Restaurant Review: Alpine
New German Village addition Alpine sits at an address that saw dramatic changes in 2018. The property that once held Juergens Bakery was neatly split, one-half becoming El Lugar, offering Spanish tapas, the other becoming the aforementioned Alpine, a German joint.
Alpine has its own entry, a few steps above street level, and its own distinct physical feel. Bucking the trends, it’s without a lot of space devoted to windows and natural lighting. It comes off more like a cozy upscale lodge bar; exactly what you might expect from someplace with the moniker “Alpine.”
The menu is German. In fact, it seems more German than most similar destinations in that genre. It’s so German, you have to read the menu descriptions in order to get a vague understanding of what you might be ordering.
Being a sucker for drama, there are a couple items that are especially notable. First, Raclette, which comprises a ritual-steeped addition of melted cheese to your meal: You can get it in various ways. There’s a Signature Raclette that involves chunks of bread, sausage and roasted veggies featuring lots of cauliflower: That’s $17.
For bargain shoppers, you can have the cheese added to anything for $5. Whichever the path, the cheese is going to define the entire experience. Here’s what all that means: back in the kitchen, they will take a giant, industrial-sized half-wheel of flavorful, Swiss-like cheese and heat its exposed side.
A server, armed with rubber gloves, takes the wheel and a scraper that at first glance looks like a giant murder knife, marches out to the table, and scrapes a freshly melted avalanche of cheese onto your meal. The bargain version is definitely worth a try. You will not find a better value or thrill for five bucks. Period.
An order of the Dutch Baby ($12) also causes heads to turn. This is perhaps because of its impressive height. It’s a poofy pancake — one that makes its own bowl via a structural collapse in the middle. The poof is served sprinkled with powdered sugar and teamed with little ramekins of sliced strawberries, bananas, a lemon wedge and thick creme. The overall effect is all lightness and sweet.
Beyond the dramatic, there are other offerings that are well worth consuming, even if they don’t turn heads. Case in point (actually, for the bilingual who might like cheese puns: “Kaese” in point): Kasespatzle ($9). It will wreck you for any regular macaroni and cheese for the rest of your life. Honestly, traditional mac and cheese recipes are never as cheesy as they could be. The Kasespatzle is the antidote. The dish is basically melted cheese, populated with tender spaetzle nubbins and your choice of add-ons. The addition of sausage and soft-cooked German Red Cabbage worked just fine in the combo. Anything will probably work. It’s all going to taste like glorious drippy cheese. An order is served in a bowl that appears deceptively small, but it contents are quite filling.
Given the performance of the other German things, you might expect The Rueben ($13) to be equally transcendent. You’d be wrong. While the rye bread and pastrami may be house made, the sandwich is plain and small and nothing special. Same deal with its companion fries. They get the job done, but that’s all.
For more of a lodge bar experience, Alpine does host a full bar. Service in the food department can be delayed. It helps to pretend you’re in Europe, where service is slower anyway. You can find it at 525 S. Fourth St.
Editor’s note: Alpine’s menu has changed since this reviewer visited.
For more information, visit alpine614.com.