Tosa’s German Beer Hall
Café Bavaria serves entrées, starters and (lots of) beer
The renovated building seems well suited for a German establishment with nice exterior brickwork and a proper roofline. The interior has two levels. The first has the main bar followed by a comfortable nook with a fireplace. The dining tables are long and communal, like a traditional German beer hall. The second level has more seating with tables of various sizes. This is the preferable place to be seated as the communal seating can be a bit snug—make that a very tight fit—when the place is busy.
The Lowlands establishments set high standards for beer lists and this one is no exception with 16 on tap and even more served in bottles. Prices aren’t cheap but seem gentle when compared to the Belgians on the list at Café Benelux. Much of the menu is geared towards the beer. A wurst sampler board ($10.95) or a Munich pretzel ($7.95) are appropriate accompaniments for a 2-liter boot of Hofbrau Maibock, providing ballast for this potent brew. For more substance try the veal meatballs ($9.95), a big plate of them in tasty mushroom gravy and with fresh spinach and Swiss cheese. It’s a filling starter.
When ordering a full meal start with a soup or salad. The bier cheese soup ($3.95-$5.95) is a bit salty but not too much; the romaine salad ($5.95-$8.95) has chunky pieces of bacon and a gentle buttermilk herb dressing, much like the fare at the other Lowlands restaurants. Sandwiches include a tempting wild boar ($9.95) and some tasty burgers ($9.95-$14.95), all weighing in at half a pound. The prince, and priciest, of them is the Maximilian with bacon, thinly sliced mushroom, roasted garlic and a tad of pungent weisslacker cheese. Everything is in the right quantities.
The entrées aim more directly at Bavaria. Schnitzels come with three meat choices—veal ($22.95), chicken ($14.95) and pork ($14.95). The chicken is a meaty breast with a nice batter coating. It also has some asparagus, spätzle and a lemon caper cream sauce. Ask for the sauce on the side as it eliminates any crispness in the batter. The most impressive entrée clearly is the schweinshaxe ($18.95), a big piece of pork roast that towers over a bed of potatoes with a sweet-and-sour black pepper sauce. In recent years pork seems to get have gotten leaner and, as a consequence, drier. Not this succulent meat, which has a great crispy crust. Don’t be in a hurry to eat those potatoes. They get better as they absorb the sauce.
Vegetarians can find a few options among the appetizers and entrée-sized salads. Also there is a curious entrée of Bavarian pho ($12.95). It tastes nothing like its Vietnamese counterpart but otherwise is pleasant enough with spätzle substituting for rice noodles and plenty of vegetables with the occasional zing of a red Hungarian chili pepper.
German food has been steadily disappearing from local menus; restaurants like John Ernst, Ritter’s and the Bavarian Wurst Haus are memories of the past. So it is nice to see a restaurant revisit Milwaukee’s Germanic heritage, albeit with a few timely updates.
Café Bavaria—Grand Café
7700 Harwood Ave.
Handicapped access: Yes