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Dining Out: Zum Stammtisch: Bavarian comfort endures in Ridgewood

We made our way to Zum Stammtisch with some degree of trepidation. Had this venerable paean to oom-pah cuisine lost its luster in the intervening years since its opening in 1972? Had the changing demographic of Ridgewood lured its core clientele away to greener pastures? Judging by the full house on a recent November Wednesday, the answer to both of these questions is a resounding NO! Owners Hans and Werner, the second generation of Lehners, are still doing what they do best to an appreciative audience.

Location scouts should take note that Zum Stammtisch has all the requisite trappings for the filming of a convincing Bavarian romp. White-washed stucco walls and sturdy timbers support a full range of Teutonic artifacts, including an enormous moose head with the most benign facial expression ever seen on a feat of taxidermy. You could just picture a production number with the costumed waitresses joining the patrons in raising their steins and swaying to a one-two-three beat.

The food lives up to the décor. Over-the-top, but easy to love. It harkens back to a time when calories and cholesterol were not uppermost in people’s minds. But as Julia Child once said, “Moderation in all things — including moderation.”

The first thing we dug into was ochsenmaul salat, misleadingly described as “pickled beef.” Although it was delicious, beef, as one thinks of beef, it was not. In reality it was meltingly tender shavings of vinegary pickled tongue with onions. Fortunately, we adore tongue, and this rendition was no exception. But for those who don’t happen to share our preferences, let’s have a little truth in labeling. For the organ-meat-averse, this would not have been a pleasant surprise.

German herring salad really rocked in a fishy, salty and greasy sort of way. The menu admitted to herring, beets, potatoes and six other undisclosed ingredients. We could add hardboiled eggs, dill pickles and radishes to the list, but would still be missing three. Don’t ask, don’t tell works fine for this salad.

Sausages seem obligatory when going Bavarian. The three sausage option includes bratwurst, the basic German pork sausage; knockwurst, its beef counterpart; and krainerwurst, another porker that has been hickory smoked. Of the three, the krainer had the most personality, but we regard all as German soul food. If you love it, you’ll love ’em. They come with warm caraway-seeded sauerkraut and potato salad.

Instead of the predictable slippery mass of sweated onions, the steak here is entirely concealed by a massive tangle of thin-sliced crisped onions having a bad hair day. Delve below the surface and you will find a hefty slab of beef reclining on a bed of home fries. The meat is described only as “aged beef pounded thin,” but if we had to guess we’d say NY strip steak. The onions and potatoes were so awesome that even if the steak was of lesser quality, the weiner zweibel rostbraten still would have been worth ordering.

Dessert was where, if determined, you could start counting calories. The black forest cake didn’t significantly surpass the mass-produced stuff, and the pastry supporting the pear and almond tart was leaden.

The offerings from the bar are also worthy of note. They’ve got an impressive selection of German and German-style beers and well-priced German wines. The dessert menu comes with a prodigious list of Germanic liqueurs and schnapps and other more obscure after-dinner drinks.

The Bottom Line

While legions of trendy new eateries bite the dust every season — especially in this economy — Zum Stammtisch has found its own special niche and thrived. They even intend to open a deli next door where they will sell the same cherished pork products they cook in their kitchen. What is their recipe for success? Take a generous helping of excellent food, add friendly, efficient service and mix in good value. After stuffing ourselves, we still could have used a fork lift to transport our “doggie bag.”

Zum Stammtisch

69-46 Myrtle Ave.

Glendale, NY 11385

(718) 386-3014

www.zumstammtisch.com

Price Range: Appetizers $3.75-9.95; entrees $14.95-26.95; sandwiches $9.95-$15.95

Cuisine: Hardcore German

Setting: Very Bavarian

Service: Friendly and efficient

Hours: Sun-Thurs noon-10 p.m, Fri-Sat noon-11 p.m

Reservations: Optional

Alcohol: Full bar

Parking: Street

Dress: Casual

Children: Children’s menu offered

Music: No

Takeout: Yes

Credit Cards: Yes

Noise Level: Noisy

Handicap Accessible: No, restroom downstairs

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