Every time I walk by Altstadt, the Stonecutters song from the Simpsons inevitably gets stuck in my head. While I’m assuming co-owner Brendan McGill doesn’t have the power to control the British crown, or keep the metric system down, the German-style beer hall he’s readying at 209 First Avenue S has the long tables and dimly lit, cavernous feel that beg for clandestine world domination plots punctuated by clanking beer steins.
But it’s the little things that has him excited, since he's used to the relatively cozy environs of Hitchcock. Like having air conditioning. And separate men's and women's restrooms. And urinals. And way more space: Altstadt will have 100ish seats, plus 17 more at the bar.
Urinals are grand and all, but here are five reasons I'm personally excited to swig from a stein at Altstadt.
Bratwurst to hang your hat on. “You know it’s bratwurst, but it’s still unique,” says McGill of the sausage he says will become an Altstadt signature. It’s made with heritage pork, grass-fed beef, and fresh herbs, all ground, mixed, and stuffed in house each day. The exact recipe is a blend of traditional German and German American elements—the kind you might see in, say, Wisconsin. Look for it on a plate keeping company with housemade sauerkraut and mustard (traditional sweet or lacto-fermented whole grain), and some crusty bread.
Big, fat pretzels. Made by hand. Chef de cuisine (and Hitchcock transplant) James Pech is also planning an assortment of other sausages and the crispiest of golden fries.
Steins that can withstand a good clank. Altstadt has laid in a supply of steins in liter and half-liter sizes, plus assorted other glasses for the 14 taps. McGill said the bar staff can get "as nerdy as you want" on this particlar topic. There's also a full bar, including some specialty German spirits.
Agoraphobes can drink here, too. If soaring ceilings and exposed brick walls aren’t your thing, a gaming nook cut into the wall by the bar has a built-in table for six, an ideal spot for a game of chess—or backgammon, dominoes, pinochle, whatever—and a few beers (did I mention it’s close to the bar?). Conversely, if open spaces are your thing, look for some sidewalk seating next year.
The Old World flourishes are subtle, but effective. Kraut fermentation will happen in hand-turned crockery from Poland, while beer will flow through ornate antique tap towers imported from Germany. It’s not exactly Old World, but the pass and garde manger in the back is topped with remnants from Portland’s Sunset Lanes.
Altstadt is aiming for a quiet open in the second week of November. Keep an eye on the Altstadt Facebook page for updates.