Occupation: Education Technology Innovator
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Walzwerk
Reviewed Walzwerk: Friday, May 13, 2011
My husband took me to Walzwerk on our fourth date about eight years ago. At the time, I was a strict vegetarian and a bit worried about what I’d be able to order in an “East German” restaurant, but fortunately Walzwerk has amazing options for vegetarians as well as meat and potato fans.
Walzwerk has since become one of our regular spots since it makes for a great romantic date or a lively feast with friends and out-of-town visitors. We particularly love to go with first-timers since most tend to be pleasantly surprised with the charming, yet unusual ambiance of the place, from the ornate entry door (with the multilingual warning sign that you are leaving the American Sector) to the eastern block tchotchkes and décor.
On our most recent visit, we took a friend who was visiting for the weekend who had yet to experience the wonder of Walzwerk. We went on a Friday night, which can be a hectic time to go, but were pleased to find the place lively but not too crowded. If they are busy when you arrive, be prepared to walk through the front dining room and continue to the small, yet cozy, waiting area tucked in behind the bar. Sometimes this nook gets a bit packed, but the night we went, we sat right down and soaked up the atypical atmosphere while waiting for a table in the front window to be prepared for us. As with all other Walzwerk visits, there was a subtle sense of being transported to another place and time — perhaps to a hip, underground restaurant somewhere in Germany or Poland — and stuck in a fascinating inter-era limbo.
After a short wait, our server led us to our table and then brought us a typical Walzwerk treat — a small plate of canapé — when she came back for our drink order. The guys both asked for the Radeberger Pilsner, which is on draft, and I ordered a glass of Gewurtztraminer. Then we passed around the canapé and agreed that these little finger sandwiches are a simple, savory way to tease the tastebuds while waiting for drinks and appetizers to arrive.
We then ordered the potato pancakes since they are divine. One order is perfect for three folks to share and just enough to whet the appetite without being too filling before the main course. As usual, they were perfectly crispy on the outside, delectable on the whole, and served with sour cream, chives, and applesauce. Only one potato pancake per person certainly left us craving more, which is a good thing since most Walzwerk entrées come with a generous portion of creamy mashed potatoes.
For the main course, my friend and I both had the vegetarian schnitzel since I had raved to him about it, and my husband had the chicken breast stuffed with apples and bacon, since that is his absolute favorite item on the menu. As I explained to my friend, the vegetarian schnitzel is an inspired alternative to the traditional schnitzel and swaps out the pork loin for beets, carrots, and cauliflower that are then breaded and served with a homemade gravy (that is freshly innovated every time), mashed potatoes, and a cucumber salad. Though he is not a vegetarian, my friend loved this dish and did not miss having meat with his potatoes. Meanwhile my husband was blissfully enjoying his meal, so we each snuck a fork over to his plate and were impressed with the overall unique flavor combination of the apples, bacon, and cherries with the juicy, tender chicken breast. Last but not least, we ended this excellent meal with a slice of apple strudel, vanilla ice cream, three forks, and satisfied smiles all around.
After all these years, we, along with our guests, are never disappointed by a trip to Walzwerk. We never get tired of our favorite dishes and we like to explore other aspects of the menu and specials as well. We particularly love to eat at their tiny bar on a busy night and applaud the fun and funky bathroom with its eclectic collection of vinyl album covers and random tchotchkes. Needless to say, Walzwerk is a truly special, eccentric, and memorable restaurant that we will continue to enjoy time and time again.
Occupation: Retired CEO
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Nettie’s Crab Shack
Reviewed Walzwerk: Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Walzwerk takes reservations for four or more, and since there were only three of us we arrived at 6:00 in hopes of being seated immediately. Fortunately, the dining room was half filled.
The waiter, Pascal, was an energetic young man who poured a sample of three white wines. To get in the mood for a German dinner, we decided on a light-bodied wine from Austria. This turned out to be the high point of my evening.
I ordered the special appetizer, a potato salad with sausage, which was comprised of large pieces of potato with some pickles and what resembled a ballpark frank. My companions split the house green salad, which was just lettuce. Pascal had disappeared, so Valerie took our entrée orders. I selected the Garlic Roast Pork, which was actually rolled pork that was served at room temperature. My daughter had the jager schnitzel, which covered the entire plate and was good. My mother-in-law ordered the recommended tri-tip sauerbraten, which had the consistency of leather and was drowned in the juice of the cabbage. We finished the dinner with what was billed as homemade apple strudel.
The restaurant is small, so the tables are close together, but the noise level was acceptable. There were three wait staff, who worked all of the tables, so we did not have an assigned person. The service was good, and the portions were on the large side, commensurate with the prices. By the time we finished dinner, the place was packed with what appeared to be from the neighborhood.
The atmosphere could be summed up by the three oversized pictures on the wall: Carl Marx, Joseph Lenin, and a third comrade. The “authentic” restaurant could have been located in East Germany before the Berlin Wall came down.
None of us had been to a German restaurant in over thirty years, and based on this experience, it may be another thirty years. But, if I were to try German food again, I would opt for the sister restaurant, Schmidt’s on Mission, which is up-scaled with a more varied menu with similar pricing.
My daughter felt that I was a little harsh, but was generally in agreement with my comments. Maybe it was just an off night, so I decided to read the newspaper critics’ reviews, which were mixed and generally gave the restaurant 2 out of 4 stars (Good). One review from 2011 on Zagat’s site probably summed up my feelings: “When it is good, it is tasty and wholesome. When it is bad it is heavy stodge.”
PS: Walzwerk is on Restaurant.com, so the discount made the evening a little more acceptable.
Occupation: Artist & Independent Music Producer
Favorite Restaurant: Dragon Rouge Restaurant
Reviewed Walzwerk: Saturday, May 21, 2011
Walzwerk was such a pleasant surprise! I had eaten at Schmidt’s about two weeks previous and, in my opinion, this was ten times better! The service was quick and friendly, and the food was incredible!
I started off with an ice-cold Franziskaner beer as my date and I sat back and appreciated the décor, which both of us agreed transferred us to another country and time. It felt like we had hopped on a plane and arrived in East Berlin, walking into a cozy restaurant filled with warm candles, small intimate tables, soft lighting, and many fun pictures of the surrounding country and its heroes adorning the wall.
The waitresses were very nice and despite a very busy dinner rush, they were able to get our orders taken fairly quickly while providing kind words and eye contact, which I appreciated very much. The food arrived within ten minutes of our order, which is always a cool thing. The first appetizer was a white bean soup that had pieces of soft smoked pork loin in it! So very tasty and hearty! Loved every bite. The next appetizer was the smoked salmon plate, which came with thinly sliced onion, capers, small pieces of pumpernickel bread, and a very yummy beet salad that had a touch of dill.
For our main dish we selected the chicken breast, stuffed with apples and bacon and covered with a light, sun-dried cherry sauce. So good!!! I couldn’t even finish my plate, despite us sharing the entrée! Lots of food, and it was very filling. The flavors were all distinct and pleasurable. It wasn’t the normal kind of food I am used to, and it was quite a special treat.
Though very full, we pushed on and ordered the chocolate pudding with vanilla sauce. Wow. Yes. Lucky for the “extra dessert chamber” in my stomach, because this stuff was delish and we wanted to enjoy every bite. Not too sweet. Just right. And cool. A cool and tasty way to finish off the night.
I loved Walzwerk and would recommend it to anyone as a fun place to dine for an intimate date or for a party of folks who would like to feel displaced and safe…cozy and adventurous…right in their own backyards.
What I wouldn’t recommend is a 25-block walk afterwards, up the hills, and to a party on 23rd and Dolores. That’s what we did. Let your food settle first. Yikes.