Comfort Food, Bavarian Style
With the weather forecast calling for rain for the foreseeable future and the signs of Spring being nothing more than an inkling, there's not much out there to soothe the soul as well as a crackling fire and a plate of hearty (albeit calorie-rich) comfort food.
Such was our family's state the Thursday night we hauled our water-logged selves up to Ben Lomond to sample the vittles at the Tyrolean Inn and Restaurant.
The dining room provided just the welcome a cold, hungry traveler needs with its two blazing fireplaces, well-populated bar (for a weeknight), and cozy, closely-placed tables all arrayed in German-style décor.
Noting that we had children in tow, the hostess ushered us out to the patio room. At first we thought we were being banished to the netherlands so as not to disturb other diners (and perhaps we were), but we soon realized we had one of the choicest tables in the place.
The patio room has that “outside” funky feel you often find in San Lorenzo Valley haunts - funky plastic windows (and roof in some areas), stuffed deer heads on the walls, Christmas lights and garland, German polka music, and heat lamps. Our table butted up next to a giant redwood tree on the right and had it's own crackling fireplace to the left. Directly across from us was a kids’ play area with shelves of toys, table and chairs, and a play tent. If you go here with young kids, be sure to request this table – you may actually be able to hold an adult conversation and stretch your dinner beyond a 6-minute sprint.
We started off the meal with the Würstelgrösti appetizer ($7.95) – a sauteed mixture of Polish, bockwurst, garlic, and nürnberger sausages sourced from Saag's in the north bay. The sausages were mixed with onions, red and green peppers, tomatoes, and the house “brown sauce” with a spicy mustard on the side. This very tasty, no-carb option arrived hot and generously apportioned, and the seasoning was mild enough that the kids dove in as well.
The Tyrolean Inn and Restaurant's vast menu makes it difficult to choose what to eat. We were fortunate that our server Brigitte was born in Austria and could make solid recommendations. I couldn't resist the Linguini mit Schnitzelstreifen ($18.00)– which is linguini with roasted pork loin strips in an apricot-cognac-cream sauce (the menu says peach, but it's really apricot). It was delectable. The velvety cream sauce had chunks of onions and a hint of cognac that set it apart from its Alfredo cousin, and the pork was tender and savory. Best of all were the giant apricot halves, sourced and bottled from a local organic farm, which offered a sweet yin-yang balance to the pork. Needless to say, I didn't want to share.
Andrew ordered the Rindsrouladen ($18.00) – rolls of beef wrapped around bacon, onions, mustard and pickles, topped with a hearty brown gravy. This dish comes with house fried potatoes and steamed vegetables, providing an unconventional alternative to standard meat and potatoes. I personally found the beef rolls too salty with the bacon and brown sauce, but the peppery house fried potatoes (Kartoffeln) were fabulous and could make a meal in themselves.
Beer lovers will certainly find something to their liking with lagers on tap, bottled beers (including Belgian raspberry beer) and non-alcoholic beers. There is also a vast wine menu as well as a varied selection of schnapps, liquers and digestifs including a sweet option of coffee with cherry brandy and chocolate sauce.
Kid food is no problem here. Our oldest son had Pumuckl Teller ($4.95) – noodles in a parmesan cream sauce with chunks of ham, and the other had Fishcher's Fritz ($5.50) – basic fish sticks with those yummy fried potatoes. Both of my finicky diners ate some of each dish and the portions were big enough to bring home leftovers which Dad thoroughly enjoyed the next day.
Our only disappointment of the night was dessert. Being in a Bavarian restaurant, I was eager to sample the Black Forest cake (Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte – $5.25). Perhaps it had been made a day or two prior, but the cake was dry, the filling bland, and the cream topping rough and chewy as old cream gets. A shot of canned whipped cream sat on the side. Next time I'd try the hot apple pancakes with ice cream.
While the Tyrolean Inn and Restaurant is now on its third set of owners, award-winning chef Greg Magnussen is a mainstay, having been there since the beginning.
So perhaps you can't make the rain go away, but at least you can indulge yourself with some well-prepared, European-style comfort food, seated next to a fireplace in the redwoods of Ben Lomond. And while the prices are higher than our weeknight-burrito-budget typically allows, the value is good, and the food is very good overall. We'll definitely be back – perhaps for Sunday Brunch.
If You Go
Address: 9600 Hwy 9, Ben Lomond
Phone: 831-336-5188; reservations requested
Hours: Dinner: Tuesday-Thursday 5pm-9pm; Friday-Saturday 4pm-10pm; Sunday Brunch: 10am-2:30pm; Sunday Dinner 4pm-9pm.
Payment: Visa, MC, Discover, Amex, local checks.