A stunning interior is a given at any restaurant conceived by Deming Maclise and James Weimann. If you’ve been to Bastille Café & Bar, Poquitos or Macleod’s Pub, you know you haven’t really been transported to France, Mexico or Scotland, but it sure does feel that way.
Von Trapp’s is no exception. Weimann and Maclise transformed a 10,000-square-foot former candy factory opposite Seattle University into a vast Bavarian beer hall with a soaring, raftered ceiling, crystal-embellished chandeliers, elk heads, a pair of palatial fireplaces, three bars and a grand staircase leading to one of two mezzanines overlooking five bocce ball courts.
Von Trapp’s evokes both the splendor of Munich’s Hofbräuhaus as well as nostalgia for “The Sound of Music.” The only thing missing is an oompah band, not that you could hear one amid the hubbub.
This boisterous playland is mostly geared for adults, but early one Sunday night, families were plentiful. The little kids brought more energy to the bocce courts than your typical pilsner-hoisting player. (If you have minors in your party, it’s wise to call for a reservation; there’s abundant seating for walk-ins over 21.)
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A youthful staff is at your service. They’ve clearly had some training, possibly not enough. One server, after delivering an impressive-looking burger, informed us, “The cows come from St. Helens and we grind them here.” Another who described the Swiss Emmentaler in the Käsespätzle as “kind of like cheddar, aged in a cave, and local,” also struggled to explain the different styles of beers.
Though their T-shirts say “wieners und balls,” the bartenders have a better grasp of the libations. German and Austrian beers dominate the two-dozen taps, but local brews are represented, too. Beer even enhances some cocktails. I loved the Aged Saab 105: a smooth, rye-based drink mixed with a house-made IPA cordial, lots of bitters and Rossbacher, an Austrian herbal liqueur.
The menu helpfully offers a glossary of beer and wurst, the sausages that are central to the menu. Made on the premises, they can be had in a brioche bun topped with excellent sauerkraut speckled with caraway seed, or plated with sauerkraut, perfect mashed potatoes and fresh grated horseradish.
A sampler entree platter offers a taste of all seven sausages. Each has its charms but my favorite is the Nuremberg, petite fresh pork links that deliver a decided hit of marjoram in every garlicky bite. Those are closely followed by the smoky, peppery Polish Kielbasa, and the even spicier smoked Bratwurst. The milder Bockwurst revealed the zing of lemon zest. Ginger and nutmeg warmed the basic bratwurst, but the finely ground beef and pork resulted in a denser texture than I prefer. Ditto the beef frankfurter, maybe best enjoyed in a bun.
A pretzel bun holds the praiseworthy burger, charred to medium well, slick with melted Emmentaler and cabbage slaw, stacked with onion, pickle and tomato. The pretzel bun has the great texture and chew, but lacks a malty flavor through and through, as do the big, soft pretzels that are house-baked though not served hot.
The pretzels make a fine scoop for obatzda, a savory cream-cheese spread blended with Beecher’s cheddar and pinked with paprika and piquillo peppers. You’ll find them under “Snacks,” along with the Wendel — one long, delicious spiral-cut potato chip-on-a-stick. (Ask for the house spice.)
Crushed-pretzel breading works brilliantly as a coating for chicken schnitzel, the entree that came closest to perfection. While it’s impossible to dislike the nutmeg-scented bowl of cheesy baked spätzle, I wished the oven-dried tomato wedges had been chopped and distributed alongside the wisps of fried onion.
Soft, sweet onions, cubed bacon and sour cream topped a traditional Flammkuchen, German-style pizza with a terrific bread-like crust. But tough, stringy sauerbraten disappointed; so did lukewarm beef goulash merging chunks of tender meat, undercooked carrots and potatoes in a lively, tomato-paprika sauce.
This is gut-filling drinking food, to be sure — right down to dessert. The black currant-filled doughnuts and Nutella cheesecake both get thumbs up, as does Von Trapp’s. Prosit!
Providence Cicero, Seattle Times restaurant critic, co-hosts “Let’s Eat” with Terry Jaymes at 4 p.m. Saturdays on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM. Listen to past shows at www.KIRORadio.com/letseat. Reach Cicero at firstname.lastname@example.org.