Restaurant – Cafe Berlin

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When the Boy and I took H out to her very first weeknight theater experience in DC, we decided we wanted to do the whole shebang, which for us includes dinner beforehand.  The main problem with doing that and going to the Folger is that the Library itself is properly on Capitol Hill…and the surrounding neighborhood is residential.  Everything for more than 2 blocks is residential or government buildings.  Sure, there are some places along Pennsylvania Avenue to the south, but the problem with those places is that they were either too casual for what we wanted, or too fancy.  Or not quite child-friendly and with slow service (I’m looking at you Hawk ‘n’ Dove).  So I did some googling, and through the power of Open Table, came upon the German gem that is Cafe Berlin.

Pretzel board - in the shape of Germany!
Pretzel board – in the shape of Germany!

Convincing the Boy that this would be a good spot was not hard.  He’s a German speaker and interested in the culture and history having studied it in high school.  So I was pleasantly surprised to see a text from him as H and I ubered into the city that said, “They’re playing German-language pop music.  This is legit.  I’m so excited,” I knew we were in for a treat.

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And not only did we get to just enjoy it in general, but we got to enjoy it during OKTOBERFEST.  That’s right – Cafe Berlin does an Oktoberfest celebration with a special menu that runs through October 15, and includes a pig roast on that last day of the celebration.  Add in the decor, the delicious Märzen beers, and a variety of yummy foods.

Wiener schnitzel
Wiener schnitzel

As an appetizer we split a pretzel board which came with a yummy beer cheese spread served on the most ridiculously adorable cutting board shaped like Germany itself.  For main courses, I had the wiener schnitzel (thinly pounded and breaded veal, served with roast veggies), which was super yummy; the boy had halbes hähnchen (half a roast chicken with roasted veggies); and we got H to be slightly adventurous and order Bayerisches bier goulasch (which is a mouthful to say, but basically means thick meat stew on pasta).

Halbes hähnchen
Halbes hähnchen

I would be doing my readers a disservice if I didn’t mention the fact that our waiter was not the best.  I ordered a wheat beer to start, but was served the Ayinger because it turned out they didn’t have it on tap (then why was it listed on the menu???) and he thought I said Ayinger.  I didn’t complain because the beer I had was still good.  But the one I had ordered would probably have been even better.  Also – if you don’t have a beer on the menu, why not cross it off?  Next, when I ordered my main course, I wanted to get the butternut squash raviolis from the Oktoberfest menu.  A few minutes after we ordered, our waiter came back saying they hadn’t started cooking that particular dish yet, and I would have to wait a long time if I wanted it.  So I switched my order. But I shouldn’t have had to, especially since they’re open from lunch onward, and theoretically would have had someone order the pasta before that time.  And then when it was closing in on time to get to the theater, our waiter disappeared.  We had to ask someone else to bring us the bill, and still had to run the four blocks to the theater because we’d twiddled our thumbs for so long.

Bayerisches bier goulasch
Bayerisches bier goulasch

So – did we enjoy it?  Yes.  The quirks with the service were not quite enough to dampen our enjoyment.  I’m sure it doesn’t help that the waitstaff were wearing leiderhosen, which I don’t know if it’s a regular thing or not, but was potentially too much for our super-hipster young waiter.  Will we be back?  If it were just my opinion, it would be more of an “eh”, but since I have to take into consideration my partner, and knowing how much he enjoyed it, I have to say yes.  In fact, he’s mentioned wanting to go back a few times in the last couple weeks, so at this point, it’s only a matter of time.  And if you’re going to check it out – Oktoberfest is probably the time to do it.  Prost!

Details: Cafe Berlin, 322 Massachusetts Ave NE, Washington, DC; Reservations online.  Oktoberfest 2016 celebration runs through Saturday October 15.

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