Theory: It is physically impossible for a sane human being to be angry in the midst of good polka music.* A jovial German atmosphere coupled with fantastic polka on a well-tuned accordion makes a long week melt into happiness. When our group of six walked into Wurst und Bier, we were ready for a healthy post-work-Friday Prost. And Wurst und Bier delivered with its large wooden picnic tables, great food, “totally legit polka**” and fun atmosphere.
Wurst und Bier immediately struck me as a sports bar married with a modern version of a German beer hall, and I’m guessing that’s the exact goal of the folks behind this new restaurant and beer garden***. The restaurant is somewhat cavernous, as a good German beer hall should be, and various German accoutrements line the walls. When we stopped in a healthy mix of young professionals and families were enjoying the juxtaposition of ESPN and Germany. From our seat I counted 11 televisions, which included one hanging from the ceiling in the middle of the restaurant in a very Dallas Cowboys Stadium style. (Showing Ultimate Fighting, no less.) The coats of arms of the German states hang on cardboard from the ceiling, and the decorations on the wall remind me of a combination of freshman dorms and Germany. At our picnic table for example, the wall was adorned with a “Beer: Helping Ugly People Get Laid Since __” poster auf Deutsch. As I said, mix of Germany and sports bar, which makes total sense since this location in a strip mall was apparently a Buffalo Wild Wings before its German makeover. They also feature cartoonish German lads and lasses on the wall (think busty gal clad in a dirndl and impish gent in lederhosen) holding an OSU flag and a Crew scarf, respectively.
First, the Wurst. The menu is as massive as Bavaria itself, and it features photos of several of the items, which I’m sure serves to help those unfamiliar with terms such as Schnitzel, Käsespätzle and Bier. Actually, if you’re reading this, you should be intimately familiar with the third. There’s also a large explanation of the history of Oktoberfest, which seems fitting for a German restaurant that certainly dabbles with an American crowd. Much of the menu is in English, or at least has a decent explanation of the German terms. Take note of the exotic sausage section that features items such as alligator and rattlesnake sausages as well as a gourmet sausage section that includes favorites like beer cheese brats. Each table offers several types of German mustard, each of which was delicious and a great addition to what I believe was roughly 17 types of sausages on the menu. Also of note is a nice little kids’ menu as well as some American options for the less adventurous in the crowd.
Wurst und Bier delivers on the second half of its promise with 26 beers on draft, and they thankfully serve them in several sizes. The liter suited most of us nicely, but a few of the group chose the responsible route with ½ liters. The beer list offers a solid selection of German beers on draft as well as in the bottle, and it also appeared as if they had a nice wine selection for those more interested in Riesling and the like. I led a fun conversation regarding the history of Weihenstephaner as the world’s oldest brewery as well as to poorly explain its proper pronunciation. Wurst und Bier also has an impressive selection of American craft beers as well as a handful of good Belgians. Beer towers and boots are available for those who really need to slip away into a German bliss, which fortunately we were smart enough to pass on.
Our group started with the Obazda appetizer, which is a large pretzel served with a side of a mix of brie, cream cheese, onions and seasonings. The photo on the menu looked pretty different from the reality, but no one in the group minded since the cheese mix was a salty and creamy delight. We were slow to order food because we were enjoying our liters along with the accordion player’s polka medley of the Sound of Music. I continued with the beer cheese brat and a size of the Käsespätzle. The brat was juicy and a tiny bit cheesy as I’d hoped, and while the Spätzle seemed more on the side of mac and cheese than traditional Spätzle, I enjoyed it thoroughly. Others at the table lauded the Currywurst and the blue cheese brat, and the impressively affordable dinners got high marks from all of us while we were drunk on polka and, perhaps more appropriately, drunk on liters of delicious German beer.
But in the midst of our personal six-person Oktoberfest, we hit a bit of a snag that certainly challenged my polka=happiness theory. After five of us received our meals, the sixth person sat empty-handed waiting on his smoked duck. The waiter came over to ask what he was waiting on, and he explained he had never received his smoked duck. The waiter’s response:
“You didn’t order the smoked duck. We’re out of that.”
The server was incredulous. Of course the duck member of our party explained that he had in fact ordered it, and that the waiter had repeated it as well as appeared to write it down.
“You didn’t. Are you sure? You didn’t order it, because I would have told you we were out.”
This was not said in a friendly manner. It was rude, probably one of the rudest responses I’ve ever seen in a bar or restaurant. The server stood there awkwardly and glared at the foodless member of our group for about 30 seconds. And then he walked away. Stomped, more accurately. He was awkward, rude and then disappeared.
To be fair, I bartended for eight years, so I feel like the service industry and I have a pretty intimate love/hate relationship. I get that servers have bad nights and occasional gaffes, but I also know that it’s a server’s responsibility to make it right if something goes awry. Wurst und Bier has the German part down in a fun and unique way, but the service may need a bit of tuning. That being said, every other worker that we interacted with was amazing. From the hostess to the server who took over when ours disappeared, everyone seemed wonderful. It’s unfortunate that we happened upon this one bad experience, and I’m assuming it was an anomaly.
This hiccup aside, we had a great time at Wurst und Bier. I’m guessing we would have stayed for at least another liter if we hadn’t ended on such a sour note with the server—He eventually came back to bring the bill, and thankfully he didn’t charge for the duck, but there also was no offer to “make it right”—but being that things got awkward, we decided to pay and head to friendly pastures.
I will definitely go back to Wurst und Bier. It’s a more casual atmosphere than some of the other German restaurants in town, and I’d assume that with the number of seats we’d have no problem slipping right into our happy place. The outdoor patio that I saw was more or less in the parking lot, so I’d probably stick with sitting right next to the accordion player on future visits. Wurst und Bier is just what it presents itself to be: A modern German beer hall mixed with an American sports bar on the Far North Side of Columbus. And it. Is. Delicious.
Wurst und Bier is located at 110 Hutchinson Avenue, Columbus, OH 43235. They will be celebrating Oktoberfest October 12-14.
* This as the woman who hired a polka band for her wedding
** Quote from another member of our group, minus an expletive saying just how legit he was
*** Come to think of it, this is very similar to my own marriage