George

Linda and I honeymooned in Germany, where I got hooked on German beer and food — and, of course, on her. Actually, I was already hooked on her and to her.

For years after that, I only drank German beer (until Maine’s microbrewers took hold) and except for Morse’s sauerkraut, I’ve not been able to find the German food I loved. Until now. And I can’t explain why we didn’t get to Richard’s a whole lot sooner — but I am certain we’ll be eating there again soon.

Let’s start with Richard Gnauck, a fascinating fellow who was the head chef at the famous Harriet Beecher Stowe House for 15 years, initiating “German Night” every Friday. He opened his own German restaurant in Harpswell in 1988. In 1993, he bought a beautiful brick building on Brunswick’s Maine Street and moved his restaurant into it. Richard’s son, Will, is now doing the cooking, although Richard still likes to hang out there, visiting with customers and helping them with their menu selections.

Richard had just returned from three months in Germany, where he sometimes leads tour groups from the U.S., and we delighted in sharing stories of Germany with him. Almost immediately, he performed a miracle — convincing Linda to try a dark beer, something I’ve been trying to do for a long time. “Dark does not always mean heavy,” he told her. And she loved it!

I chose the Weihenstephaner Korbinian ($7 for a half liter), a Doppelbock that was fantastic. If you are uncertain, try the beer sampler, a choice of four German beers for $8.

When Richard told me he loves liver, I told him our liver story. We were in Munich, and had read of a nice restaurant in our guide book where the room on the right as you entered, with the white tablecloths, was the tourist section, and the room on the left with the blue tablecloths was where the local folks ate. We chose the room on the left, and couldn’t read the menu. So when we saw a gorgeous plate of food going by our table, we pointed to it and told our server that’s what we wanted. It was liver and we hated it!

We certainly didn’t have the same problem at Richard’s, because the menu includes English explanations for each German dish. But we did have a problem making our choices, because there is so much to like on this menu.

Richard was a great help, recommending the Crepe Farci ($11.50) for an appetizer: crabmeat in a cheesy creamy sauce inside a crepe. It was piping hot, nice and gooey, and the crab taste came through nicely. The portion was large, definitely enough for two people, although I ate most of it because Linda was anticipating a heavy entree.

I found it impossible to choose an entree, so I selected the German Sampler ($20.75), listed as “a trip through Germany without leaving Maine,” and that it was. The dish included bratwurst, bauerwurst, gulasch, sauerbraten, both wiener and jagerschnitzel, and all of their German side dishes: Spatzle (hand pressed Egg noodle), Klosse (bread dumpling), Heisser Kartoffelsalat (hot potato salad), Rot Kohl (red cabbage) and Weinkraut (sauerkraut).

Regular readers will be surprised to hear that I couldn’t eat it all. I’ve loved German hot potato salad since I first tasted it on our honeymoon, so I scoffed that up quickly. The red cabbage and sauerkraut were favorites as well, including all of the sausages. And the sauerbraten (pot roast) was fantastic.

Eliza, our server and, as Richard described her, “Will’s better half,” has worked here off and on since the late 1990s. Even when she lived out of town, she told us, she came back here to eat, calling the food “authentic.” She got that right.

I was, for an hour and a half, transported back to Germany, sitting in one of their fabulous beer gardens, enjoying wonderful beer and amazingly tasty food.

Given the quality of the food, I was surprised by the reasonable prices. Richard explained that he is focused on keeping prices affordable because he wants guests to come back next week, instead of having to wait to visit once a month because of the cost. He’s also proud that all of his staff has been here for five years or more. When he told me he sometimes teaches cooking at the Kitchen Emporium in Bath, I was tempted to sign up! But I could never cook food this good. Which is why I am so glad we finally got to Richard’s Restaurant.

Our evening was topped off with an exceptionally entertaining performance of “Footloose” at the Maine State Music Theater, also in Brunswick. Linda was disappointed earlier in the year when we didn’t get to see the Buddy Holly musical there (because I had chosen “Chamberlain, the Musical,” for our travel column visit). Don’t get me wrong, Chamberlain was terrific, but I still had a bit of making up to do, so without her knowledge, I ordered up tickets for “Footloose.”

We both loved it, and sat next to a couple from Temple who have season tickets. The first thing the gentleman said when we sat down and began to get acquainted was, “You should have seen Buddy Holly!” Perhaps it’s time for Linda and me to get season tickets for the Music Theater.

Linda

It was more than 35 years ago that we visited the beautiful country of Germany on our honeymoon. It was our first trip abroad and we thoroughly enjoyed getting to know German food. All those memories came back with gusto during our visit to Richard’s in Brunswick.

Richard Gnauck came to cook at the Hofbrauhaus Restaurant in Ogunquit in 1968. His plan was to make a lot of money and return to Germany. But he fell in love with a girl from Brunswick, and he’s still here. Lucky for us, or Richard’s might never have come to be!

We were able to chat with Richard, who still comes in to visit with customers now that his son is running the restaurant. His German accent is still detectable and we found him animated and entertaining. We wanted a little guidance with the menu and this was the man to do it.

I explained that I like a light beer so he encouraged me to try Warsteiner Dunkel. He had a sample sent over and I was pretty surprised to find that I actually enjoyed the taste of a dark beer. It was smooth and light-bodied without a hoppy taste. Richard explained that it had a “nice malt finish,” (something I never would have been able to figure out). So I ordered and enjoyed my first dark beer. George was very pleased.

I was more than a little hungry, due to a busy day with little food, so when the basket of pretzels and rolls came out I dove in. Oh those rolls! How they made them I do not know, but they were warm, flaky and addictive.

I came here knowing that I wanted sausage and sauerkraut. Wanting to try a combination of sausages, Richard suggested the Schlachplatte ($19.50). It included a grilled bratwurst, (pork and veal), a steamed bauernwurst, (German beef sausage) and a smoked pork chop (so good!).

I couldn’t possibly choose a favorite of the three as they were all great. Their saltiness combined well with the side dishes I’d ordered. The Rot Kohl (red cabbage) dish was both sweet and spicy, while the sauerkraut and the hot potato salad were sour. And that’s exactly why I love this style of food — there is no way on earth one could describe it as bland!

Richard’s is now our go-to restaurant for great German food, and we are so glad we discovered it.

Visit George’s website — georgesmithmaine.com — for book reviews, outdoor news and all Travelin’ Maine(rs) columns, found listed in the “Best of Maine” section.

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