A friend of mine recently had her birthday brunch at the Radegast Beer Hall in Wlliamsburg. Upon hearing about this, I thought it was a really great idea: what could be better after a night of dancing and drinking in Manhattan than a filling, satisfying beer and a sausage? Despite driving the wrong way down one of Greenpoint's sudden and pointless one way streets and almost being killed by the B43, we arrived in high spirits.
As soon as we sat down, our waitress--who by the way was totally, miraculously pulling off the biermaid outfit--informed us that the brunch menu over which we had been drooling was not really available because they were slammed by a wedding party. She said that the wait would be 40 minutes for anything off the menu, but we could go up and order from the sausage bar right away. We ordered cucumber bloody marys, beer, coffee and a water (for our wrong way driver) from her and began to deliberate on whether we wanted sausage bar or menu.
There were a number of things on the menu that we wanted to order, by which I mean basically everything except "Crispy Dumpling Cubes" which appear on that link, but I don't remember being there, because surely I would have made fun of them for being from the future or something (run-on!). Anyway, because we were super hungry we decided to share a few things from the sausage bar now and then share the menu items whenever they arrived. Beers and bloody marys (and, yes, that is the correct pluralization--I googled it) appeared with only moderate delay. No coffees or water though. Our waitress was gone before we could either ask about the missing beverages or order Gypsy Toast.
Well, we had booze anyway. Four sausages were procured from the grill--two bratwursts and two kielbasas--each coming with sauerkraut and fries. This little snack came to $35, or $8.75 a piece, which I thought was a little steep but more knowledgeable friends tell me is pretty much on par for similar establishments in Germany. I wasn't too crazy about the brat--it was a little dry, but the kielbasa was good and I discovered that fries soaked in sauerkraut is the new cheese fries with gravy/disco fries/poutin. For realz. I loved it. We started to look around for our waitress to either ask about the still AWOL coffees or about ordering from the menu (at this point, it had already been 40 minutes...so...uh...I guess we could have ordered off the menu). When what do we see behind us, but our waitress outside kissing and then walking off with her boyfriend!!! It was just like Grease!!! OMMGGG!! Wait. Where is my coffee?
Perhaps noticing our prolonged distress, another waitress came over and asked if we needed any more drinks. We ordered another round of whatever and FINALLY two Gypsy Toasts (half for the name alone, obviously) since we weren't really hungry enough anymore to each have a full German brunch. ($35 well spent then?). We also mentioned that we had been waiting for coffee, to which she replied, crankily, "Yeah, we're working on it." Ok...what kind of coffee takes 45 minutes? Must be really good.
She came back with more beer and no coffee but with an orange juice. Huh? Apparently orange juice is water in Germany. At this point I was losing interest in getting caffeinated, but still wanted coffee on principle. Anyway, I'll put you out of your misery. Yes, after AN HOUR a totally different waitress arrived with our coffee. And it was INSTANT. Not even drinkable instant. Not even with sugar and milk. Not by anyone. For christ's sake, I used to drink coffee in Ireland. I know about bad (but drinkable) coffee. This was not drinkable. I don't know how these people made their instant coffee taste so bad, or what took them an hour, but after all that fuss, no one even touched their coffee. I'm sure that pissed off waitress number three, but who cares. We were beginning to realize that the only way to deal with the situation was to laugh.
The Gypsy toast arrived, thankfully without stealing anyone's wallet or murdering any farmers. Apparently Gypsy just means...French? Who knew. It was actually very good--though by then I was way too full of beer and Kraut Fries to care. We actually had a pretty good brunch overall, perhaps because the only thing the waitresses seemed to be capable of paying attention to was the levels of our beer, but that's fine for a bier hall, I guess. All the food I tasted was really good (other than the dry brat) and the space had a really nice communal atmosphere. However, I took umbrage at the automatic 18% gratuity added on to our bill (we were 7 people). Now, I usually NEVER complain about that. Having been a waitress I know how much brunch sucks, and how often big groups of people will screw you over. I am totally in favor of this practice. This was the first time I would have considered leaving less than 18%. We were waited on by three different people, none of who seemed to give a crap how our meal was going, and no one apologized for the coffee taking an hour. There were always glasses all over the place, since we seemed to be seated in some sort of black hole of neglect. Seriously: if the service had been even moderately acceptable I would be back there every Sunday for brunch (with maybe some toast already in my belly to tide me over), but the service was so mind-numbingly awful that I just cannot recommend it to anyone or knowingly subject myself to that again. Sorry, Radegast.