It seems like wurst houses are popping up all over Los Angeles these days. Those hearty German sausages along with frothy steins of German Lager are certainly staples at newly opened Wirtshaus. But La Brea avenue denizens may have to read the name twice before they realize that it's not 'wurst' or even 'wirst'. The name is Wirtshaus, and that's pronounced with a 'V'. The German pub isn't the first of its kind to grace Los Angeles - Wurstküche, Bru Haus and Steingarten all come to mind - but its authentic cuisine, list of 35 German beers, and top-notch service make this one far from the wurst. Sorry, couldn't resist the pun.
After a long hike in Bronson Canyon and a trip to the Batman Cave with our pals The Savory Hunter and TreasureLA, we headed to Wirtshaus, housed in what was formerly Sante La Brea. We had recently watched the episode of Kitchen Nightmares that featured Sante La Brea, so we were curious to see how they'd re-imagined the space. The new owners have taken full advantage of the high ceilings and airy feel of the place, creating a pleasant and modern take on a biergarten. If the decor and ambience is any indicator, then Chef Ramsey will likely be keeping far away from the new restaurant.
The menu is fairly straightforward, offering traditional German fare with an emphasis on traditional German specialties such as wurst and schnitzel. The entrees, ranging from $11 to $17, including a choice of two sides, including such favorites as sauerkraut, red cabbage, and potato salad.
A selection of appetizers boasts currywurst, a favorite, but after our morning outdoors, we steered towards a more carb-laden option, the Bavarian pretzel, served alongside a soft Bavarian white sausage (below). The warm pretzel was fine, if not great, but the addition of some delicious housemade sweet mustard elevated the dish. The sausage was nice but could have used more seasoning and crispness - the "soft" texture was a little off-putting.
We kept the carbs coming with an order of reibekuchen, or potato pancakes (below), bite-sized and slathered in mascarpone cheese and apple sauce, and topped with dill. These pretty little bites were nicely crisp and served hot, although flavor-wise, they leaned heavily on their toppings.
Next, we traded our carbs for protein - it was on to the wurst. The scharfe wurst or spicy sausage ($12) had more of a kick than anyone was expecting (below). It's not enough to singe your eyebrows off, but there's definitely some heat along with great flavor. The texture of the sausages was really great, too - biting into the casing yielded a significant snap. The sauerkraut side could have borrowed a little flavor from the meat - if you like really pungent, sour cabbage, this is not gonna satisfy you. But for those with milder sauerkraut preferences, this is probably just about right.
The duck sausage special (below) was good, too, but was eclipsed by the flavor and texture of the scharfe wurst. We'd been hoping for a good side of spaetzle, but it seems that the side had been removed from the opening menu. Despite our disappointment, we consoled ourselves with the cucumber salad, which was delicious, creamy and refreshing with a prounced dill flavor. And the mashed potatoes, though basic, were hearty and well-seasoned.
Food isn't all Wirtshaus brings to the table. The establishment's commitment to German authenticity extends to its substantial beer list. Portions range from the modest pint to the unabashed stein. Or if you're less disposed to commitment, $12 gets you the Autobahn (below) - five 5 oz. pours of the house's choosing. We appreciated the level of detail our server reached in describing each of the beers for us.
Did I mention there's also ping pong in the back? They even host the occasional ping pong tournament. Even if competitive gaming isn't your thing, you can still throw on your lederhosen and make it in for their Oktoberfest celebrations. Wirtshaus is offering live music and festivities from 7:30 - 10:30 every Friday and Saturday evening through October 8th to celebrate the season.
Wirtshaus looks to be a great addition to the neighborhood. Hopefully its solidly executed and reasonably priced menu, beer selection and great atmosphere and service will be enough to distinguish it from the German-themed restaurant pack and allow it to overcome the bad juju of its predecessor and stick around for awhile.