Restaurant Review: Plank’s Bier Garten
Befitting its German Village address, Plank’s Bier Garten is a proper bier garten. That is, the corner location features local foods, outdoor community seating, and bier (beer), plus an inside dining space and bar for refuge from the elements. You’ll find guests of all ages settled in, looking perfectly comfortable, and they’re hosted by equally comfortable-looking, smiling servers.
The Garten is on a bit of a comeback. It opened this spring after a 2016 fire removed the longstanding local institution from the scene for over a year. Before the fire, the Plank’s Bier Garten stood for over 50 years. With five decades of history behind it, the months of closure and renovation didn’t seem to phase it. It appears to have picked right back up from where it left off.
The menu is a mish-mash of requisite bar foods, combined with German food, combined with pizza.
The “bier garten” moniker and the German Village location suggest that German options might be a sensible starting point. Weinerschitzel is on the menu. It’s built on a lean piece of pork, flattened, breaded and fried crispy. What’s not to love? The pork is served with a lemon-caper sauce, but the crunch and meat combo stands just fine on its own. You can pick sides, the menu suggests grilled sauerkraut and German potato salad, which are the most German-sounding sides on the menu. As promised, the sauerkraut has evidence of grill treatment, boasting unidentifiable bits of char-grilled matter. The German Potato salad has a lot in common with smashed potatoes: it’s mostly pure potato, with a little extra vinegary zing.
Bratwurst are another German representative on the menu, two plump links that were simmered in beer then grilled. The result delivers the requisite briny heaviness, without too much oily overload.
For the international scene, there is the Cuban Sandwich. It’s better than the average Cuban, by virtue of a couple of things: 1) The pork is more of a pulled pork, so a mound of soft, seasoned tendrils provide the foundation for the sandwich. 2) The ham feels fresh-sliced. It’s not that uniform, processed, deli-packaged stuff. Team that pork and ham on a crusty roll with melted cheese, pickles and mustard and there’s nothing not to love. It’s served with thick-cut fries.
As the world tour continues, the menu also offers burgers and salads. Pizza, though, is super popular at Plank’s. You can build your own by choosing from various toppings, but it’s easier to just choose something from the combo section. For example, the Meatza version is heavy with a dense crown of pepperoni, ham, bacon, sausage, and ground beef that’s tied together with provolone and a sweet red sauce that plays off the cured meats. The pie is every bit as sturdy as the German offerings.
Of course there is bier in the bier garten: a good selection of beverages that includes local options such as Brewdog, CBC, and Four String. Beyond the bier/beer, Plank’s Bier Garten has a community feel that most joints would kill for. The establishment is clearly invested in the neighborhood, with a recent pencils-for-pizza drive to help equip nearby needy schools.
You can find Plank’s Bier Garten at 888 S. High St.
For more information, visit planksbeergarden.com.