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Thursday, May 30,2013

An authentic taste of old Europe in Boulder

By Clay Fong
Photo courtesy of YannPhotoVideo.com

It’s not often that one draws upon the terms evocative or cinematic to describe a local dining establishment’s ambience, but in the case of Boulder’s freshly brewed Bohemian Biergarten, it’s entirely warranted.

Rough-hewn wooden benches paralleling communal tables among exposed bricks and beams make this spot appear as if it’s been open for a century instead of a mere month. While this downtown venue is a few steps off Pearl Street, the vibe here feels closer to old Vienna before the war, with its Strauss music, glamour and easy charm.

Actually, I don’t know that for sure, but I can’t resist an opportunity to quote from my favorite movie, The Third Man.

Anyway, one expects a biergarten to carry a wide variety of brews, and it’s unsurprising that the beverage menu here spotlights beers from such Old World nations as Austria, Belgium and the Czech Republic. There are a couple of Colorado brews available, and those a mite fuzzy on the Central European beer garden concept might enjoy a hard cider from the United Kingdom.

The lunch menu is reasonably simple, and in line with what one might expect at a genuine biergarten. Options include chicken paprikash, currywurst and sauerkraut soup. The less adventurous can partake of a pastrami Reuben, single-grind burger on a pretzel bun, or a pair of main course salads.

Dinner adds additional entrees such as a special of warm potato salad topped with sausage and duck egg. The evening also affords an opportunity to sample an assortment of $7 small plates, spanning such options as a savory vegetarian strudel, soft pretzels and a smattering of schnitzels.

Friend Joe’s luncheon choice was a $9 artisan sausage plate, featuring locally produced charcuterie. In this instance, he selected a spicy Polish sausage. For my money, the best sausages have depth and complexity with respect to flavor and texture, and Joe’s selection handily delivered. It lacked the over-processed chemical tones of mass-market items, and instead had a fresh peppery bite and nicely discernible chunks of meat. The creamier attributes of the meat were complemented by the perfect amount of char through fire-grilling. Crisp fries, sauerkraut and an addictive condiment of grainy and strong house mustard maximized the heartiness quotient of this formidably filling platter.

I’ll be the first to admit my experience with this region’s cuisine is limited. However, I can say the Biergarten’s $7 bowl of goulash had the universally satisfying qualities of a home-cooked preparation. The only flaw was that it arrived a touch cold at the table, which was a shame, as paprika and other seasonings made for an otherwise compelling gravy. Focusing on other elements, this stew’s rib-sticking freight of tender cubed beef and earthy bread dumplings were pleasantly tempered by tangy sour cream swirls.

There are plenty of places to enjoy a cold brew in Boulder, but the Biergarten stands out for providing a compelling experience with a distinctive European flair. One suspects it would have been easy for the owners to coast on just the one-of-akind decor and offering a pedestrian selection of beers. Instead, they wisely chose to focus on unique brews that have a ring of authenticity. Perhaps more importantly, this eatery also surprises with simple but satisfying food from an unmistakably hearty culinary tradition.

The Bohemian Biergarten is located at 2017 13th St., Boulder. Call 720-328-8328.

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