June 13, 2005
By The Salmon
Dutch Garden Restaurant
4203 State Street
There is something to be said for a restaurant that puts more emphasis on the beer list than the actual food menu. I encounter this on my third attempt to experience the Dutch Gardens Restaurant on upper State Street, which apparently uses the Byzantine calendar to set the hours of operation. Mondays and Tuesdays are definitely a no-go. Try a Wednesday like I did, and you should be OK. The rest of the week is apparently at the discretion of management.
Trappist monks developed the idea of isolation cells, and the Dutch Gardens embraces this layout strategy. There are plenty of places to get lost on the sprawling grounds, just off the grid from a well-kept mobile home park. Funky little gardens with high hedges ensure privacy for parties of four or five. For that closed-in, low-ceiling-loving-set, there is also the option of indoor dining. More on that later.
One thing we should establish right off the tilt is that the Dutch Gardens is not a Dutch restaurant. It is squarely of the Teutonic persuasion. For those of you who drive Passats and think that Fahrvergnugen, literally translates into “f-ing groovin’”, what I’m saying is that this place is German, man. Right down to the mustard platter.
The fine selection of German and Trappist Ales soon littered our checkered tablecloth, and we set our sights on the menu. Our old friend, Doc joined us on this fine day, as did Ed and my old lunch amigo, known to some if not all, as the Manta.
Doc earns a buck in this world by designing underwater communication systems. Something to do with sound waves, the military, mariculture and toothed whales. We don’t know exactly, he being sworn to secrecy by the government and sporting a radio ankle bracelet with a satellite link to Langley.
Being a scientist, he had to dumb himself down to our level by ordering a Pirrat, which weighs in at a whopping 10.5% alcohol by volume. I chose the always easy-to-order Spaten Franziskaner hefeweizen, at a “lite” 7.0% alcohol, while Manta and Ed guzzled Affligem Blonde Ale, each served in its own novelty glass.
The choices of food come down to two options - hot or cold. Yes, there are traditional German dishes, like schnitzel and sausage, but the real action seems to be in the grilled sandwiches, at least for the lunch crowd. Most intriguing is the Strammer Max, which is an open-faced ham sandwich with a fried egg thrown on top for good measure.
I went for the schnitzel sandwich with a choice of smoked provolone, cheddar, or Swiss. All three, please. Doc went for the Reuben, and Manta took down the sausage sandwich. Time passed quickly as we tried to decipher German menu lyrics and gawked at some of the regulars. The joint was hopping, though this was a little later than the average lunch hour.
Our waitress suggested the German chocolate cake for dessert, and we dutifully obliged to try a slice. What she brought out was a full size spare from a 540i. It was fabulous, rich and dense. I think Ed actually fell asleep for a moment after consumption. We carried the Manta out and threw him into the back of the pick up truck, and vowed to return. Next time, we’ll take our chances on a Thursday.