Auerbachs Keller — one of the world’s most famous restaurant and wine bars — most likely dates from the early 1400’s. It was already an institution in 1765, when the German poet Goethe started patronizing it as a student. In his play Faust I, Auerbachs Keller is the first place Mephistopheles takes Faust on their travels. The restaurant and adjacent wine bar — still located in a cellar — is right in the historic city’s center, in one of its renowned arcades/passageways. You can’t miss it, if only for the throngs of tourist groups who stop by en masse.
The restaurant side of Auerbachs Keller is large, semi-brightly lit and oh-so-popular. With the acoustics, things can get a little noisy, good for fun family gatherings or rowdy get togethers with friends. It’s not a propose to your sweetheart or intimate date-night ambiance. Dressy casual seems to be in order.
I’m not sure whether it was by special arrangement or for a certain group, but at some point, Mephistopheles came out and danced amongst some of the patrons! That definitely was a surprise and added to the historical charm of the place. I would have liked the Devil to have circulated around the vast room some more.
Though America was settled by many German immigrants, it’s getting harder and harder to find traditional German cuisine in larger cities. Milwaukee has Mader’s and Baltimore misses Houssner’s.
These are not dainty dishes, but rather hearty, rustic fare. Check out the different specials (they aren’t listed in English, but attentive staff can bridge the language gap) — they’re often much less pricey than the regular menu.
The server brought out dark brown and French-style breads for the bread course, along with softened butter.
For a starter, I ordered the house sparking wine aperitif: spicy, interesting and it only runs about what would be $5. It’s worth trying! Along with that, I got the steak tartare, perfectly lean and mixed with minced pickles. During tough travels, you’ll find this particularly restorative. It’s garnished with mixed greens laced with their house-made creamy vinaigrette, yellow and red cherry tomatoes, chopped paprika peppers and caper berries. The server presents a pepper mill and bottle of Tabasco with it.
For an entree, I ordered wild boar with red cabbage, a buttery knödel-like dumpling, with wild forest mushrooms and potato croquettes. The meat was tender and not gamy. It did have an extra pronounced pork flavor, though. The sauce is obviously slow-simmered and well developed. The cabbage is wine-soaked with savory pickling-type spices. The croquettes are made into little finger shapes, crispy outside and creamy inside.
To accompany this dish, I selected a sweet local Reisling wine, which really enhanced the flavors.
Desserts at Auerbachs Keller are definitely simple and down-home, like hot fruit dumplings, hot raisin dumplings, apple quark, etc.