Beer and Pork in Harmony at Leopold’s Gasthaus

We stayed in the Russian Hill neighborhood where The Matterhorn Swiss Restaurant (yesterday’s post) is located, but moved to another authentic Alpine eating experience in the form of Leopold’s Gasthaus. Opened a little more than two years ago in the midst of the economic downturn by native Austrian brothers Klaus and Albert Rainer, Leopold’s was instantly popular. It was just the right time to offer comfort food at great prices and European beers that can be ordered in half liter increments all the way up to a 5 liter stein. A fraternity-like atmosphere tends to take over the weekends as many revelers order the two liter boots just because they can (they have instituted a $50 breakage fee for each boot).

Many mistakingly describe this place as German, but the food is authentically Austrian, albeit with a lot of Bavarian influence since Salzburg has historically been in and out of the Bavaria State, even as recently as the 19th Century. The mostly Bavarian beer list is pretty extensive, with eight available on tap and dozens more available by the bottle. Their wine list is comprised of a mix of European and Californian wines, but most of the diners come for the beer.

The restaurant is decorated like an Alpine hunting lodge, with many antlers (real and fake) prominently displayed on the pale yellow walls amongst religious art and quaint pictures. Individual wooden tables surround a large community table located in the center (notice the antler centerpiece):

Named after the steep steps that lead up to the the Fortress “Festung Hohensalzburg” in Salzburg, Stiegl beers are always our beverage of choice when we come to Leopold’s. They must go through a lot of Stiegl kegs since the beer here always tastes very fresh:

From the appetizers section, we like to share an order of the Crispy Pig Trotters served with a frisée, pickled shallots and fingerling potato salad. Almost every bite of the crisply fried slices of trotter cakes alternated between tender meat and the gelatinous rendered fat. The salad, lightly dressed with a vinaigrette, is a perfect fat and palate cleanser between bites of the pork leg. As a bonus, a perfectly poached quail egg came with the dish (next time we need to ask for two eggs):

The entrée portions here are Bavarian-big, and none of them cost more than $20. From experience, we know that one main dish will be enough for both of us, especially since we are usually drinking our second half liter of beer by this point. Popular in Austria, the house specialty here is goulash served with spaetzle, green salad and an optional beer. But we really like the variety provided by their Choucroute Garni Platter, which comes with smoked pork loin, fall-off-the-bone pork ribs and a house-made Bratwurst. Caraway flavor is prominent in the buttery potatoes and bacon-studded sauerkraut that are nestled between and under the protein choices. It is truly a great example of a Bavarian-style meat and potatoes dish:

There are no breaks in pricing for ordering the draft beer in larger formats: a two liter boot costs four times as much as a half liter of beer. We like our beer cold, so we order multiple glasses rather than drink from a boot with the potential hazard of splashing all over yourself (not to mention losing some valuable warm beer). The man at the table next to us shamefully couldn’t finish his beer boot – perhaps next time he will order wisely:

Because of it’s popularity, Leopold’s does not take any reservations, but time can be whiled away at their small bar or any of the bars nearby (we can highly recommend La Folie’s lounge for a pre-dinner cocktail or two). The atmosphere can get loud and raucous, but that would be no different than going to a Bavarian beer hall. They don’t have room for an oompah band, but they do pipe in music which is barely discernible above the normal din of drinkers and diners.

We once asked owner Albert Rainer for recommendations for places to eat in Salzburg, and he obliged us with a list of great places to visit. Salzburg is a great city to visit, even if you are not into the Sound of Music or Mozart (although we suspect that the restaurant is named after the father of Wolfgang Amadeus).

http://www.leopoldssf.com

Leopold's on Urbanspoon

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