Review: Brotzeit Lokal Boathouse & Biergarten
Triple Threat Beer Garden: Waterfront boathouse stars beer, sausage, and ambience.
The deck at Brotzeit
Beer for breakfast. It wasn’t foremost in my mind when we planned a Sunday trip to Brotzeit Lokal. Nor do I advocate it as a daily indulgence. But we arrived around 1 p.m., so we’re really talking brunch. Also, I was having knackwurst with my scrambled eggs (poached not offered), home fries and toast ($10), and doesn’t a German pork sausage (flavored with juniper) just beg for a beer? Moreover, it was still October, so a pint of Ayinger Oktober Fest-Märzen ($6)—one of 16 rotating German, American and (a few) Belgian brews on tap here ($4.50–$8.50)—seemed perfectly appropriate.
In fact, everything was perfect: the fluffy, well-scrambled eggs; the simple, browned chunks of potato; the thick slices of dense, toasted rye, from Oakland’s Firebrand Artisan Breads; the grilled house-made sausages with deftly balanced spices (Robin had the jalapeño-chicken); the balmy October weather that puts everyone in a good mood and encourages you to share one of the narrow, bright orange picnic tables on Brotzeit’s waterfront deck; and a server, Rachel, who made the spot-on beer recommendation and seemed just as happy to be there as we were.
As we were savoring the idyllic scene, praising the bread, and comparing the virtues of seeded and Düsseldorf-style mustards, a commotion arose at the far end of the deck, punctuated by a bark and a small scream. A customer’s dog had jumped at Rachel and bit her on the hand. The excitement eventually died down, and Rachel returned to her rounds, still shaken, her left hand heavily gauzed.
A week later, we returned to Brotzeit for dinner, having memorized how to exit the 880 freeway (going south) at 16th Avenue, double back on Embarcadero to 10th Avenue and snake through or around the Homewood Suites parking lot to the stealthy marina location of the Boathaus & Biergarten (formerly the Oyster Reef). Although some well-lubricated souls were confronting the chilly night air on the deck (assisted by a few heating lamps), we opted for the sports-bar-like interior—and a 15-minute wait.
The joint was packed, clamorous with families, large parties, colliding servers, and boisterous drinking buddies. (Brotzeit would be a good place to study the phenomenon of bros who feel compelled to shout their stories at each other while sitting face-to-face, two feet apart.) Once seated—in the narrow sunroom-like space that runs the length of the building and looks out on the boat slips in the water—we were greeted again by Rachel, who wore a smaller bandage on the back of her hand and reported that her wound was minor and the dog’s owner had been both contrite and cooperative.
By now we felt like regulars. Maybe we were. (I suspect we are.) Even before the dog-bite brunch, we’d eaten twice at Brotzeit. First was a late-afternoon Saturday lunch of sausages—merguez (Moroccan-spiced lamb) for me, würzinge (spicy chicken and pork) for Robin—on Firebrand buns ($8.50) with Kennebec fries (add $1.50), washed down with a Veltins pilsner ($6.50) and a Kölsch ale ($6). Second was a weeknight dinner that started with obadzta ($8), an addictive German cheese spread, house-made with cream cheese, brie, beer, and spices and served with a basket of bread and a big soft pretzel. For main courses, Robin tested the Lokal burger ($9.50, add $1.50 for fries or salad), and endorsed the quality of the meat (coarse ground Marin Sun Farms beef), the bun (Firebrand), and the thick slice of yellow heirloom tomato. I had wiener schnitzel ($14), a large, thin, breaded and fried cutlet of pork (not veal) that looked like a pancake and was just as comforting, especially surrounded by noodly späetzle, a dazzling raw and slightly sweet red cabbage slaw, al dente broccoli (sometimes you’ll get green beans), and house-made applesauce. If it’s pork, I’ll order it. I’d order this again.
I can’t say the same for the rinder goulach ($14), or German beef goulash, that I had really looked forward to on our fourth visit. I loved the little blasts of caraway and paprika in the broth and the refreshing slather of crème fraîche, but half the bite-size chunks of beef were tough, and the vegetables (carrot, celery, potato, and onion) made the barest of cameo appearances. Nor would Robin likely revisit the fish and chips ($15). The fries were once more stellar, and the beer-based batter rocked, but under the crust, the three pieces of cod was more mushy than flakey. Indeed, if I must fault anything about Brotzeit, it would be the occasional misfires with textures. The merguez sausage was too dry to eat on a bun. The slice of loaf-like “dumpling” around which the goulash swam was curiously dense. And the applesauce, despite a wonderful flavor, was strangely pasty. On the other hand, the bread pudding ($7) yielded mouth-pleasing contrasts of crunchy crust, chewy bread, crisp apple slices, frothy fresh whipped cream, and sticky caramel. (Other desserts might include spiced chocolate pot de crème, $7, or strawberry shortcake, $6.50.)
In the end, though, Brotzeit is about three things: beer, bier, and, uh, pilsner? ale? dunkel? OK, how about beer, sausages, and ambience. The last—on the water, a safe distance from Oakland’s hipster hubs, with a dive-bar tinge and showers in the bathrooms—is a gimme. So are the sausages. Executive chef (and co-owner with Krista and Tony Granieri) Lev Delany, of meat-exalting Chop Bar fame, has turned himself into a master grinder. His middle names could be Bockwurst, Bratwurst, Nurnberger, and Andouille. He also fries up some good-looking Rosie’s chicken ($10/$14), and braises a pork shank (eisbein) that serves three to four people, with lots of sides ($45).
If I can’t round up enough friends to order the eisbein or the wurst platter (eight sausages, sauerkraut, fries, green beans, seasonal pickles, pretzels, obadzta, and salad, $65), my go-to will be either the Brotzeit platter (one or two sausages with sauerkraut, obadzta, green beans, radishes, and a pretzel, $14/$18) or just a pint of beer (my palate has expanded thus far to embrace malty Schonrame dunkel and light, hoppy Hoegaarden white ale), and one of the many snacks and sides on offer. Or, maybe we’ll just drop in for some night-capping chocolate stout ice cream or Lindeman’s framboise sorbet (both $5). Beer for dessert? Now, that’s a thought.
Brotzeit Lokal Boathaus & Biergarten. German. 1000 Embarcadero, Oakland,510-645-1905, 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m. Tue.–Thu. (kitchen closes at 10 p.m.); 11:30 a.m.–12 a.m. Fri. (kitchen closes at 11 p.m.); 11 a.m.–11 p.m. Sat. (kitchen closes at 11 p.m.); 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Sun. (kitchen closes at 9 p.m.). www.brotzeitbiergarten.com. CC-$$