At Stammtisch, you want numbers. The new German tavern from the proprietors of North Mississippi Avenue's Prost doesn't demand it—a couple can get a very date-night meal seated on the square wooden bar stools—but the experience feels so much more full when you're crammed between friends drinking an imported German hefeweizen emblazoned with the logo of a brewhouse founded a half-century before Columbus set sail. The dim and clubby Stammtisch is the kind of place where you spot an acquaintance ambling up to the door, excited to meet him with a handshake and show him over to your heavy oaken table for a Bitburger.
With that said, you might not be able to round up eight people for your next trip to this cozy above-ground rathskeller in Kerns. Here's what to get for groups of various sizes:
Lone wolf: The currywurst ($6) alone would be reason to drop in. It's a pork-veal sausage, grilled and sliced, with a few extra crispy french fries and a outrageously rich curry ketchup that I all but licked out of the paper serving boat on my first encounter. It's the best currywurst I've had in Portland and, according to a former Berlin resident in our party, damn near as good as they come on the street in the old country. Since you're alone, no one will take note of you spending more on beer than food, so keep it in the Hauptstadt with Berlin's pricey but wonderful Professor Fritz Briem 1809 Berliner Weisse ($7 for 0.3 liters).
Hot date: The forelle ($15), a flaky whole trout braised in riesling and butter and served with seasonal veggies, currently spring onions, peas and artichokes. It pairs very well with kartoffelpuffer ($5)—two golden, cake-shaped hash brown patties served with a big pool of sweet, thick and buttery apple sauce. To drink, you'll want a crisp, mild lager like Bitburger or Veltins (both $9.50 for a liter, about $20 for a 2 liter boot).
Three's company, too: You can get three sausages and a few forkfuls of sauerkraut for $14 (a great deal since a single sausage is $8) on the hausgemachte wurst plate. The juicy brat was our favorite, but it's more fun if you also split the weisswurst and knackwurst. (But take note that according to Bavarian legend, if you eat weisswurst after noon, you will lose your hair.) The trout is a little small for three people, so instead opt for the jägerschnitzel ($15), pork loin with umami-intense mushroom gravy, crispy fried spätzle and a big heap of stewy red cabbage. If you've got big flavors and lots of meat, it's a good time to explore the banana- and clove-heavy wheat beers, like the dark, caramelly Maisel's Dunkel Weisse ($5.25 for a half liter) or the fruity Andechs Weissbier ($5.50 for a half liter).
Double date: Open with the generously appointed meat and cheese plate, called brotzeit teller ($12), which has two little rolls, pickles, radishes, soft salami, bierwurst, rabbit liver mousse and little hunks of cheese. There's one large cup of spicy yellow mustard on the side, which works wonders on the sausages but doesn't pair well with the cheese. You might want the bretzel ($5), a buttered pretzel with mustard, paprika cheese and schmaltz. Steer your tablemates away from the underwhelming-but-for-the-ultra-fluffy-bun burger ($11), or the fried maultaschen ($8), which were a riff on fried mac 'n' cheese—dry and salty butter-fried pasta stuffed with tiny bits of ground pork and arugula. (The current version includes asparagus and oyster mushrooms.)
Five or more: You want at least two currywursts to share, plus extra orders of those excellent curry-dusted fries ($4) and a tender plate of wienerschnitzel ($14), which comes sliced for sharing atop a pool of bright orange vegetable remoulade. You're also going to want five different beers—because one of the best parts of a night at Stammtisch is seeing all those different ornate German biergläser land on that big, heavy table.
- Order this: Currywurst ($5), forelle ($15), kartoffelpuffer ($5).
- Iâll pass: Hamburger, maultaschen.
- Best deal: Currywurst ($5), french fries ($5).
EAT: Stammtisch, 401 NE 28th Ave., 206-7983, stammtischpdx.com. 3 pm-2:30 am daily. Under 21 permitted until 10 pm.