Think Heidi Lite and yodel your way to the Bowery, home of Paulaner, a down-to-earth beer hall that manages to pull off some decent eats. The front section is attractive with a good looking bar featuring beer caps embedded into the surface; industrial, yet chic, beer-making equipment, much of it enlivened by copper, and clever lighting fixtures. The blue and white color scheme begins with the dirndls on the friendly female waitstaff and carries over to the shirts on the men, checked napkins and (less successfully) one wall of the main dining area.
Billed as a modern take on a traditional beer hall, Paulaner is a hit with groups who gather at long, wooden tables as well as couples, mostly, though not all, on the young side. It has a bit of a frat party atmosphere and would be a good date choice, albeit a guy one.
The major force here is the microbrewery, helmed by Master Brewer Andreas Heidenreich , who creates his own versions of traditional Paulaner-style beers with recipes that follow the Purity Law of 1516 using only four ingredients—water, wheat, hops and yeast. Among the offerings are Hefeweizen, lightly hoppy with a subtle bitterness; Munich Lager, a classic amber beer, malty-flavored Munich Dark, Munich Pale Ale, in the IPA-style and a changing roster of seasonal beers. The $12 beer flight with five small glasses offers an opportunity to taste several. There are also wines by the glass and a decent, if small, cocktail menu from which I sampled a Munich Mule with vodka, Hirschkuss herbal liqueur and ginger beer.
Food is under the direction of Executive Chef Daniel Kill, a native of Bavaria who boasts stints at NYC's Wallsé, Café Sabarsky and other Bavarian-inspired spots. You might start with Obazda, a blend of Camembert, butter, beer and spicy red pepper served with a freshly baked, still-warm pretzel. Had it been colder I would have opted for sausages like the veal Weisswurst or spicy lamb sausage served with red cabbage slaw or even the sausage sampler but instead I went for the green asparagus salad with watercress and tomatoes asking the kitchen to hold the poached egg. The vegetables were fresh and well-cooked in a nicely balanced dressing. My companion was delighted with the crispy potato pancakes with apple sauce.
Moving to mains, the crusted cod is bedded on well-seasoned spinach. The spatzle is a creamy rendition with spring peas and fava beans topped with a toss of frizzled onions. The barley salad with sugar snap peas and carrots is refreshing unless you're anti-cilantro in which case look elsewhere. Other entrees include salmon with a potato-leek puree; a grilled pork chop with ramp-infused spatzel; Weiner Schnitzel served with potato and cucumber salad and a crispy pork knuckle that would appeal on a cold winter night. With enough notice, the kitchen will dish up a whole roast suckling pig.
The restaurant is open for dinner Sun – Wed, 3-11pm; Thurs – Sat, 3pm-midnight. Brunch is served Sat & Sun, 11am-3pm. The space, including a private downstairs party room that accommodates 65 people, is available for parties, beer classes, brewery tours, corporate team building and meetings. No lederhosen required.