Bratwurst and beer in the land of lutefisk
Special to The Seattle Times
With a no-nonsense standard Ballard façade and a name like The People's Pub, you might think "fishermen's dive with lots of pontification about politics." But step inside, and old Ballard falls away to reveal a charming German restaurant boasting exotic beers. The tables in the front are draped in cloth, but toward the back, the restaurant fans out into a huge room with plenty of bare wooden tables and chairs and a large, curving bar, stocked well.
My boyfriend, who appreciates beer more than most people, gleefully ordered a Spaten Optimator/Doppelbock before spying the beer sampler — $6 for five tastes. That sounded irresistible, even to someone like me, who does not, under any circumstances, drink beer. This gave me a chance to compare the first sip — about as far as I ever get — of five very different draft beers. We chose Hale's Cream Style Ale (velvet, then wicked bitterness), Moose Drool Brown Ale (so strong I shuddered), Bitburger Pils (like ginger ale with a pale bite), Hacker-Pschorr Weisse (I say sour, my boyfriend says, "there's a little Bubblicious going on there") and Leavenworth Blind Pig Dunkelweizen, served, like the others, in extremely large sampler glasses. We both favor the Doppelbock for its chewy molasses flavor. My own exotic drink, Hunter Park Gluhwein, suits me perfectly. The spiced red wine arrives steaming in a glass stein with a cinnamon stick.
We abandoned our drinks when a plate of broiled jalapeño peppers heralded its arrival with the enticing scent of bacon. Each forest-green jalapeño, stuffed with goat cheese, was wrapped tightly in bacon strips. The crunch of the firm pepper skin, the chewy smoked bacon and the give of the soft goat cheese made this appetizer unusual and excellent.
My sense of adventure unleashed, I ordered a dangerous main course: the oven-roasted beet. Fearing too earthy of a flavor, I was pleased when, again, a tantalizing scent preceded the dish to the table. Whatever you think beets taste like, this dish defies it. A tad earthy, a smidgen sweet, a bit like a sweet potato, four beets enclosed the crunchy sweetness of walnuts and the delicate taste of strings of red cabbage in a lemon goat-cheese sauce. I have never tasted such a combination of flavors before, but I certainly will again. Likewise for the Paprikaschnitzel, which the menu calls a "gypsy favorite." The tender pork cutlet wore a tangle of sautéed peppers and onions that imparted a sharp, but still delicate, flavor.
These unusual taste combinations that work so well — from the appetizers to the main courses to the mugs of strange brew — make The People's Pub a great place to eat, drink or just be merry.
Oven-roasted beet: Touted by our server as her favorite dish, this is now on my list, too. If you usually skip past anything beet-related, don't this time. The flavor combination of this dish is a once-in-a-lifetime find.
Beer sampler: Five self-chosen beers in large glasses, a candle backlighting their amber, cinnamon and deep brown hues, offer a few minutes of entertainment. Some are German, some are local; all are on draft.
Spaetzle: As fluffy as snowflakes, spaetzle resembles pancake dough, behaves like a funnel cake and tastes like melt-in-your-mouth noodles.
Gluhwein: The German variation on hot mulled wine, this drink has a deep, spicy taste with notes of vinegar.
Itemized bill, meal for two
Broiled jalapeño peppers: $7.00
Oven-roasted beet: $9.00
Beer sampler: $5.00
Hunter Park Gluhwein: $4.50
Celebrato Doppelbock beer: $4.50
Alison Peacock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.