Das ist gut
Sacramento, CA 95821
Need I say more?
I’m almost tempted to stop right there. But Hof Braus are about more than just prime rib. And Plaza Hof Brau isn’t just any old Hof Brau. No, sir-ee.
According to one erudite friend who spent much time in Germany, today’s Hof Brau is derived from the illustrious Hof Brau Haus in Munich, a famous beer hall that would serve carved meats, steamed vegetables, and the like. The main attraction, however, was always beer, which isn’t surprising, as “Hof Brau” refers to the breweries that served the royal courts of local principalities.
For a time, Hof Braus seemed to be all the rage around here, catering to tourists and transients looking for a good cheap meal. Sacramento even had its own Hof Brau king, Sam Gordon, who started several Hof Braus in the West, including the one that is now Plaza Hof Brau on El Camino and Watt. But alas, Sam’s Hof Brau empire came to an end when he sold his chain to Denny’s in the 1960s and they closed down most of the Hof Braus after taking over.
Given the history of Sam’s Hof Braus, one might wonder whether the Hof Brau’s popularity is a thing of the past. But a quick trip to Plaza Hof Brau (opened by Sam in 1956) at 7 p.m. on a Monday night would quell that notion right quick. The Plaza Hof Brau, run by Pete Lannarz for the last decade, is still going strong.
The average Hof Brau is a buffet consisting of meats and vegetables. The vegetables come mostly canned, while the meats are cooked whole and carved right before your eyes—roast turkey, baked ham, prime rib, roast beef, corned beef, hot pastrami, German sausages. You can stuff just about any of these in a sandwich too. Sides include veggies, macaroni and potato salads, mashed and baked potatoes, stuffing, and other delights.
There’s something satisfying about seeing a feast before your eyes … the glistening meats, the fragrant aromas. While it’s not all-you-can-eat, the prices are so good that it might as well be. And not only is there a lot of food to be had, the style of food—corned beef and cabbage, knockwurst and sauerkraut, lima bean and ham casserole, Salisbury steak—is reminiscent of a time when Americans were carefree about their fats and all food stuck to the ribs. You can “add a trip to the salad bar for $1.79” and finish off your meal with one of several fruit or cream pies. A few macro-brews (Bud, Bud Light, Coors, Michelob), a couple of microbrews, and one German beer—Warsteiner—comes on tap. Oh, and did I mention you can get any size prime rib you want? The base one starts at 6 oz. for $7.29, and goes up $.99 for every ounce thereafter. If all that isn’t enough, Plaza has a fully stocked bar and great Old West saloon ambience with red walls, booths, and railroad-era style paintings.
As we stood transfixed by the large mounds of steaming meat being wheeled from the kitchen to the serving station, the line moved rapidly and suddenly it was our turn. A game- time decision produced the following orders: 1) 6 oz. of prime rib with baked potato, canned green beans, and beet salad; 2) an open-face roast turkey sandwich with light turkey gravy, white bread, mashed potatoes, baked beans and stuffing.
The prime rib was rare and quite flavorful. The canned green beans came with canned tomato chunks—both of which were top rate in the canned category, as were the beets. The baked potato was cooked to perfection and came with a nice helping of full fat sour cream on the side. The open-face turkey was first rate. The stuffing was pretty standard (better than Stove Top!), and the baked beans had a nice BBQ tang. Only the mashed potatoes could have done with a little less butter.
We finished our meals, not stuffed to the gills, but happily satisfied. Cherry and lemon meringue pies were taken to go, which proved to be delicious cold the following morning.
Ah happy, happy Hof Brau! Those salad heads don’t have a clue what they’re missing.