LowBrau recently moved into the space once occupied by the good but poorly planned Lounge on 20 in Midtown’s Lavender Heights district. Here, owners Michael Hargis and Clay Nutting have crafted together a low-key urban restaurant that’s open until 2 a.m.
LowBrau specializes in two things: beer and bratwursts. Both are done smashingly.
If you appreciate a good hot link, then don’t miss LowBrau’s. This sausage is wrapped in a tight, snappy skin like a gimp suit, which gets nicely charred by the chefs. Within it lies a beguilingly spicy and juicy piece of meat. Get it with a pretzel roll for a truly exciting experience.
On one visit, the special link of the day was a pork kielbasa sitting on a bed of spinach tucked in a sweet roll and topped with a bacon-and-blue-cheese crumble. There are vegan options, too, which is unexpected for a brat house. The Italian, an eggplant-based brat, has a surprisingly sausagelike texture, though you won’t get that snappy skin or burst of juice. Still, no self-respecting carnivore will turn it down for lack of flavor.
There are a variety of toppings available for your dogs. The sauerkraut could be intensely more sour, but then again, I like herculean-strong pickles. The Bier Cheese Sauce is forgettable, while the caramelized onions are a must on everything. The toppings are piled taller than a towering skyscraper, so expect to make a mess.
All of the homemade mustards are delightful, but a warning: The spicy mustard is not chili-pepper spicy, but horseradish spicy. This is a strong, raw mustard flavor, so give it some berth in case it’s not as stable as its papers say and it decides to beat your ass.
The idea behind the Duck Fat Fries is a glorious one—filled with that silky texture and sigh-inducing flavor of well-rendered duck fat, salt and billowing hot potato in a crispy skin. Sadly, however, they fall short. This isn’t a complaint, mind you. The fries are exceptionally good with all that crispy and billowy goodness. You just expect something more when you see the words “duck fat.” In short, they’re just good fries.
There are a few sauce options, including the garlic and chive, a demure ranchlike dressing with an allium bite. The green sauce is—well, it reminds me of my childhood. In particular, the parts where I hid anything green on my plate from my parents by wrapping it in a napkin and disposing of it later.
A dainty cucumber salad dressed in a yogurt-dill sauce is a refreshing option, and I’ve yet to see a potato salad done as well as LowBrau’s. It boasts a variety of potatoes roasted and tossed with diced peppers and whole-grain mustard. The result is earthy and chromatic: It’s potato salad made exciting. Who knew it could be done?
The beer selection is epic and dizzyingly diverse. If you’re lost and confused, the staff will help guide you to the right beer via questionings and encouraged tastings. Indeed, even a beer novice like myself felt satisfied and left knowing more about hops than when I arrived.
There are also a few beer-based cocktails on the menu. One was a lager mixed with lemonade and elderflower liquor. There’s a good idea in there, but the flavors don’t balance out right.
Service is uneven at best. Sometimes it’s attentive and helpful, with servers on hand to guide diners through the menu and various beers. Other times it’s absentminded, with the servers seemingly and infuriatingly uninterested in their customers.
Still, the restaurant’s communal tables and open-air minimalist design are inviting, and the setup encourages diners to relax, yell of above the din to their friend, and try that bready rye malt recommended by a co-worker. Indeed, some of the truly best parts of LowBrau are found in its energetic vibe and welcoming openness.