Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Grunauer Getting it Right

Stella and I hit up Grunauer for dinner the other night. We'd never eaten there but we'd been to the bar a couple of times for drinks. We were all duly impressed with the food to the point of raving about it to my brother who was deployed in Germany for a year and loves the food of that region. If you've never had Austrian food, you should definitely go to Grunauer, it's fabulous, but you should go hungry and maybe consider sharing entrees because you get a lot of food.

But, this is a beer blog, so the beer should be mentioned. Grunauer does a great job carrying German beers on tap. It's the first time I've ever seen some of those beers on tap anywhere and that's neither good nor bad*, but the fact they're on at Grunauer shows that Grunauer really cares about all aspects of being authentic and carrying quality products.

*The guy sitting next to us at the restaurant was the epitome of a douchebag. Apparently he was going to get married soon and I could tell just by everything he talked about all night he was one of those guys that's going to cheat on his wife, if he's not already like Allen Covert in "The Wedding Singer". Anyway he'd ordered a Stiegl after much deliberation with the waitress. When it came and he took a drink and seeking to sound cultured, because I'm sure he was hitting on the waitress, said this is like a cross between Stella Artois and Peroni". I almost choked on my schnitzel.

I've run into this conversation a couple of times in the past couple of weeks; why do Japanese and Chinese restaurants only carry the Budweisers of their respective countries. You go out for sushi or the Japanese grill and you're stuck drinking a Sapporo. You wouldn't drink Sapporo in any other venue, why would you drink it there? Why don't they carry some Hitachino Nest or at the very least some Great Divide Samurai.

Italian or French restaurants, for the most part, focus on the wine from the region, but beer is an afterthought. It shouldn't be. You can get many great French or Belgian beers to carry. At the risk of making the guy who hates Chimpotle mad, I'm not so sure about Italian beers, but just having Peroni on tap doesn't cut it.

It's true that the vast majority of people coming into a French, Italian, German or Japanese restaurant have never had a beer from those respective countries and have probably never heard of most of them. But, if your restaurant is seeking authenticity, chances are you're challenging your diners with menu items they've never had nor heard of, you're certainly doing it with your wine list, why not do it with your beer list as well.

Grunauer does it right. More places should.


  1. Grunauer does a good job with beer, I don't know if I'd call it GREAT, but they are definitely the best in town as far as variety of German beer at a restaurant. Last time I was there they had Celebrator on tap, awesome. Last September they had a big Hofbrau Oktoberfest deal, not as beer centric as you'd think but the food was amazing. The first time I went to Grunauer was also the first time I had Samichlaus Helles which was perfect with the rye crisps and liptauer cheese. It might be my favorite appetizer/beer pairing in town.

    As for Italian places, it'd be nice to see a better beer menu at some places but it almost seems like a waste. People want red wine with their pasta. Somewhere like Spin could capitalize with a cool Italian craft beer list. Pizza is much more of a beer food and would pair better with Birra Baladin Nora than fettucini would. There aren't many Italian crafts that come to KC so it might be a short list but Baladin and Birra del Borgo both make some interesting stuff.

  2. If you went out for sushi or teppanyaki in Japan, you are stuck drinking Sapporo or, more likely, Asahi Super Dry. There is nothing remotely authentic about serving craft beer in a Japanese restaurant.

    That's not to say I wouldn't like it but walking into a Japanese restaurant that is not specifically a beer place and getting a Hitachino Nest is not the Japanese experience.

  3. Maybe authentic was the wrong word there. Quality fits better. If I'm in Austria and go to an American place an authentic American meal would be something like Red Robin, a burger and fries and Budweiser. But, most places that care about quality aren't trying to replicate a Red Robin experience or corner sushi restaurant in Tokyo. They're trying to recreate a quality Japanese, Austrian or French experience.

  4. It isn't a price thing. 99% of Japanese restaurants have no craft beer. The places with craft beer usually have pretty inexpensive food, actually. I would often spend less on food than on a single beer. Many of the places you can get craft beer don't have food. Think the US 20 years ago and you'll get the general idea.

    Again, I would love to get Baird beer at Kyoto or Jun's, I just don't think there is an argument based on authenticity for it.

  5. John is pretty much right on. Considering the amount of complaints made about normal bars here in KC having too many domestics on tap, why would ethnic restaurants make an effort to carry something beyond what you would find in the same place located in the country of origin.

    Is there really that much of a demand to pay $9 to have a 12oz bottle of Hitachino White with your sushi?

  6. When I think of how another country would interpret American food overseas, I can't help but think of Fat Ammy's in Wee Britain. Home of the 64 oz cola, and a complimentary basket of donuts instead of bread.