I've been visiting a lot of German restaurants lately for Octoberfest and a column I'm writing for next week's paper. What's surprising is we have so many good places to eat German food down here. It's not a cuisine I'd typically turn to when looking for somewhere to go out, but it seems like lots of people in South Florida do. Plus, you get to drink out of giant beer boots. Who doesn't love that?
Of all the places I've checked out, my favorite German joint is the Ambry off of Bayview Drive and Commercial Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale. The restaurant -- which from the outside looks like a medieval castle with German and American flags on the ramparts -- was opened in 1981 by famed German footballer Gerd Mueller. Mueller left the business soon after, and it's been run by the Huber family ever since.
Inside, the dark, winding corridors reveal private rooms anchored by
warm hearths. Up front is a bar that's covered with so much German
soccer memorabilia that you'd half expect to find World Cup hero Bastian
Schweinsteiger chilling there with a pint of Tucher Hefeweizen in hand.
Instead, you'll find plenty of regulars, some of whom have decorative
steins held behind the counter.
One regular, a jovial guy named Sam,
sipped Warsteiner lager from a ceramic stein with one of those cool
little hats you pop up and down with your thumb.
"This is my favorite place to come in all of Fort Lauderdale,"
he said as he took a pull from his foamy beer. "They make some of the
best prime rib around."
We didn't sample the prime rib, but we did try the Ambry's
house-made sausages, including a few currywurst -- a brat that's been
smeared with curry-flavored ketchup (a true hangover cure if there ever
was one). The bratwurst the Ambry makes is damned addictive too ($11.95
for a platter). It's peppery and very juicy but also very soft, like
the meat inside was finely mixed into something tender and supple. Dab
each piece with some spicy brown mustard that comes in a ceramic bowl
and you're just about in sausage heaven.
Also great: the Ambry's famous garlic soup ($3.50), creamy and
loaded with the sweet flavor of roasted garlic. A happy-hour-priced
plate of schweinsbraten ($16.95) features loads of roasted pork, a
textural contrast of juicy meat and crunchy, caramelized bits coated
with black pepper.
Best of all, that pig goes perfectly with a pint of spicy
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wheat beer from Weihenstephan, a German brewery that's been crafting
beer since 1040. My advice: Skip the boot and order it by the pint
3016 E. Commercial Blvd., Fort Lauderdale