Wookiee Hut Cuisine presents:
Hallo Berlin
626 10th Avenue, New York City, NY
Review by Susu, MaceVindaloo, Diana, NoMama, YeungMama

Even when it's good, German food can have attributes that most Americans no longer find acceptable in their food. Sour flavors, slippery or greasy textures, the general heaviness. But there is something appealing about the idea of German food — the happy drunkenness of a beer hall, the comfort food, the buxom waitresses, the general comradery associated with the idea of an Oktoberfest (which is typically held in late September).

We'd heard of Hallo Berlin because it won New York City's Vendy Awards for best streetcart. They sell sausages and heavy soups, and no matter what the weather, there is a long, long line waiting for combos like, "The Dictator's Special" — where you get no choice in wursts — or the Democracy Special, where you choose your wursts. Perhaps in deference to the heavy reputation of German food, it's served not with black rye bread, but with slices of Italian loaf. (I'm sure there is a WW2-era statement to be made, but we'll demur.)

Friends who tried the cart were wowed by its fare, and it sure did smell good when they brought it back to the office. So we resolved to try it, but couldn't find the time to wait in line at the cart.

We did discover that there is a parent restaurant on 10th Avenue, way on the west side of Manhattan in what used to be a really seedy scary area called Hell's Kitchen, but which is well-gentrified now. The restaurant is also called Hallo Berlin, and is decorated like an outdoor picnic area with umrellas with promotional slogans propped over them. This is all indoors. There is a garden bar which is open in warmer months.

Being New York, there are no St. Pauli Girl buxomites slinging huge steins of beer at you. Instead, there are thin, black-clad, Dieter-like men and women (Dieter, as in the Mike Myer's SNL skit), which are kind of funny-German in a way, too. They didn't seem to partake in the menu at all — when asking for a recommendation, our waiter paused, then said, "Well, what people order a lot of is ..." That information was helpful, of course, but it made it obvious that he kept his slim figure by not eating German wursts!

The menu is mostly wurst, and if you order a "party platter" you get sliced sausages of five different types: bratwurst, currywurst, smoke bratwurst with cheese, hungarian smoked kielbasi, bauernwurst (beef and pork). And to offset the meat-only dish, we ordered a "veggie platter," wondering how much sauerkraut and potatoes would be on the plate. We also ordered a "Special Dr. Atkins Diet Platter" of all meal and German veggies, just to see how that would come out. With beer, it's $16; without, it's $13. We chose alpenwurst (chicken), knockwurst (grilled), bavarian wurst (veal), figuring we'd get to try nearly everything that way. The waiter was helpful in suggestions when we blundered and ordered the same thing (but was boiled instead of grilled, for example). Bavarian meatballs were included, but if you like them, the menu allows you to add a Bavarian meatball to the mix for another $1.

We were right about the "veggies" — sauerkraut, red cabbage, "German potatoes" (which were like breakfast homefries one gets in many an American diner), potato salad, but also pickles and cucumber salad. They were very tasty, for sure, but the big disappointment was the spaetzle. Not that it was classified as a vegetable, but that it was linguini! Billed as "German pasta" on the menu, we KNOW that spaetzle is not linguini. We'd been looking forward to honest to goodness spaetzle, too.

The wursts were very tasty for sure, and served with slices of Italian bread, just like at the carts. It also came with ketchup and two kinds of mustard, which were rather indistinguishable. The wursts were good enough without the need for condiments, fortunately. The party platter cost $20 and represented 5 half-sausages, sliced up. In the future, we think we'll order the whole unsliced sausages at $5 apiece.

The Bavarian meatballs were overcooked on one side, but I guess that adds crunch and chew. They were more like meatloaf. You could buy a sandwich of them with beer, for $9.

For drinks, we ordered a gluehwine — a hot, mulled, sweet concoction normally served at festivals like Christmas and Easter. It was so hot that we knew they microwaved it, and we had to wait a while before it wouldn't cook our lips when we tried to drink from the ceramic flowerpot-shaped cup. We also ordered a dark beef labeled "maximator," again recommended as "best-selling" by the waiter. The stein that came with it was much smaller than expected, but a nice glass.

We even tried a dessert — Black Forest Cake, a cherries and cream with chocolate cake concoction. As noted in the 'Hut elsewhere, German Chocolate Cake is not German in the least, but there it was on the menu. As were apple strudel (none that night to try), German cheesecake (we assume that means NY style cheesecake), and ice cream. The cake was okay, but pretty flavorless.

Our total bill came out to $80, which we thought was hefty for not many drinks. But German food is what it is: filling, comforting, bland, caloric, sustaining, excellent for bad moods and bad weather. While not a bargain, it wasn't bad to feel completely carnivorous and lusty for an evening.

On the other hand, I doubt I'll be doing this anymore!

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