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First Look: Schroeder's, SF's Legendary German Beer Hall, Reborn

By Virginia Miller
May 6, 2014
Photo by: Douglas Zimmerman

San Francisco needed a beer hall where the food was strong, the steins large and the cocktails stiff. Last night, the city's oldest, largest German restaurant, Schroeder's, reopened - after four months of closure and renovation - with a promise to deliver all three. New owners Jan Wiginton and Andy Chun of Press Club bought the space from the former owners, Jana and Stefan Filipcik, who retired at the end of last year. Wiginton lived in Salzburg, Austria, and both she and Chun studied the German language in school - so they're pouring a lifetime of passion into this space, which has a history in San Francisco dating back to 1893. Gone is the neon and linoleum, replaced by wood covering most of the 5,000 square feet of floor. There's enough German authenticity - a museum-like collection of steins, communal tables - to feel like the heart never left these wood-paneled walls, while massive, circular chandeliers light the room with a medieval-meets-modern glow. Thankfully, the Herman Richter murals remain, glowing like never before. Live polka bands, a month of Oktoberfest celebrations and stein-holding contests are all in the works.

As far as revamps go, Wiginton and Chun have followed the Tosca Cafe route: retaining the spirit and history of the place while elevating the food and drink. Chef Manfred Wrembel (formerly of Plum and Incanto) puts out a menu of modern Cal-German food. Beverage director Mauro Cirilli (also Press Club’s sommelier) showcases Austrian and German varietals in his wine list. Master Cicerone Rich Higgins consulted on 22 international draft beers, only five of them from Belgium and the U.S.; the majority are German, Czech or Austrian. Claire Jane Hunter (formerly of Rye and Future Bars) has crafted a cocktail program that smartly features a Germanic spirit in every cocktail, with a passion to import rare schnapps - not the sour-pucker liqueurs you've come to know. Now take a peek through our initial favorite dishes and glimpses of the decor below. 240 Front St.; 415-421-4778

  • Photo by: Douglas Zimmerman

    Chef Manfred Wrembe honed his skill with charcuterie and offal during his days at Incanto. He shows it off in this dish of thinly cut, cool beef tongue, brightened by asparagus, smoked capers, horseradish, crème fraîche, dill and pickled radishes.

  • Photo by: Douglas Zimmerman

    Juicy pork bratwurst rests atop sauerkraut, accented by house bourbon mustard, a soft roll, champagne vinegar-pickled scarlet turnips and bread-and-butter pickles.

  • Photo by: Douglas Zimmerman

    Of 22 draft beers, compiled by Master Cicerone Rich Higgins, only five are from Belgium and the U.S.; the majority are German, Czech or Austrian beers. And, yes, you can still order beers in the original massive boot-shaped beer steins, pictured here.

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    Using a Germanic spirit in every cocktail, Claire Hunter's drink menu includes the Bacchus Old Fashioned, mixing German Asbach Uralt Brandy with rye whiskey, Jerry Thomas Bitters, a sugar cube and a rinse of absinthe. It's a bit like the meeting of an old fashioned and a classic Sazerac (the original 1800s versions were made with brandy, instead of whiskey, and a rinse of absinthe with bitters).

  • Photo by: Douglas Zimmerman

    Original Schroeder's menus parallel the bar.

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    An addictive bar snack, these pork cracklings (like chicharrones) scoop up spicy horseradish mustard dip. They're heavenly with German and Austrian beers.

  • Photo by: Douglas Zimmerman

    One of the original Herman Richter murals near the entrance.

  • Enter wiener schnitzel: a traditional Viennese dish of pounded flat, breaded and deep fried veal with a squeeze of lemon on top. Chef Wrembe uses local Schmitz Ranch veal.

  • Photo by: Douglas Zimmerman

    More Herman Richter murals and original lamps.

  • Photo by: Douglas Zimmerman

    The kraut burger, loaded with caramelized onions and cheddar cheese on a rye bun.

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    Rows of communal tables line the massive beer-hall space under giant, medieval-meets-modern chandeliers.

  • Photo by: Douglas Zimmerman

    Heartwarming spaetzle (a pastalike German classic noodle) accompanied by corn, tomato, ricotta and onion blossoms.

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    An impressive, museumlike display of steins lines the back half of the restaurant.

  • Photo by: Virginia Miller

    A dreamy finish tastes like what your German grandma would make: pfannkuchen, paper-thin German crêpes, are warm, accented with scoops of blueberry-currant compote, spiced walnuts and white-chocolate cream. A little beer in the crêpe batter adds a bit of welcome effervescence.

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Places Mentioned

Press Club

Wine Bar • SoMa

Atmo.26 Decor25 Service22 CostVE
 
 
 
Tosca Cafe

Californian • North Beach

Food19 Decor24 Service17 Cost$50
 
 
 
Plum Bar

Oakland

Atmo.26 Decor25 Service23 CostI
 
 
 
Rye

Cocktail Bar • Nob Hill

Atmo.25 Decor23 Service23 CostM
 
 
 
 
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