Maybe it’s an economy thing. It makes perfect sense, after all, that as the recession continues along its laborious path of retreat, albeit too slow for even the most patient among us, German food—rife with hearty flavors, robust presentations and sheer comfort—would find itself popular once again.
Or maybe it’s a beer thing. After our collective obsession in recent years with supercharged, overly hoppy craft brews, the generally more balanced beers of Germany certainly have a legitimate appeal right now. Give me a Kölsch on a hot summer day and I’m a happy man.
Maybe, though, our best bet isn’t to overanalyze. Better, instead, to just settle into one of the benches at BRÜ or hover between the bar and the iPad-powered, self-serve draught machines and enjoy the pleasantness of it all.
BRÜ opened in Midtown Village in April, and it’s been gaining steam ever since.
Spread out across the high-ceilinged space on an otherwise relatively unremarkable block of Chestnut Street, BRÜ boasts a rustic, well-tailored vibe helped along with rough-hewn wood planks, exposed bricks by the bar and seating that ranges from tables that may or may not wobble to benches reminiscent of a biergarten.
This charming rusticity, however, is set off by a computerized beer system unlike any I’ve seen elsewhere in the city. You get your “beer key” and a glass, and explore the well-curated draughts on your own. But be warned: The selection here is excellent, and your enthusiasm may lead you down the road to inebriation fairly quickly. Still, it’s worth the risk. The selection runs the gamut from excellent domestic craft beers to less familiar European selections and beyond, from all over the world. There are six in the self-serve system (only the second in all of North America), 32 draughts behind the bar, and nearly 100 by the bottle. If you plan properly, you’re in for a fantastic education.
All of them, of course, are even better with food, and the menu at BRÜ is as hearty and comforting as you’d hope from a place like this. Most sausages are sourced from a local German supplier, and some are even being made in house. Each one I’ve tasted is an in situ refutation of our reliance on those sallow, chemical-tinged hot dogs most of us tend to grill up each summer. I respect the consistency and nostalgia embodied in a Hebrew National or a Nathan’s, but can either one of them hold a candle to, say, BRÜ’s glorious pork-and-veal bockwurst? Not a chance.
For something more perfumed, the caraway- and garlic-kissed Thuringer bratwurst was phenomenal. So, too, was the paprika-tinged spice of the Hungarian bratwurst, the smoke of the pork an exciting foil. The smoked beef and pork of the bacon knackwurst made me develop an instant craving for a smoky rauchbier. All of these and more, when forked with a streak of sweet or spicy mustard, or a scoop of funky-tart sauerkraut, are nothing short of ideal.
Potatoes, too, get the respect they deserve here—mostly. German potato salad, the fingerlings deepened with onion, bacon, mustard, vinegar and chicken stock, was addictive, though the potato-and-apple pancake would have been better had the bottom of it not been slightly burned, muting the sweet apple notes that seemed to beg for greater expression. It was a good dish that could have been great. Trout, its crisp skin a snappy cap atop remarkably moist flesh, showed that this is a kitchen whose skills run far beyond meat and potatoes. With its electric sauce of anchovy, capers, olive oil and parsley, it stuck in my mind all day.
So, too, did the dessert selection. And while a vanilla semifreddo with almonds and apricots was pleasant, if not terribly inspired, a remarkably complex sticky bun—very good on its own—was brilliantly accompanied by foie gras buttercream. It was a step that showed the ambition and smarts of the team here, and a seriously delicious way to end a meal.
Of course, you could just as easily do that with another beer. Or both. That, probably, is your best bet: Avoid restraint at BRÜ, eat too much, have one beer too many, save room for dessert, and enjoy the German renaissance happening right in the middle of Chestnut Street. It’s a more than welcome addition. We’ll raise a glass and say prost to that.
BRÜ Craft & Wurst
1318 Chestnut Street
215-800-1079 | bruphilly.com
Photography by Felicia Perretti