Serving Lunch & Dinner
Closed on Tuesday
The Gunk Haus Restaurant and Biergarten bills itself as a local gastro pub, which does sound like a New York hiptser moniker for this very traditional village brahaus. The charming eatery is situated beneath the Shawangunk ridge in Clintondale. The view of the “Gunks” from the restaurant’s back deck is reason enough to stop by, but the kitchen is the real reason we stopped in last Wednesday for dinner. It was our third visit over the last year, and I am happy to report that the Gunk Haus keeps getting better with each visit. CIA trained chef and co-owner Elizabeth Steckel is putting out some terrific German style platters, using locally sourced, pasture raised, hormone free beef, and vegetables from some of the valley’s best producers. The menu includes artisanal sausages from Highland’s Mark Elia Meats.
Coincidentally, I stopped by Elia’s butcher shop yesterday morning and Mark was working on packaging an order of kassler rippchen – smoked pork chops – for delivery to the Gunk Haus. (They are going to be four chops short, but don’t tell them.) But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Lets start with the pretzels. What’s a biergarten without pretzels? These are the real deal – house made – the dough boiled then baked, bagel style – salted, and served with a sweet Bavarian course mustard. You can also order a pretzel as an appetizer served with a crock of obatzda – the traditional Bavarian spread made with camembert cheese, beer, and seasoned with caraway. Wonderful stuff, and a steal for $3. The “Haus” mesclun salad ($8) is also a must, chock full of candied walnuts and chunks of slab bacon, tossed with gorgonzola cheese, shaved fennel and a sherry vinaigrette dressing.
We tried a bottle of Gruner Vetliner, one of Austria’s most popular white wines. Ordering wine in a biergarten is really not the right way to go about things – kind of like ordering the fish at Peter Luger’s. Some local wineries are represented on the limited wine list, including Warwick Valley, and Whitecliff. The restaurant’s ten beer taps are under the direction of Elizabeth’s partner, Biermeister Dirk Schalle. His offerings this week included Konig Ludwig Hefe-Weisse, Warsteiner Pilsner, and my personal favorite – Dogfish Head 90 minute IPA (from Delaware and one of the best beers I’ve tasted). You can also get a bottle of Jamaican Red Stripe, which probably warrants an explanation. In days of yore, this location housed a local gin mill called The Hollywood Bar, a favorite haunt of the local Jamaican farm workers, and a regular destination for the local State Police (sirens a-blaring). So if this topic ever appears on Jeopardy, you are now prepared.
For dinner we tried a few of the house specialties. A weisswurst platter ($17) also from Mark Elia’s sausage shop, came with a side of dill and garlic laced potato salad. Weisswurst – white wurst – made from finely minced pork and veal and very delicately seasoned, is made without any preservatives and is not smoked. Before refrigeration it was traditionally eaten immediately – before noon – because it would spoil so quickly. We added sides of sauerkraut ($3.50) blended with mushrooms and bacon, and also a side of house made cole slaw ($3), rough cut and very nicely spiced. My platter of Jaeger Schnitzel ($19) was also spot on – a tender pork loin, pounded thin, lightly dusted with bread crumbs and sauteed, topped with a mushroom ragu and served on a mound of perfectly browned house made spaetzle. Other choices included a vegetarian portobella paprikash ($9), and a “Three Cheese” chicken sausage stuffed with pecorino, Romano, and provolone cheeses.
You can view the complete menu here.
The Gunk Haus kitchen does a great job of showcasing locally grown products on their traditional Bavarian menu. The village brauhaus motif – including the communal table in the bar area- lacks only the oom-pah band in the corner to complete the picture.
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