A dinner at Gruner started with a plate of mixed rolls- the rolls and the butter were room temperature, I had been hoping for warm pretzels, so these made the "adequate" grade for me though I was certainly pleased they threw in pretzel bread as part of the complimentary bread plate. The seedy bread could have also benefited from being a little warm (ok, what bread doesn't), but it was still soft and doughy. I wish the butter that came with had been a sweeter butter, but the seedy bread and butter were nice.
After a lot of internal debate since I knew the day before that I could join a Foodie group going to Gruner, I finally decided on the potato croquettes as my appetizer instead of the smashed potatoes (which I will save to enjoy with their burger)- those smashed potatoes have been written about quite a bit. These crisp polenta croquettes stuffed with raclette cheese made me long for more cheese inside but were executed well to be very crisp and light with no taste of oil
The main entree I had was spätzle with braised chicken, mushrooms, fava beans, riesling, crème fraîche, tarragon & crispy shallots. At first glance, the $21 entree appears really small on the plate. After first bite though, I was in love- these were amazing, with the softness but firmness of the spätzle, the tender juicy bites of chicken, sweetness from the riesling but yet creaminess as well from the creme fraiche in the sauce, a bit of textural interest with the addition of the crispy shallots and the earthy morels. Each bite melted in my mouth faster then I wanted it to and was a swirl of those flavors that I wished for more of as I scraped the plate. I love risotto and gnocchi, and this is a bit like it, but even better.
I would get that again without hestitation- by far over some of the bites of other entrees I got to try. The choucroute garnie of bratwurst, saucisson, cider braised pork belly, house-cured pork tenderloin, sauerkraut, sweet mustard, yukon gold potatoes- had great juicy meats and the mustard was great, and that sweet rich pork belly is well worth the extra $9 (otherwise it is exactly the same plate as the house-made sausages dinner entree).
But, there was a mountain of sauerkraut that came with it and only a few small yukon gold potatoes- it seems like it could have come with a bit more potatoes to go with all the meat. The concept itself is great if you are having some beer steins or crisp white wine along with, but it is left a bit wanting in my opinion as a standalone dinner entree. I am not that big of a fan that I could enjoy that much sauerkraut because the acidity gets to me- maybe I personally would have mixed it with more veggies like cabbage and carrots. Or, maybe having several kinds of mustards could have also made this more interesting rather then overwhelming as you progress through the dish and still kept the traditionalism of a "meat and potatoes".
I didn't have any complaints about the taste I had of the entree of hasenpfeffer — sweet & sour rabbit marinated in red wine and braised with spring onions, carrots, juniper, black pepper & rosemary, with chive-potato dumplings. It was hearty and rich meat with puffs of the potato dumplings in essentially a bowl of stew- but just wasn't what I was looking for now that it is June but would love in January.
I was done in terms of fullness after my entree, and have never been a huge dessert fan anyway (unless its a savory dessert) so only have to report second-hand about the desserts we had at the table. The warm marionberry jam filled donuts were raved about so we got multiple orders and looked wonderfully like jumbo sized donut holes with a blizzard of sugar, but seemed like could benefit from a lot more marionberry jam to fill the middle instead of just a little squirt at one end.
The poppy seed shortcake with strawberries, lemon curd and whipped cream stood out from the tartness of the lemon curd with the fresh strawberries and whipped cream- the poppy seed shortcake didn't add much to me.
The service and atmosphere started with a very modern clean look when I entered- a little bit Ikea but what do I know of "Alpine" style- but the service always came with a smile whether it be as if delighted I had come to join the party as they showed me to the table, or the waiter as he came over almost like a good friend who worked there, giving us insider secret info as he reported that there were only two lamb entrees left, or only so many the biscuits left and did we want him to set some aside, etc. He even cheerfully waited as our party of 8 did math and would take one credit card as a time as we calculated and presented us with half a dozen pens so we wouldn't be wanting.
Even though it was my first time visiting Gruner, I felt like I was being treated like a regular. Of course I'll be back again. They have a burger with my name on it... and I hope to also check out their new venture, Kask, a more casual concept just next door that focuses more on handcrafted cocktails, local microbrews and indie wineries along with charcuterie, terrines, local cheeses and breads.