I haven’t been this excited about something German since they reintroduced the Volkswagen Beetle.
Just three blocks from my house – under a lime green awning – is the new culinary object of my affection.
Schulte & Herr.
Run by the former Fräulein Schulte and her husband Herr Herr (no kidding!), this breakfast and lunch joint serves hearty heaps of homemade food straight from Berlin. Having never fullfilled my fantasy of a Bavarian getaway, I have no idea how authentic it is. But judging by her accent and the sheer marvelousness of the dishes – it’s spot on.
My first encounter was a lunch of bratwurst, sauerkraut, German potato salad and a side of beets. All for the ridiculously reasonable price of $12. I was blown away by the generous portions and the pungent sharpness of the sauerkraut. This is no Americanized “dog cart kraut.” A tart punch and a hefty fullness kick it into another realm. Sizable chunks of skin-on red potatoes bless the creamy salad, and beets of both ruby and gold sparkle with pickled perfection.
It truly was surprising that I polished it off, as I couldn’t keep myself from snarfing the homemade rye bread that preceded my meal.
A second lunch was a $10 daily special that featured two chubby beef mounds that resembled burgers, but tasted like meatloaf. Paired with pickles and an enormous pile of mashed potatoes (that miraculously can be described as both “velvety” and “chunky”), it filled me up so much that I skipped dinner.
But it was my first breakfast at Schulte & Herr that moved me from fan to neighborhood regular. Melt-on-your-tongue house cured lox ($9) had me at first bite. Cured in salt, sugar and orange juice and edged with a thick fringe of fresh dill, it elicited a long breathy “oh my” that started in my brain and hissed from my mouth in a loving growl. Pile it on a forkful of crackly potato pancakes with a swab of the horseradish sauce, capers and slices of gherkin pickles and you’ve got yourself a mini tower of heaven.
Next I’m gunning for the Bergmannkiez, a German breakfast plate that includes sliced hams, two kinds of cheese, jam, fruit, and a bread basket for $10.
In addition to the outstanding cuisine, the service from Frau Herr couldn’t be more charming. As the frontwoman of the two-person operation, she’s warmly welcoming and prompt with water and coffee refills. She and American-born chef Herr have years of restaurant experience in the kitchens of Berlin and western Massachusetts, but – thankfully – decided to put down roots and open their own place here. They arrived in May and opened their Cumberland Street bistro just a few weeks ago.
Not only does Schulte & Herr brighten Portland’s food scene with a solid “old world” European option, it also brightens Bayside – a place blessed with Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, but cursed with a dearth of good restaurants.
As a Bayside resident, I couldn’t be more thrilled.
My only complaints are that the coffee is a bit weak and that they are closed on the brunchiest of days – Sunday. But I guess they deserve ONE day off!