The essence of Teutonic beer hall Stammtisch can be found in its uncompromising schweinshaxen ($23). In a yellow-lit, Kerns-neighborhood bar room filled with wood-grained and beer-sudsed gemütlichkeit—with every intricate chandelier and authentic beer glass custom-built or brought from Germany by owner Dan Hart—that massive, bone-wielding pork shoulder is brined for five days and slow-roasted for most of another until the meat's flavor is near-herbal in its intensity. The Flintstones-big hunk of fatty, tender meat is then flash-fried until the skin turns to pork rind. It comes out like a painting by Francis Bacon—a meat-baby swaddled in a chicharron blanket. What makes the dish great is also what makes Stammtisch great: There are no half-steps, no shortcuts.
Chef Graham Chaney's labor-intensive, old-country meatcraft leads to a tongue-melting layer cake of texture and richness. And as with Stammtisch's fluffy-breaded Wienerschnitzel ($15) and lovingly fermented sauerbraten ($19), the 'haxen is served atop a side of housemade spaetzle pasta fried to such delicacy it puts most of Deutschland to shame.
At Stammtisch, even the pork-and-veal currywurst ($6)—a ketchup-and-Worcestershire street food plopped on crisped pencil fries—is a meticulously crafted portal to Berlin. And that echt-German beer list is updated regularly with new imports previously unseen in this country, whether rebel brewers Freigeist or seasonals from centuries-old Ayinger.
Previous German-style spots in town have been glorified theme parks. Stammtisch is Portland's first truly great German restaurant.
Eat: The schweinshaxen ($23) to split, paired with delicately creamy, parsley-rich kerbelsuppe ($9) or a leek-filled maultaschen ($10) dumpling bowl.
Drink: The German import beer list is unrivaled.
Most popular dishes: Jägerschnitzel and currywurst.
Noise level: 67/100: It's always busy, and it's as much bar as restaurant.
Expected wait: No reservations, but it's rare you'd wait longer than 10 minutes.
Who you'll eat with: Trim couples in their late 20s with jobs in advertising, sausagey families with children in tow, beardy beer nerds drinking and dining with other beardy beer nerds.
Year opened: 2014