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Friday, July 20, 2007

THE AUSLÄNDER--Fredericksburg, Texas

Deep in the heart of Texas—hill country, that is—a section of the state basically isolated well into the 20th century, is an area originally settled by German immigrants, and there, among the broken terrain, rocky outcroppings and beautiful wildflowers, is a piece of Texas alive with the traditions, styles, and food of those original Germans. We passed New Braunfels on our way to San Antonio, but while visiting the Johnson Ranch, we decided to head to nearby Frederickburg, Texas for a good old fashioned German lunch—with a distinctly Texas twang.

As soon as we reach Fredericksburg, we regret not having more time to spend here. It’s a great place. Right in town are the Pioneer Museum and the Admiral Nimitz Foundation which does fundraising for the National Museum of the Pacific War. We counted at least six German restaurants and dozens of shops, including one exclusively of antler art, Salt Branch Outpost. (Use the hyperlink to take a virtual look at this shop)

We settle on lunch at the Ausländer Biergarten and Restaurant. How absolutely different from any German restaurant in my experience! The Ausländer is definitely Texas-accented German!

We enter through the rear, a big open area of picnic-style tables meant for group seating, vaguely reminiscent of Munich’s Hofbräuhaus. The latticework ceiling serves as protection from the sun, and perhaps, during the summer months, flowers grow. Table cloths are vinyl, and the Ausländer proudly flies the American and Texas Lone Star flags at its entryway.

Don’t be fooled by the informality of the Ausländer. This restaurant takes itself seriously and claims to have the largest beer selection in the Texas Hill Country. Its impressive list of domestic and international beers as well as its unique draft beer system allows the Ausländer to serve what it boasts is the coldest draft beer in the world, something I like a lot. I choose the Oktoberfest draft and Rob goes for the Flensburger Dunkel. I like the Flensburger bottle!

We are seated inside the restaurant near the bar, but outside there is a quartet playing wonderful music. It’s a great atmosphere—and this is a weekday lunchtime! We like Texas hospitality.

Many of the diners around us are eating other than German food, but we are here expressly for the German touch. Before I tell you what we order, I want to give you a Texas-ized view of German food: “Texaschnitzel: A local twist on an Old World favorite! Hand breaded cutlet topped with ranchero sauce, Monterey Jack cheese, sour cream and guacamole.”

Rob and I select conservatively. We order Jagerschnizel and Wiener Schnitzel respectively. Each is accompanied by a garden fresh salad and a choice of two vegetables: hot German potato salad, red cabbage, potato pancakes, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, or green beans. We both order the potato salad, and it is exceptional—warm and vinegary with diced red onion and bits of bacon. I order the red cabbage, and Rob tries the potato pancakes, admitting that my homemade ones are better. I like that. But the meal is nice; the beer is good; the atmosphere is German Texas. It’s altogether a very pleasant way to spend part of the afternoon.

If you get to the Ausländer at other times, you might try a Thursday evening when Texas Rebel Radio broadcasts live. There’s live music Thursday through Saturday. If you want an Ausländer tee, they’re available. The back says, “Life is too short to drink cheap beer.” A thought to ponder.


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