Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for lunch, Monday through Friday. 6 to 11 p.m. for dinner, Monday through Saturday. Closed Sundays.
Price range: $9 or $10 for entrees at dinner.
Atmosphere: German fare, prepared with a light touch and served in Alpine chalet surroundings.
Reservations: A good idea in the evenings.
Credit cards: American Express, Diners Club, Carte Blanche, VISA, Master Charge.
Special facilities: Accesible for patrons in wheelchairs; children may split meals, but no kiddie menu; no booster chairs; live music; on-street parking.
All the way to the restaurant, my husband expounded upon the children's German ancestral heritage (that was odd -- he usually invoked the Irish branch) as an excuse for subjecting them to cooked cabbage and liver dumplings.
With all due respect to Great-grandma Stein's memory, the girls, 10 and 13, were not thrilled at the prospect of dining on herring and sauerkraut. Unaware of the glories of sachertorte or sauerbraten, they were as eager to go to the Alpenhof Restaurant on 20th Street as they are to have teeth pulled.
They were somewhat reassured by seeing in the dining room several other children, all of whom not only looked fit but happy.
And, in fact, the Alpenhof is a cheery spot. It does a nice job of recreating an Alpine lodge atmosphere with its gleaming wood beams, brick walls, checkered tablecloths, tiffany lamps and old kerosene lamps.The Alpenhof makes the most of the Christmas season with lots of greenery, candles and wreaths.
We were taken up to the loft and tucked into a booth that overlooked the dining room below and a huge chandelier wrapped in pine boughs and studded with candles like a Santa Lucia crown.
If our kids had been reassured by the presence of other children, after a look at the prices, I was surprised so many kids were there. The Alpenhof is not a cheap place for a family dinner, especially if your youngsters, like ours, eat adult portions.
Most of the entrees are $9 or $10, and if you get into appetizers and desserts, you're likely to run up quite a bill.
The good news is that most of the dishes offered are worth the price. The Alpenhof dispels the notion that German cooking is always heavy and founded on the potato. Its veal dishes deserve special praise and the strudels and tortes are outstanding.
For starters, you can have herring, potato soup, head cheese or those liver dumplings, among other things. Our eldest said the onion soup, $2.10, "tasted German." A strong stock with vegetables made the difference, giving the soup an earthy flavor we all liked. The customary bread round and gooey cheese were floating in the soup.
Our youngest wasted no time in passing up the goulash, wienerschnitzel and bratwurst. She zeroed right in on the "chicken baked in batter," $7.75, which was like good old familiar fried chicken. It was served with green beans cooked with thick pieces of bacon and with seasoned rice.
The glazed suckling pig, $9, my husband's choice, was wonderful, the thin slices of pork tender and moist. This came with a glossy braised cabbage, almost a mild version of sauerkraut, and dumplings.
The Alpenhof offers eight types of wurst, served either with cold potato salad or with sauerkraut, and ranging from $4.75 to $5.50. Our 13-year-old chose the knockwurst, which are very fat frankfurters. She even finished the sauerkraut which says a lot for the Alpenhof's and litte for her mother's.
The beef and pork brochette, $9.25, was tempting but the Jaegerschnitzel got me in the end. This is an unusual combination of veal slices topped with a creamy sauce that includes mushrooms, a bit of slightly cooked bacon and scallops. Lovely. With it came the green beans and spaetzel, which are tiny egg dumplings.
Other Alpenhof offerings include roast pork and dumplings, trout meuniere and steak with bacon and mushrooms.
It's heresy not to save room for the Alpenhof desserts; for example, a velvetly black forest cake or rich sachertorte with chocolate and apricot jam. The pastries run about $2.
Along with all this you get a little music courtesy of a guitarist and an accordian player who jolly things up with what Americans think is Germanic music, plus some of the real stuff. Lots of people hummed along to "Edelweiss" and joined in for a round of the "Happy Wanderer" and, of course, "O Tannenbaum."
All our gluttony ran us $57.90, including tip, wine, coffee, dessert and entertainment. And the kids came away with warmer feelings of old Great-grandma Stein.