As soon as I moved away from Portland, something seemingly magical happened (coincidentally, I'm sure).
Everyone was raving. Long before the Alpine craze spread like wildfire, downtown Portland's Grüner was winning diners over with their "greener" (which grüner means in German) approach to goulash and spätzle. Perhaps it was my visit to Bavaria and the Austrian Alps in my formative years, but old-world Middle Europe is my soft spot. Upon my visit back to Portland, Grüner was at the very top of my list.
Brooke and I met up with Portland(-by-way-of-LA) transplant Anna of Banana Wonder for happy hour on Grüner's sidewalk patio, rumored to be one of the best happy hours in town. After one glance at the exceptionally reasonably-priced menu I understood why.
I couldn't deny the allure of the Aquabeet cocktail, with Krogstad aquavit, beet gastrique, and lemon juice. It was bright, earthy and refreshing. And strong!
The Dangerous Summer was a fitting choice for the day, which Brooke and Anna enjoyed, comprised of Appleton Jamaican White Rum, Maraska maraschino, raspberry syrup, lime, and flamed lemon. A little too easy to tipple...
Essentially, we ordered one of everything... Starting with the signature beet pickled hard-boiled eggs.
The duck liver mousse was forceful and pungent. We all sampled it silently, politely admitting later that we favored it least of the bunch.
On the other hand, the house-made liptauer cheese with radishes, celery and pretzel croutons could have come in a much larger crock, as we devoured it in seconds.
I insisted on the rabbit frankfurter, brioche bun & dill pickle relish, which was buttery and tasty. I wanted to order a second to get a larger bite, but wisely waited for everything else to come out first.
Anna is a bit of a pretzel freak, and I am right there with her. We were both disappointed not to see Grüner's on the happy hour offerings. Our server apologized as it only appears as a side on the dinner menu, but after some begging agreed to oblige our request. A curious braid, this pretzel was almost a baguette hybrid, but with good flavor and chewy crust/flesh ratio. Anna seemed to give it a thumbs up.
Gosh, we were still hungry. Time to call in the charcuterie — salami, spicy coppa, cornichons & mustard tided us over until the big sausage came.
It wouldn't be Alpine cuisine with bratwurst, and Grüner's is plump and delicious, covered in sauerkraut alongside sweet mustard. This is truly all I need, and a wise way to finish our Germanic snackage fest. We called for our check, which arrived in a gorgeous piece of literature on Weimar Culture. Had only they dropped that sooner, we may have left sated and smarter.
527 SW 12th Ave. Portland, OR 97205; 503.241.7163