A couple of years ago, Claudia Moritz changed out the tablecloths – no reason, other than she had grown tired of the color. She may have swapped placemats at some point, as well. But that’s about it, really. Everything including the menu at Stammtisch German Restaurant has remained pretty much untouched over the past 26 years: schnitzels, krauts, spaetzle and – on the first weekend of the month – sauerbraten. The place remains true to German home cooking traditions.
“We’re very, very old-fashioned,” Moritz acknowledges. “In these fast times it feels like we need something stable, consistent.”
There is comfort in that line of thought. The rindsroulade – top round beef pounded and rolled with onion, bacon and pickle – is a dish you settle down to. There is nothing here to contemplate. Rather than becoming a distraction, the simple roulade bids you to converse, to make eye contact, to set social media aside and enjoy.
It rests in a sauce husky from stock and onions, brash and biting from red wine and tomato that plays nonchalantly with the rustic meat – “a basic gravy,” according to Moritz. The single dumpling stakes its own place, buffered by the earthy sharpness of nutmeg. You can’t help but feel at home with the dish.
“It’s how it’s supposed to be,” she says.
Stammtisch offers sides of spaetzle, rotkraut and sauerkraut. Again there’s nothing uncommon, except – well, classic German fare is too often experienced at booming Oktoberfest knockoffs, where spaetzle is hastily prepared and sauerkraut glops from a jar. Here, however, ribbons of spaetzle are light and almost ethereal despite their definite presence. And the sauerkraut is more intricate than bracing, with hints wavering between bittersweet, grassy and pungent. Prepared with allspice, caraway seed, onion and bay leaf, it’s a dressing that brings something more than shear tart and sweet pickling to the plate.
So the restaurant is a culinary time capsule, unpretentious and friendly. Erwin Moritz laughs frequently as he engages guests in the dining room. And it’s easy to get comfortable here. Stammtisch isn’t trying to be important or to be a period piece. It’s honest German food.
Sounds all Rockwellesque, doesn’t it? Like a “home is where the heart is” placard magneted to the fridge. Well, the wienerschnitzel – the version unadorned by a dressing – feels more like the reality of home. With veal commanding artisan rates, Mortiz turned to a more credit-friendly meat. Although the shell carries a nutty warmth, lean pork becomes parched and rather monotone.
Hey, no one wants to shell out $30 for wienerschnitzel. And – fortunately – the menu includes versions bathed in sauces, like the mushroom gravy pooling over jaegerschnitzel.
Stammtisch gives you just what promises. Let’s hope that never changes.
STAMMTISCH GERMAN RESTAURANT 1204 Echo Ave., Seaside. Tue-Fri 11:30am-2pm and 5-9pm; Sat-Sun 5-9pm (may close earlier on Sunday). 899-3070, stammtisch-seaside.com