Jim Anderson
A frosty glass of beer from the Peoples Pub's large selection.

Ballard Food Police: German cuisine is hearty and varied

The Peoples Pub
5429 Ballard Ave. N.W.
206.783.6521
http://www.peoplespub.com

Monday-Tuesday: 3 p.m. – Midnight
Wednesday-Sunday: 3 p.m. – 2 a.m.

There aren't many German restaurants in Seattle, so we're lucky to have the Peoples Pub right here in Ballard.

Southwest Germany must be someplace on the map of our human migratory legacy because this cuisine both satisfies and intrigues.

In a region of the world subject to a broad array of influences (Russian, French, Mediterranean), the cooking style brings together warm and firm, punchy and tangy sauces and lively presentations of cabbage. Potatoes (fried and mashed) also abound.

But, let's move back, back in time for a moment. Once upon a time centuries ago, there was a crazy little street in Ballard lined with bizarre establishments full of the very, very drunk. This street was called Ballard Avenue.

The Vasa Sea Grill and Patio Room was one such venue on Ballard Avenue.

We entered this lair one evening, right as they were approaching closing. Our memories of this event have dimmed with time, but the closed restaurant area in the front was merely a space to walk through to get to the business end of the joint, the Patio Room.

Dark and framed by an opened but sliding heavy chain gate (it looked goth, but was to protect the booze when closed), it seemed to be lit from the floor, with everyone in the room looking like aliens.

The Peoples Pub has been in the Vasa space now for several years, and it has a surprising commonality with Vasa.

Some of this is a good thing. Take, for example, the unpretentious vibe, accompanying the simple and bountiful fare.

And, the front room still feels like a weird waiting area, just a place to walk through to get to the bar (where you'll find a substantial German and Austrian beer selection).

The food? My goodness there's a lot of it! We ate like ranch hands, then went home with enough left over for a full-on rockin' lunch the next day.

Such volume can causes ambivalence but certainly underscores the generous feel of the Peoples Pub.

The menu is divided up into entrees, sandwiches, appetizers, meat and cheese plates and salads, with a 3 p.m. – 7 p.m. happy hour menu (which also offers value pricing on the sandwiches).

It's hard to pick from the enticing menu descriptions, but we went with the entrees goulash ($15) and Jagerschnitzel ($15).

Jagerschnitzel, a.k.a 'The Hunter's meal," is simply seared, fragrant, herb-kissed, and thinly sliced pork, mushroom gravy and a mound of diced cabbage called rotkohl.

But, the star of the plate was a huge serving of rustic mashed potatoes. The way we figure it, if the mashed potatoes don't have some lumps, then we'd rather not have them at our table.

These were good. Buttery and salty but creating a delivery vehicle to an emotional state achievable only by expert preparation of potatoes.

Also on the docket are big, green, salutory salads, winking on one plate at multiple German traditions.

The German Salad Trio ($8) triangled tender and tart German potato salad, sauerkraut and mixed greens. German Potato salad is a treat we knew held promise from an early age – so much so that we ate German potato salad out of cans simply to get to it.

Of course, the canned fare compared poorly to the Peoples Pub version. What made it so special was the body of the potato slices. That and the vinegar.

The massive beet and walnut salad ($7), featuring red and golden beets, was a more traditional note to standard northwest U.S. menus, and it held up well. This served as a nice bridge between the vinegar-punched German potato salad and the porky Jagerschnitzel.

And the goulash? Long simmered and presented on a plate with each component separated from the others, it seems celebratory.

Here were the tomatoes, there were the spaetzle noodles (bravo!), over here the beef (in a lively sauce), and in center of the melee is a dollop of sour cream.

Hearty and fresh, eat this goulash and be ready for a snow storm with no buses running.

The Peoples Pub might make for a more inviting experience if they turned the volume of Eminem down below 11. Sometimes in places where music is blasted at such loud levels (and this was before 7 p.m.), we can't help but wonder who the music is for, the patrons or the employees.

But, here we must hasten to point out the numerous fine features of our server. Apparently charged with serving all customers in both the front and back of the place, she stayed warm and real, served our food hot, fresh and vaporous.

We will return for refueling!

The Ballard Food Police visit all establishments anonymously and pay for all food and drink in full. Know anything we should know? Tell the Ballard Food Police at ballardfoodpolice@gmail.com.

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