Widmer Brothers Gasthaus
955 N Russell St
Visited on May 23, 2009
The very first thing I did when I rolled into Portland for the first time was to drive straight to the Widmer Brothers Gasthaus. I had left at like 6:00 am that morning and was arriving just in time to be starving for lunch. I was not disappointed.
I liked Widmer for many reasons. The location is in a cool old building that still houses a lot of the brewing operation, yet the restaurant is clearly distinct and very well built. They feature a lot of beers that you won’t find in bottles on the shelves in stores – a key necessity for keeping coming back to the brewery for more. And they served authentic German fare, which is a rarity even for restaurants with a German name. Everything was delicious and it kicked off my first Portland visit in a manner that was hard to top.
The brewpub is located in the same place as the brewing operation, which makes sense to me. Serve it where you make it. It’s a little out of the way from the rest of the downtown breweries, however. North by about a mile and across the river (a.k.a. giant bridge) it’d be tough to get to without wheels. The building itself seems old and likely has a bunch of history behind it, but you miss out on that perception due to the upscale furnishings. It’s a very nice place, but I think it would be even cooler if they went for the retro old look instead of the millionaire mansion old look.
The food was outstanding. With their German heritage, there is some great German selections on the menu. I went with the pork schnitzel, because that’s what I always get at a German place. The pork cutlets were a bit thick, which resulted in the meat being a bit tough. You should pound the pork so thin that after cooking you can cut it with a fork. But it tasted great. The best part of the meal was the potato pancakes. Apparently they mix some mashed potatoes in the batter to give them an even creamier center. I was about to grab some ketchup but thought no, let’s taste before we mess. They were perfect as they were.
We all know Widmer makes a quality Heffe along with many other great bottled varieties. Their success allows them to do some exploring for brewpub exclusive beers, which I love. Everything I sampled was very, very good. An IPA with experimental hops, a collaborative brown effort and a nitro stout were all solid. My absolute favorite, though, was the Vienna Lager. It tasted like a pilsner but with a bigger and more complex malt profile. And since I love interesting malt characters, I loved this beer.
The guy behind the bar really knew his stuff. What he was telling me about the beers and the operation were way over my head, but still fun to hear. Great service.