, proprietors of the Berliner Pub in Downtown Renton.
Dennis and Lydia have an easy way of chatting with people in the restaurant business, small talk is a breeze. And then there’s Lydia’s Australian accent… She could say “composting” (something she’s passionate about) and it sounds interesting.
But back to our conversation.
Our foodie dialogue had started a week earlier with something that most people can relate to: what to cook for dinner?
Only, we were wondering what German dish they would teach me to cook for this Pippimamma: Hot from the Oven series. The Berliner offers a blend of German and American food and something for all tastes.
Many of the dishes offered at the Berliner are Lydia’s Austrian mother’s authentic German recipes and there are many choices!
First, we talked about making Berliner’s own recipe of all-natural, foot-long beer bratwurst. I’ve always wanted to try to use a meat grinder and fill the casings, but have been too intimidated to try it at home.
“Too boring,” they said.
Perhaps skewering a feast of local sausages served up plump, piping hot and sourced from the famous Pike Place Market Bavarian Meats butchers and smothered in mustard sauce?
What about the traditional Schweinshaxe, a new menu item, featuring mini pork shanks glazed with rum, blackberry and horseradish with a side of spätzle, a type of egg noodle that is the staple of Germany.
I was also keen on the Bratzel, a pretzel the size of Andre the Giant’s open palm, doughy and soft as Temperpedic foam, served up warm and sprinkled with salt, two different mustards and a cream-cheese-and-syrup combo that satisfies the sweet and savory parts of the palate and when combined with a nice cold Maisel’s Original Weisse, an unpasteurized wheat beer is a hallelujah of a carb bender one won’t soon forget!
What about the corn dogs?
Fuhgeddaboudit, as my New Yorker cousins say, these babies aren’t the frozen variety. These wieners are authentic German Wieners, hand dipped in a Berliner secret batter and deep fried to a golden goodness. Knowing the secret recipe for those dogs would be too dangerous!
“Let’s make a Weiner Schnitzel (breaded and fried thinly sliced pork) paired Kartoffelsalat or Hot German Potato Salad that is not like your grandma’s potato salad,” Dennis promised.
It’s a dish Lydia grew up eating often, and they still use Lydia’s mother’s recipe at The Berliner.
Lydia’s mother is from Austria and emigrated to Australia. Lydia grew up in Australia and 17 years ago while traveling the world, she made a pit stop in the U.S. She wandered into a bar after a salsa class where she met a charming bartender named Dennis who had lived in Germany and spoke German as does Lydia. For these two the language of love was less “Parlez-vous, francais?” and more, “Sprechen Sie Deutsch?”
In addition to being passionate about everything German, Dennis and Lydia had practical reasons for opening the PNW hot spot for everything German—they wanted a place to bring their kids, and enjoy a great beer! Kids are allowed in the pub until 10 p.m.
“Why Renton?” I asked, trailing behind Dennisas he made his way to the walk-in refrigerator filled with kegs that support 20 German beers on tap. “Being from Seattle, what made you want to open the Berliner, here?”
“Well, I cheated,” Dennis said with a smile, “I was a demographics student at the University of Washington. Based on demographics and what was going on I knew Renton was the place to be!”
All their tap beer is brewed in Germany and shipped over in kegs through the Panama Canal and up the West Coast of America. They work closely with importers who travel to Germany to find new and unique beers to bring over, often from smaller breweries. Sometimes they have beer on tap that isn’t available anywhere else in the States.
Back in the kitchen, Dennis was ready to cook.
After frying the bacon for the potato salad and adding apple cider vinegar, potatoes and a few other simple ingredients we set the potato salad aside and moved on to breading pork into thin cutlets.
Dennis wore a custom black t-shirt with the Berliner’s familiar bear logo and the phrase, “Ich bin ein Berliner” or “I am a Berliner.”
“I thought it would make a cool t-shirt,” Dennis said, in homage to the famous JFK speech. “We called our establishment Berliner because it is the capital of Germany and is an amazing city. We thought it would be a recognizable name for the American public so they would know straight away that we have a German place.”
The Weiner Schnitzel and Hot German Potato salad is served steaming hot, sweet, sour and spicy…the combo represents the Americana comfort food version of “pot roast and mashed potatoes” of the German world and is served up fresh daily in DTR with Rotkohl or sauerkraut-i-fied red cabbage.
“Since opening business has been great,” Lydia added, “The people of Renton particularly have been very supportive as have others from further afield. We have people coming to us from Tacoma, Olympia, Issaquah, Seattle and everywhere in-between. Our guests are what makes Berliner what it is today! We are hoping to open Tacoma in April of this year. The construction is now moving ahead rapidly and, barring any hiccups, will be complete by April. Keep your fingers crossed!”
When you go into the Berliner for dinner, whether you’ve lived in Renton your whole life, new to the area or just visiting, the atmosphere feels eclectic. There’s dim lighting and a cozy atmosphere with a fire in the middle of the room; Think “Vikings” on AMC the great hearth and long table bench seating, steins of deep amber and dark colored beer.
And the crowd is as diverse as Renton itself.
If you’re there on a Saturday night as I was later that evening there was yodeling in the background and dueling trumpets from the local father and sons German group, the Happy Hans band.
They also offer trivia night, karaoke, an amazing beer garden and best of all I enjoyed the live music of local German Band, the Happy Hans!
Oy, Oy, Oy an Octoberfest cheer, followed by a Prost! A German toast that means bottoms up!