A terrific vintage setting and generally impressive German-style food and house-brewed beers are offered at this welcome new Olde Towne East establishment
It’s no small feat for a beer-producing business to stand out in a region with 50-some breweries, which Central Ohio has been reported to offer (at least as of April). Cheers, then, to Gemut Biergarten, a new Olde Towne East operation that’s clearly not just another drop in the sudsy bucket.
Among Gemut’s distinguishing attributes are: a small, beer hall-style, 1890s-vintage, refurbished firehouse setting with dramatic new stained glass windows and custom-built communal tables; a convivial beer garden and party time patio; a focus on German-style lagers rather than hop-heavy ales; and bold, delicious dishes.
Given all this — and its website tying its title to “gemutlichkeit,” a German word that loosely refers to a pleased, “right place at the right time” feeling — Gemut’s name seems well chosen.
Gemut has some well-chosen ringers on board, too: Rob Camstra and Nick Guyton, previously of Four String Brewing Co., and Adam Yoho, the former executive chef at the Downtown branch of Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse.
About a half-dozen crisp house beers are available, ranging from the refreshingly light pilsner, helles and kolsch to the maltier dunkel and the seasonal, and highly recommended, marzenbier. Most are $6 per half-liter, or $9 to $11 for a liter-sized, Oktoberfest-worthy stein. Alas, flights are not offered.
Gemut’s fast-casual setup means that beers and food — plus some interesting cocktails — must be ordered at the bar. In my case, this meant leaving the scenic beer garden mid-meal to get back in line inside the attractive but echoey interior barroom for another hefeweizen. (The beer garden bar wasn’t open during my visits.)
Gemut’s Germanic-leaning food is at least as good as its beers. If peppery, chile-spiked kefta kebabs sound like a great snack or starter — and they are — pick the addictive Kebapi (three for $7, served with a “paprika cabbage salad”).
Tangy house caraway-ranch dressing spices up the Grunersalat ($8). This inspired salad, which would be at home in a fancy restaurant, also contains whole romaine leaves, cured-and-shaved egg yolk, pickled onions and oven-dried tomatoes.
Tangy dairy flavors from creme fraiche, plus melted Gruyere and cambozola cheeses animate the appealing Alsatian Flatbread ($10). With its caramelized onions, plus a salad-like topping of arugula, this thin-and-crisp pizza — in Germany, it’s called a flammkuchen — is a sizable, shareable appetizer that could double as a vegetarian entree.
Several plump wursts ($14) — house sausages created in collaboration with the local-sourcing Butcher & Grocer — are served with good house pickles, plus a potent house mustard that’s basically sweetened, softened mustard seeds. Among Gemut’s hefty meat cylinders, which arrive seared and bursting with juices and flavor, is a fragrant, not spicy, Berlin-style currywurst served with curry-spiked ketchup.
All wursts come with a large, well-made side. My favorites are the first-rate spaetzle, kartoffelsalat (crunchy fried potato disks with a modicum of bacon vinaigrette), roasted vegetables (I received a wealth of carrots accessorized with spuds and mushrooms) and rotkohl (sweet-and-sour red cabbage).
Two such sides accompany Gemut’s schnitzels. The thick, irresistible Paprika Schnitzel ($16) features plenty of juicy chicken beneath a crunchy, golden-brown, not-oily crust topped with pickled peppers, plus tangy-and-creamy, “paprika gravy.”
Two sides likewise accompany entrees, such as the Crispy Trout ($20). The big and utterly delicious piece of delicate fish has a delightfully crisp skin and a rewarding, herb-forward “green sauce” made with buttermilk and creme fraiche. I have but one qualm: It deserves better than being presented, as most main courses are here, on a metal tray lined with paper.
Then again, had I been in a full-service restaurant where I wouldn’t have concerns about tableware, lines, the weather or finding an available spot to sit, this excellent dish would probably be smaller and more expensive.