My dad and I had just spent a proper afternoon downtown, first having watched the Twins trounce the Reds three to one (in spite of our relief pitcher), followed by a good game of axe throwing. Dad had mentioned something earlier that day about an article he’d read on the decline of German restaurants across the country, and that he hadn’t seen one in ages. After he’d beaten me at axe throwing too many times, I said I’d show him that at least one will always be alive and well.
Gasthof Zur Gemutlichkeit (roughly translated to “Guest House of Friendliness”) is Northeast’s very own sanctuary for all things German. Its tremendous sense of cheer hits you the moment your walk in. An enormous communal seating area sets the stage for big parties and sing-alongs, little framed photos of rustic scenes from the old country dot every square inch of wall, and Tyrolean hatted accordion players caper around keying songs, pausing occasionally to chirp little yodelayheehoos. If this isn’t the best place to shore up in after a ball game, then there isn’t one.
Although some consider German fare among the less prolific of the world’s cuisine, I say they are missing something. Gasthof’s menu offers heroes’ feeds with dishes like wiener schnitzel, rouladen, sauerbraten, and steaks, all served with sides including spätzle, potato croquettes, and, naturally, sauerkraut. I had a jägerschnitzel smothered in mushroom gravy, while dad had a schweinshaxe, a tremendous smoked pork hock that caused three people to come up and ask what delicious mound of meat he had ordered.
Gasthof’s beer list is longer than some restaurants’ menus, appropriately populated with lots of German beers, but with the requisite local and domestic stuff as well. I wanted to try Das Boot, a boot-shaped two liter glass of beer which comes with its own set of rules, but I find it incredibly hard to drive after drinking two liters of beer. I instead had a chaste half liter of Hacker-Pschorr, while my dad had a couple of Paulaners.
In a rosy mood after our meal I cornered the manager of the place, who goes by Pinoy. “Gasthof’s atmosphere is our star attraction,” he told me. “It’s all about creating a warm, inviting scene, the best kind for being with family and making new friends, just like the traditional German guest houses we’re modeled after. I couldn’t tell you how many of our reservations are for 30 to 40 people — that’s why you and your dad had to sit at the bar!”
When you see multiple accordion players in one place, you have to ask where they all came from. “They’re the last of a dying breed,” explained Pinoy. “We keep the half dozen we were able to find pretty busy, with a few more on standby. Fortunately, accordion players are a tightly knit group, so ours are usually able to recommend new ones when we need them. We’ve had one of our guys for the last 20 years, nearly as long as we have been open. He gives us hope for the future of accordionists, too — his grandkids are now learning to play, because they want to be just like him.”
This is the best time of year to go to Gasthof, because it’s when they celebrate Oktoberfest. On Fridays and Saturdays from September 21st through October 13th, guests will celebrate German culture by wearing traditional lederhosen and dirndls, listening to live music, and eating giant ribs, slow smoked pork chops, soft pretzels, and apfelstrudels, all while soaking in the place’s wonderful cheer and beer. It doesn’t matter if you go to Oktoberfest alone — your new friends are already there.
Gasthof Zur Gemutlichkeit is located at 2300 University Ave NE in Minneapolis. To learn more about this wonderful Old World eatery, visit gasthofzg.com.
Rules for Das Boot Drinking Game
- Das Boot can not touch the table until it is empty.
- After drinking, must clink Das Boot with your finger before passing to the next person.
- You must always drink from Das Boot with its toe facing up.
- If you are splashed in the face with beer, you must drink again.
- The person who drank from Das Boot immediately preceding the person to empty it must buy the next one.
- If you break rules one through three, you must drink again.
- Do not clink Das Boot with other glassware or slap it on the table — it will break!
By David Scheller