The brewpub at Baldini’s has been rebranded as the Occidental Taphouse Grill, in partnership with Occidental Brewing of Portland, Oregon. The new menu includes a mix of German-themed items along with American appetizers, sandwiches and salads. The beers are brewed in-house and definitely reflect the German theme, with Bavarian Hefeweizen, Cologne Kölsch, Munich Dunkel, Dusseldorf Altbier and Bohemian Pilsner. I availed myself of a few $3 happy hour pints of hefeweizen and kölsch, an enjoyable contrast of styles.
Happy hour specials arrived at the table almost as quickly as the drinks. We ordered a plate of eight mozzarella sticks with marinara ($5), and six hot wings with celery, ranch dressing and herbed shoestring fries ($5). The mozzarella sticks were your basic frozen fare, though the marinara was pleasantly low on sweetness with a nice garlic kick. The wings were pretty big, spicy and well sauced, though oddly salty. The fries were also well salted, but both wings and fries were nice and crisp. A friend’s giant Bavarian soft pretzel ($8.95) was served with spicy mustard, curry ketchup and beer cheese sauce. The restaurants serves this hanging on a sort of display rack, and at 10 ounces it’s an impressive serving.
Spätzle—depending on the regional style—is something between a noodle and a dumpling. And, like pasta, it’s served with any number of sauces, meats, veggies or none at all. This variety was about the size of large elbow macaroni, and likewise heavily doused in beer cheese sauce. One friend’s order of spätzle with grilled bratwurst ($10.50) was essentially a big plate of mac ’n’ cheese topped with chopped bacon and a sliced sausage. Another ordered currywurst ($10.50)—a Berlin street food favorite wherein the bratwurst is sliced up and topped with curried ketchup and a sprinkling of curry powder, paired with a side of the cheesy action. Not my favorite, but she said it reminded her of her visit to Deutschland.
For me, the best German dish was a plate of pork schnitzel with sides of mushroom gravy and spätzle ($10.50). Schnitzel is actually of Austrian origin, but has inspired any number of variants including Italian cotoletta, South American/Mexican milanesa, and American country fried steak. The gravy was dark and rich, but the seasoning on the meat was—again—pretty salty. Someone in this kitchen really likes spiking the ol’ blood pressure, although the fair amount of black pepper did help. I liked it, but it could be better.
A chopped chef salad with blue cheese dressing ($10.95) was perhaps the only time I’ve seen something called a chef salad served tossed, with the deli meats and dressing mixed in. The blend of lettuce greens, turkey, roast beef, ham, red onion and halved cherry tomato was a bit heavy on the onion, and the dressing barely had any sense of blue cheese. Notably absent was hard boiled egg.
Last, we ordered the “Awful Awful” burger, done in the style of the Little Nugget’s favorite and served atop a basket containing a full pound of fries ($10.50). The half-pound of ground chuck was done medium rare, served on an onion bun with American cheese, iceberg lettuce, tomato, and purple onion; I added thick, crispy bacon for an extra $2.50. It was good, though I had to send most of the fries home for a friend’s hungry youngster to enjoy.