Authentically German in Newbury Park
By Ron Russ 04/04/2013
2160 Newbury Road
$1.50 - $17.50
I’ve been hoping for a new and authentic restaurant to pop up in Ventura County for months now. I must say, I never expected it to be German and for it to come in the form of a mini-Oktoberfest in Newbury Park! Brats Brothers, masters of gourmet German sausage, has opened a new location outside of its flagship in Sherman Oaks, which was featured on Food Network’s hit show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. With routine trips back and forth from Germany, the owners Roland and Peter have perfected the art of the brat, and in doing so, filled a void in our area that I don’t think anyone knew existed, until now.
When you walk into Brats Brothers, be prepared. It’s like walking into a portal of German awesomeness. The décor could be described as traditional and delightfully tacky. The interior is playful, but also allows for getting down to business with long wooden tables that act as perfect landing strips for heavy mugs of frosty cold beer. I was surprised to hear all of the German accents coming from the employees and then found that most of them were actually born in Germany. When you can discuss the authenticity of the food with someone who actually grew up eating it, you’re in the right place. And when the German bartender tells you that the pretzels and brats are better here than what he grew up with, you’re really in the right place.
We started our gluttonous (and gluten-ness) adventure with homemade pretzels, which were served warm with liverwurst, cheese spread and smoked pork loin. The pretzel was perfectly crisp and salty on the outside and warm and fluffy on the inside. The liverwurst spread, which I had low expectations of, ended up being something that I’m already looking forward to having again. It had a nice smooth texture, with the taste of rich liver sausage. Who doesn’t love that?! The cheese spread was a little too rich for my taste, but the smoked pork loin tasted as though it was slow cooked over a campfire. A few swigs from the cold German beer that I ordered even before I sat down proved to be an excellent start to the meal. The beer selection is excellent, by the way, and you can order it in a half-liter all the way up to the 10-liter tableside wooden keg! If a small tear just dropped off your cheek when you read that, I’d like to be friends with you.
Now before I get to the brats, I must say that the condiments are as unique as the sausages themselves. The two sauces you must keep within arms reach are the smoked ketchup and the horseradish mustard. They have plenty of other creative sauces like the curry ketchup, spicy orange honey mustard and the wasabi honey mustard, but I found those to interfere with the natural flavor of the brats.
As far as sides, you have to try Grandma’s sauerkraut, which is served warm and cooked with tomato paste, applesauce and caraway seed. It’s very traditional and has nice acid and tang, which pairs very well with rich sausage. I also recommend the Bavarian tater tots, which are crispy tots with fluffy potatoes, bacon, onion and Swiss cheese in the middle. The good news is that it tastes as good as it sounds, but it’s also lighter and not as much of a gut bomb as it could have been.
As for the brats, we ordered the Hungarian (spicy pork), the Cajun (wild boar andouille) and The Other Big Cheese (cheddar-infused pork). You can choose from a more traditional brat list or the exotic list, which features alligator, elk, kangaroo, and buffalo sausages, to name a few. All brats are served on a well-baked French roll with your choice of toppings. Our standout brat was definitely the Hungarian as it had the best balance of smoky and spicy flavors. Although the Cajun also had nice spices and a slight gaminess that, when paired with the smoked ketchup, gave the Hungarian a run for his money. Lastly, our server recommended one of the most popular items, which was “The Other Big Cheese.” The brat was made with hot pork, which was infused with rich and gooey cheddar cheese. It was definitely rich and tasty, but I personally thought it lacked the unique flavor the other brats offered. Either way, I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the brats on this menu.
With absolutely no room for dessert, we finished off our liter of beer while watching the small electric train make its way around the restaurant high up on the wall. I realized that, for the last hour, I had forgotten what city I was in. I had been eating delicious homemade German cuisine, enjoying the happy tunes, while drinking from a frosty beer mug that must have weighed five pounds. Prosit to Brats Brothers for being the real deal and offering up a fun atmosphere with some of the best meat in tube form that I’ve ever had. By the way, I left asking my wife if I could have my next birthday party at Brats Brothers. I’ll let you know if she says yes.