When it opened in April, along a stretch of suburban road dominated by stale chains and fast-casual cafeterias, Bargarten (2905 SW Cedar Hills Blvd., Beaverton, 503-809-2437, bargarten.com) promised to bring "an exciting and new beer-focused food experience" to Beaverton. The resulting German pub has a menu that's not completely original, but the environment is as vibrant as the bold blue accents taken from the Bavarian lozenges adorning the space.
Sleek round chandeliers and banners branded by Bitburger and Paulaner dangle from a soaring wooden ceiling. One wall looks like it could've been ripped from a German grandmother's house, with its old-timey Black Forest cuckoo clock surrounded by decorative plates. A herd of what appear to be jackalope skulls are mounted next to a roaring lion reared up on its hind legs, a hop cone acting as the tuft at the end of its tail.
You'd never know it from the modern, airy interior, but Bargarten is part of the family of Gustav's restaurants that tend to be the barnacle of suburban malls where you've surely taken your dad to dinner for his birthday at least once. The giveaway is the menu: gooey fondue, flaky schnitzel, wursts, spätzle and meatballs. Such old favorites can be comforting, but since you're here, you might as well order something unconventional like a Bavarian cheesesteak or tacos with a German twist. "Schnacos" ($12.95 for three)—fish or chicken schnitzel nestled in a tortilla with shredded cabbage, pico de gallo and avocado crema—might initially sound like a fusion-food abomination, but it actually works.
Like the food, most of the 20 taps overlap with Gustav's traditional offerings: Hofbräu, Warsteiner, Ayinger. The beers appear to come in three sizes: Big Gulp, Super Big Gulp and Boot. Servers with steady hands and strong forearms arrive at tables holding trays crowded with steins the size of your head. Great attention is paid to the glassware—hazy sunshine hefes are always poured into elegantly long flared flutes while dark doppelbocks come in fat mugs.
And if you're lucky, Bargarten's beer-festival spirit will really spring to life if the right manager is working. All of those past choir recitals give him the pipes and the courage to occasionally jump on top of a stool and belt out a short drinking song in German. While the only words most of us could understand during a recent visit were "Let's drink," the bar erupted in cheers, nonetheless.