Ghosts of a Columbus classic carry on in the hearty (if occasionally uneven) German dishes served up at this new German Village spot
Juergens German Bakery & Restaurant is gone, but its spirit lives on — and in the same location — through the German cuisine served in the recently opened Alpine Restaurant and Bar.
While hardly perfect, lively and festive Alpine — which is attached to sibling business El Lugar Tapas Bar & Restaurant — has plenty going for it. Firstly, as mentioned, it occupies the handsome vintage German Village building that previously housed Juergens, which closed last year after serving for about half a century. Alpine duly displays a commemorative old Dispatch photo promoting the 1991 Columbus Oktoberfest taken in Juergens.
A few updates have spruced up that space, but haven't detracted from its classic character. Step inside now and the warm glow of excellent lighting gently illuminates plenty of wood, bay windows, stout brick walls, simple wooden tables with padded chairs and a bustling bar.
Alpine offers a nice selection of German draft beers, and they're great matches for the hearty fare. If you'd like a cocktail, the “Ey, Scotty Boy” ($13) — a pleasant concoction made with apple cider, citrus and allspice that was highly recommended by a bartender — is served with a singed apple slice and a bit of pyrotechnic flair. I only wish it had enough Johnny Walker Black Label scotch in it to offset its sweetness.
There are other things I wish had been different, especially during one visit when an understaffed and slammed Alpine was having an off night.
Chief among these are: sitting at a table for a painfully long time before having to flag over a server to start taking my order; waiting longer than that for soup that would never arrive; and waiting longer still for a replacement entree after mine was delivered to the wrong table. Silver lining: This chaotic and protracted meal ended with management handling the exasperating gaffes with admirable grace and largesse.
Glitches aside, most of the food I sampled was comforting and good, if somewhat pricey. The Goulash ($19) — tender beef tips in a rich and tangy, paprika-tinged sauce served over sturdy house spaetzle — is a dish sure to help diners deal with the winter's chill.
Ditto for the huge Schnitzels ($19), even if I'd prefer them crisper, less bready and less dependent on sauces for flavor. Still, I enjoyed the sauces, which include the creamy-yet-tangy “Alpine,” fortified with mushrooms; the tomatoey “Gypsy,” accented with red peppers and onion; and the “Holstein Art,” brightened by lemon and capers. Chicken, pork and veal schnitzels are offered to pair with these sauces; if you pick the veal and Holstein Art, you'll get something that tastes like solid veal piccata.
Alpine's hefty house sausages are also built for comfort. Available in a crowd-pleasing platter (Wurstteller, $20), they include a mild but satisfying pork tube similar to an unsmoked kielbasa and a more flavorful garlic knockwurst with a pleasantly snappy casing.
Most entrees come with two sides, such as the richness-cutting warm kraut and cucumber salad (both good). Order The Alpine ($69), and you'll have an enormous table-feeding entree, at an enormous price, that combines sides, sausages, schnitzels and menu-promised German meatloaf; for unspecified reasons, I received goulash instead of meatloaf. To go further over the top, tack on the highly recommended raclette ($5) — gooey, wonderfully semi-pungent cheese scraped tableside from a giant half wheel.
Although the substantial fat-cap was insufficiently crisped (this was the rushed-out replacement dish I earlier referenced), the Schaufele ($25) is a fall-off-the-bone, beer-scented, juicy and delicious pork-shoulder roast served with long-cooked red cabbage and bread dumplings reminiscent of stuffing. Pair this whopping entree with the could-be-crisper Kartoffelpuffer (sour cream-flavored potato pancake, $10) and it's dinner for two with staying power.