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Gwen Ashley Walters
November, 2012, Page 168
Photos by Michael Woodall
Brats get top billing at this Scottsdale biergarten, but it’s the burger, beer and bread that steal the show.
In a world filled with “indecisions, visions and revisions” – to paraphrase T.S. Eliot – we don’t always care to tax brain cells deciding where to dine. A comfortable spot with an interesting menu, a cold beverage and a friendly smile will do. Veteran restaurateur Dave Andrea (Old Town Tortilla Factory) puts this concept to work at Brat Haüs, an urban “biergarten” tucked into the old Oregano’s spot in Old Town. Maverick chef Payton Curry joins him to create a locally-focused menu featuring handmade sausages and house-pickled accoutrements. If you’re a beer lover like me, you’ll flip over the quirky 50-plus brew menu.
Although “brat” is part of the name, my top pick is a burger called the Pig Mac ($7.25). Sporting a seasoned pork patty, a beef patty, caramelized onions, gooey cheddar and “hush hush” sauce (think Thousand Island), this modest-sized beast packs a gargantuan caloric bang for the buck. Conversely, Curry also offers three farm-fresh salads, including deftly-dressed mixed greens with pretzel-dusted goat cheese crumbles ($8.50).
drunken date cake
While pondering the eternal burger vs. salad dilemma, I munched on a terrific, chewy, hearth-baked pretzel ($3.50) made with local Hayden Mills flour. The crowd-sized fundido ($12) offers two pretzels paired with a warm cheese and beer dipping sauce and a side of whole grain mustard. The Belgian fries ($2.75 small/$4.50 large) would be better if consistently crisp.
So far I’ve tried eight of the 13 brats and sausages ($5.75-$8.75) and none left me panting for seconds. Most lack the skin snap and juicy interior you’d expect. It’s difficult to discern much difference in flavor between the beef and pork varieties, particularly when you get them “spicy” or “sweet.” If I had to pick a favorite, the Spanish pork chorizo ($5.75) packs the most flavor and textural punch.
Toppings compensate for the dryness, including tangy sauerkraut and minced, sugary “root beer onions” (which taste little of root beer). The sweet, spicy apricot onion chutney was my favorite. Table condiments include house-made mustards, plus plain and curry-spiced ketchup. All sausages, whether traditional (pork, beef, chicken), gourmet (duck, lamb) or exotic (rabbit, rattlesnake), are cradled in the same bun – a lightly toasted baguette that, in most cases, is too big for the sausage. I’d like more bread variety.
Brat Haüs patio
The best place to sit, weather permitting, is the open-air garden, facing a giant mural of a meat grinder, a nod to the fact that the artisanal sausages are made in-house. The second best place is the “bru” room, one of two indoor spots. It houses 24 to 28 taps of craft German, Belgian and American beers ($5-$12), plus an additional 30-plus bottled brews ($4-$60 – yes, $60), all served in appropriate glassware suited to the style of beer.
The drunken date cake ($5) is something you won’t forget. Made with Four Peaks Oatmeal Stout, it’s sticky and sweet and covered in a luscious dark caramel sauce. A simple root beer float ($5) made with soft serve ice cream and butterscotch root beer soda hits the spot, too. In fact, Brat Haüs hits the spot even if the brats are less than visionary.
: 3622 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale
: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday and Sunday; 11 a.m.-12 a.m. Friday-Saturday. Happy hour 3-6 p.m. Monday-Friday
: The Pig Mac ($7.25); pretzel ($3.50); drunken date cake ($5)
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