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Alameda’s historic sites make for an easy day trip

By Stephanie Wright Hession on SFGATE

Make it a date with a meal at Speisekammer, where you can enjoy hearty German fare in a casual setting. Inside the restaurant, groups gather around large tables, or at the full bar adorned with a row of traditional beer steins overhead.

The lunch menu at Speisekammer includes both breakfast entrees and sandwiches, all served with roasted potatoes, German-style fries or a salad. Choices include the bauernfrühstück, a farmers’ omelet filled with bacon, onions and potatoes or grilled bratwurst tucked into a toasted baguette with sauerkraut and German mustard. For dinner, classic dishes such as Wiener Schnitzel vom Schwein are made with two breaded, pan-fried pork cutlets accompanied by roasted potatoes.

And what’s a German restaurant without a festive beer garden? Enjoy an array of German beers ranging from Flensburger pilsener to Erdinger Weissbier Dunkel. On Friday and Saturday evenings, listen to live music from an eclectic lineup. One night it might be Mississippi blues and another, rock ’n’ roll. Upcoming performances include jazz, blues, bebop and swing performed by the Lavay Smith Trio with Jules Broussard at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, April 2.




Alameda’s Speisekammer Has Great German Eats and a Relaxed Vibe for Kids

Who are you calling a Sauerbraten?

The hunt is on for the next Gourmet Ghetto, and while several East Bay ‘hoods close in on the claim, don’t count out Alameda. New eateries have sprouted recently along Park Street and the surrounding vicinity, and the long-standing family-friendly restaurants that continue to serve up goodies also deserve a nod . Speisekammer is one of those treasured spots—it’s been pouring tasty spirits and offering heaping plates of savory German food to kids and parents alike for nearly a decade now.

Children crave the morsels on their “Kinderkarte,” like potato pancakes with house-made applesauce, mac n’ cheese spätzle-style, mini sausages with mashed potatoes, and other delicious German plates and appetizers for the youthful appetite. More seasoned palates also have a lot to choose from, including an array of sandwiches for lunch, a vegetarian selection, and dinner entrees like cabbage rolls stuffed with beef , or smoked pork chops with sauerkraut or red cabbage on the side.

When it comes to ambiance, there’s an outdoor beer garden, cozy, low-lit dining areas, and regular, live entertainment—plenty reason to toast the evening with some really good suds. If that weren’t enough, Speisekammer’s new Recession Menu may persuade even the thriftiest among you to take a night out, with the restaurant’s most popular dishes available in half sizes. It’s definitely worth an excursion to the island, a trip to Germany lies just through the tunnel!




Think of German food, and you may think of high-fat red meat and carb-laden potatoes. Then there's Alameda's Speisekammer, where dishes are lighter than stereotypical German fare, and the menu even includes vegetarian selections. Also attracting customers are the dark, cozy dining rooms, an outdoor beer garden and the long wooden bar serving specialty German brews on tap – it's like a vintage German tavern. Lunch sandwiches are popular, such as the wiener schnitzel on a baguette or the grilled Gruyère cheese sandwich with caramelized onions. Many come for the potato pancakes at dinner, served with house-made applesauce. Other appetizers include poached bread dumplings and pickled herring served with pickles and onions. Salads are made with beets, cucumbers, carrots and greens, and vegetarian options include baked spatzle and a strudel stuffed with spinach, red peppers and goat cheese. Other entrées include smoked pork chops, grilled rib eye, sautéed pork loin in mushroom sauce and meat loaf wrapped in bacon and a fried egg. You'll welcome the sauerkraut, spatzle or red cabbage on the side.




East Bay Express Best Of 2009

BEST RECESSION MENU
Speisekammer

The Great Recession sucks, no doubt about it. But some good things are coming out of it. Speisekammer has introduced a smart Recession Menu. Yay! Marketing ploy? Hardly. Chef Peter Kahl takes a chunk of his most popular dishes — kartoffelpfannkuchen, Wiener schnitzel,jägerschnitzel, sauerbraten, bratwurst, schweinebraten, weiskohlrolade, cürry wurst, and gratinierte käsespätzle — and halves the portions and slashes the prices. What German-food lovers wind up with are plates that are truly single-portion-size — or at least ought to be, because recession-size portions still feel hefty. This reduction in size and cost is perfect for the budget, and it's a very smart way to eat. Hello, waistline. On top of all that, diners feel like they're getting such a deal they'll order that extra beer, add an appetizer, and splurge on dessert. In the end, they'll actually spend about the same as they would pre-recession, but they'll feel like they're getting a lot more, and in these times, that's something.

BEST SPÄTZLE
Speisekammer

Many Americans consider macaroni and cheese to be the ultimate comfort food, but Germany's spin on this American favorite blows boxed noodles and powdered cheese out of the water. Starting with spätzle, short and fat egg noodles with the consistency of gnocchi, Speisekammer adds mounds of gooey asiago and Parmesan cheese. Caught in a net of melting strings, the noodles cling to the fork in a way that turns watery, neon Kraft cheese green with envy. Slippery, dark-brown caramelized onions provide a sweet counterpoint to the salty cheese, which leaves you with a steaming-hot plate of starch, salt, and sugar. A half-portion of gratiniertekäsespätzle will set you back $6.75 but is heavy and rich enough to be considered a solid meal — even in its reduced size. However, just in case you need a little extra comfort in your comfort food, an additional $2 completes the dish with a pile of Black Forest Ham. Aside from combining meat and cheese — always a winning pair — the ham gives the spätzle a smoky flavor and adds a touch of firmness to the otherwise soft dish. Now that's comfort food.




Dinner at Speisekammer, Alameda, Calif.

Published: The Kittalog @ Bolgspot.com, Wednesday, April 30, 2008

...so we went around the corner to Speisekammer, where a two-top happened to open up just as we walked in...

We started with the potato cakes with homemade applesauce. Oh, very crispy and good!

My companion opted for the sauerbraten, or, as the menu describes it: Sauerbraten mit Preiselbeerkonfitüre, serviert mit Rotkohl und Spätzle (Braised Beef Tri Tip marinated and aged in Red Wine served with Red Cabbage & Spätzle). Delicious.

Read the full blog at The Kittalog




Best Cocktails: Most delightfully unexpected restaurant cocktails

Published: Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Alameda isn't exactly bustling with attractions for non-Alamedans, and locals in the sleepy suburban town are fine with that. Visitors generally know where they're headed and what they'll find. Same goes for one of the town's most popular restaurants, Speisekammer - which bills itself as "A German take on Alameda" rather than the other way around. Patrons come for the authentic German food and one of the best beer lists in the area; live music and an outdoor beer garden are a nice bonus. But what most first-timers may not expect is a killer selection of distinctly American cocktails that can perfectly complement a hearty German meal. Sweet, strong, and sizable, Speisekammer's signature drinks, all containing at least two top-shelf liqueurs, represent a point of pride at this chic establishment. Favorites like the Pom Cosmo and popular raspberry mojito employ fresh fruit juice, while the rich German Chancellor rules with German brandy and ubersweet Rumplemintz. Other highlights include the apple martini and the staff-favorite Cafetini. Speisekammer's bar can concoct anything you want, but the fifteen treats on its cocktail list are more than sufficient.


Jammin' at Alameda's 'German Pantry'

Thursday, 28 September 2006 - The Alameda Sun
Written by Benjamin R. Taylor

It's half past 9 on a Thursday evening. At the bar, Alamedans of all shapes and sizes, colors and creeds sit and mingle, indulging in tall frosty mugs of Pilsner beer and other Central European brews. There is the hum of conversation in the air. Couples on first dates laugh and flirt. Regulars sitting at their regular tables order "the regular." At the far end of the room, at what can barely be described as a stage, Gregg Cross sings his heart out and strums his acoustic guitar. Beside him on stage are a manic-looking drummer and a electric guitar virtuoso.

It's half past 9 on a Thursday evening. At the bar, Alamedans of all shapes and sizes, colors and creeds sit and mingle, indulging in tall frosty mugs of Pilsner beer and other Central European brews. There is the hum of conversation in the air. Couples on first dates laugh and flirt. Regulars sitting at their regular tables order "the regular." At the far end of the room, at what can barely be described as a stage, Gregg Cross sings his heart out and strums his acoustic guitar. Beside him on stage are a manic-looking drummer and a electric guitar virtuoso.

This is Thursday night at Speisekammer, Alameda's much-loved German bar and restaurant. The crowd isn't huge tonight, but Gregg Cross and company play with gusto.

"Thursdays we usually have acoustic low key shows," said Cindy Kahl, who opened Speisekammer in 2002 with her husband Peter. "Things usually get a bit more upbeat on the weekends," she added, "especially when The Frisky Frolics play."

Kahl used to own the hip nightspot Cafe Du Nord in San Francisco, and when she moved to Alameda to start a family she wanted to bring something similar to the Island - hip but classy.

German for pantry, Speisekammer is just that. It feels warm and comforting, like your grandmother's kitchen. The decor includes romantic lighting, two-seater tables and old time German posters adorning the walls.

"Don't buy scab beer!" a poster warns in bold font.

Kahl was sitting at the corner of the bar along with fellow promoter Phil Hadley and musician Rick Quisol, who is in the band The Frisky Frolics. Quisol said that when his band plays, it is a "rocking rollicking spectacle of leg shaking and shot taking."

The bar is preparing for Oktoberfest celebrations. "Things are a little weird right now," Hadley said.

And maybe things are a little weird. Everyone seems to be wearing suits, and if not suits, they're wearing hats, and if not hats, then mustaches. Speisekammer has a special quirkiness that makes it a place where people want to go.

"These are good people and this is a good place," Cross said after his band was done playing. He took off his oversized cowboy hat and wiped the sweat from his brow.

"This is our favorite place to play in Alameda," Cross said. "We can't play anywhere else!" added drummer Scott Wilde.

Cindy Kahl wasn't lying when she said that the weekend would be much more upbeat. At 9:30 p.m. the band Le Jazz Hot was in full swing. The sounds of two acoustic guitars weaving in and out of each other in playful scales and flourishes complimented the buzz of conversation and laughter.

David Zuckerman came from Berkeley to see Le Jazz Hot play. He is a big fan and this was his first time to Speisekammer or Alameda.

"There are 11 types of beer on tap, a great cocktail list and great music," he said. "What more could you want?"

A conversation on the quality of the Speisekammer Margarita and the killer mint juleps was cut short without warning when an unknown pianist took the stage. A hip, fedora- wearing twenty-something waltzed up to the house piano and started playing along with the dueling acoustic guitars-and it sounded great. It inspired one young couple to get up and start dancing. They danced like salamanders and everyone loved it.

During the bands intermission guitar player Paul Mehling, Kahl's old friend from the Cafe Du Nord days, said: "Friends from back in the day at Cafe Du Nord come here to play for nostalgic reasons."

As the night drew to a close, Alameda native Don Coughlan and his wife Carrol were enjoying the traditional German food and beer.

Asked if they were going to attend next weekends Oktoberfest celebrations, they said: "Oh yeah, we go to every Oktoberfest in the area. We start in Munich and make our way here."




Try Speisekammer for a lovely taste of Germany

April 22, 2005 - Section: Bay Area Living
Erik Keilholtz, CONTRIBUTOR

NO LONG plane flight. No jet lag. OK. No Alps or Rhine Valley, either, but being able to find outstanding German food in a pleasant setting a short trip from home is cause for celebration.

Alameda's Speisekammer is just about the next best thing to being in a little Gasthaus, surrounded by castles and vineyards.

Speisekammer is a comfortable place. The light is low, and the atmosphere is relaxed. The noise level, even during the live music (a regular feature on Saturdays), was low, making conversation easy. For warm weather, the Biergarten offers an ideal setting for quaffing good German beer with the appropriate snacks.

We expected the beer list to be good, as any restaurant that boasts a Biergarten generally has a decent selection of German and German-style beers. Our expectations were amply fulfilled, with an outstanding selection of pilsners, hefeweizens, bocks and even an Oktoberfest beer that's available all year long.

What exceeded our expectations was Speisekammer's outstanding wine list. Featuring a substantial number of outstanding German and Austrian wines as well as a well-thought- out list of Californian wines, the list is interesting, varied and reasonably priced.

German wine, like German food, is often misunderstood outside of the German-speaking world. Just as the cuisine is far more varied than sausages and sauerkraut, German oenology goes much deeper than Gewuerztraminer. Not only does Speisekammer offer a good variety of the crisp white wines that Germany is known for, it also offers plenty of good reds as well as the outstanding late harvest (spaetlese) dessert wines.

When the cuisine of Germany is transplanted to Alameda, the resultant push in the direction of Californian sensibilities makes for an outstanding dining experience.

The combination of the simple German approach to food and the Californian emphasis on fresh ingredients is especially highlighted in the Gurkensalat ($4.50), a simple salad of thick-cut arcs of cucumber dressed in a lightly acidic dressing with fresh chopped herbs.

Similarly simple and pleasing was the Rote Beete Salat ($4.50), a mound of slices of deep ruby beets served atop a bed of greens with just enough dressing to balance the sweet earthiness of the beets.

Quintessentially German, the Roher Schinken mit Kleinen Guerkchen ($8.50), a plate of thinly sliced smoked ham, served with cornichons, tomato slices and thinly sliced red onions, made a good pair with the slices of dark bread that came in the bread basket.

For a classic dose of Gemutlichkeit, the German emphasis on comfort and contentment, Sauerbraten mit Preiselbeerkonfiture, Serviert mit Rotkohl und Spaetzle ($18.50) cannot be beat. Sauerbraten, a pot roast that has been marinated for days in wine and spices, then served with a rich reduction sauce, is the ultimate German comfort food.

Speisekammer does an outstanding job with Sauerbraten, serving it with highly spiced, but not piquant, braised red cabbage, and perfectly cooked Spaetzle (the elongated German dumplings that take on the role of pasta).

A good Sauerbraten like this one still tastes primarily of the beef, with the wine and spices bringing out the inherent flavor of the meat, rather than transforming it into a wine and spice dish that uses the meat only as a vehicle. The result here is outstanding: tender and rich without being mealy or sticky.

Also perfectly cooked and sauced was the Jagerschnitzel in Champignonsosse mit Spaetzle und Gemischtensalat ($17.50), a thin pork cutlet that had been breaded and pan fried, then finished with a white wine-based mushroom sauce. Served with the same perfect Spaetzle that came with the Sauerbraten, this country favorite displays the balance of heartiness and delicate flavors that characterizes the best of German food.

Speisekammer offers extensive daily specials. From this list, we chose the Geraueucherte Schweinehaxe mit Sauerkraut und Kartoffelbrei ($21), a smoked pork shank served with braised sauerkraut and mashed potatoes. The shank was smoked and salted enough to highlight but not overwhelm the flavor of the pork. It was also moist, tender and quite meaty.

While the pork shank itself was outstanding, the mashed potatoes and the braised sauerkraut were more than worthy as accompaniments. The sauerkraut had been carefully rinsed before being braised in stock and spices, tempering the tartness of the fermented cabbage. The mashed potatoes were creamy and rich, providing an earthy foundation for the pork and sauerkraut.

No matter how much one wishes to move beyond the confines of stereotype, a German restaurant simply has to have an Apfelstrudel mit Schlagsahne ($6). Served hot with homemade whipped cream, this apple strudel was perfect, with layers of cinnamon and butter-laced Granny Smith apples encased in a flaky crust. Not too sweet and full of apple flavor, this strudel ranks among the best.

For diners looking for a richer dessert, the Schockoladenkuchen ohne Mehl in der Tasse mit Espressosahne ($6), a flourless chocolate cake, baked in a coffee cup and served with an espresso cream, was delicious.

The service was decent, although a bit slow and not the most attentive. Our server was friendly and knowledgeable, but water glasses were not kept full, it took a little too long to take up our check, and no one thought to provide us with a bag for our three small boxes of leftovers.

You can e-mail Erik Keilholtz at ekeilholtz@aol.com.




Most Blissful Wiener Schnitzel

Published: Wednesday, April 6, 2005
Phyllis Christopher

If you've ever lived in Germany or Austria you know the joy of good Wiener schnitzel, the melt-in-your-mouth, buttery, crisp veal or pork cutlets that have been pounded thin, breaded, fried, and served with a slice of lemon. It's a dish of subtle flavors, and at Speisekammer, whose name is German for pantry, it tastes so good it might have been made by your own personal Austrian grandma. The meat is always tender, and the breading crisp and golden brown. Owners Peter and Cindy Kahl don't try to leave their own trendy mark on German food. They stick to tried-and-true recipes, turning out a consistently blissful schnitzel. Don't miss their sauerkraut, either, tender and bursting with caraway seeds. You can wash it all down with a glass of riesling or one the German or Belgian beers from a selection of nearly twenty. Pure bliss.


Speisekammer Restaurant  ·  2424 Lincoln Avenue @Park Street Alameda, California  ·  510-522-1300
Owners: Peter Kahl and Cindy Kahl