Sunday, January 25, 2009

East Side Restaurant in New Britain

"Noisy" dining area. Hanging from the ceiling are the mugs that belong to members of the "Mug Club."

New Britain reminds me of Waterbury in a lot of ways. It, like Waterbury, "the Brass City," is an ex-manufacturing/industrial town, affectionately known as "Hardware City." Both cities have fallen into a bit of urban decay in recent years, with new nicknames reflecting the decline, such as "The Dirty Waters" and "Hard Hittin' New Britain." But I think the most interesting thing that both cities share is tremendous cultural diversity. I'll get into the diversity of Waterbury in another post, but one only needs to stroll down Broad Street in New Britain to appreciate its various cultural and ethnic influences. New Britain is home to the largest Polish community in the state on Connecticut. In fact, New Britain Hospital is the only place in the world I've seen signs in English, Spanish, and Polish. In recent decades, there has also been an explosion of Puerto Ricans moving into New Britain, making New Britain the city with the 7th fastest growing Puerto Rican population in the United States, and inciting a change from the old nickname, "New Britski" (reflecting the large Polish population) to "Nuevo Britain" (reflecting the large Spanish speaking population). New Britain is also home to a wealth of other ancestries, among them Italian, Irish, French, and German.

Beer sampler platter

Anyplace where you find that many cultures melting together you are sure to find some good eats. Now I have to admit that I have not visited many of New Britain's restaurants, but when I saw the sign for East Side's German restaurant on I-84, I knew I had to go. Scott loves German food and beer, and has been dying to go to Oktoberfest for years. Now New Britain is no Munich, but East Side restaurant was certainly a memorable experience nonetheless...

Appetizers: Stuffed mushrooms and bratwurst
The idea behind East Side Restaurant is to recreate the camaraderie (and debauchery) of Oktoberfest, complete with lederhosen, accordions, and "Ticky Tocky" chants. This is not your typical restaurant. A visit to the East Side's website is a good way to get an idea of what you're in for. The dancing and singing German men on the screen will actually be at the restaurant, may try to get you to wear a ridiculous hat, and will undoubtedly make the entire restaurant chant "Ticky-Tocky, Ticky-Tocky, Oy! Oy! Oy!" if you order a large beer or a das boot. Some might find the atmosphere a little cheesy, but we actually had a good time. It isn't a place you go for a romantic date, certainly, but I think that it is absolutely perfect for a large group of friends that are looking to just let go and have a good time.

Our beers, bread, and salad
Not going to lie, the service was not spectacular. Most of the waitresses are actually German (we heard them speaking German) and are probably not too happy about having to wear traditional dirndls. But it's hard to even notice the service with all of the excitement going on. The food came out in a timely fashion, and they were very nice when I had to send my filet mignon back because it was literally still mooing. Incidentally, this was the first time I ever had to send meat back for being too rare, so caution if you plan on ordering red meat here, they err on the side of rare. And I'm a poet and I didn't know-it.

German onion soup, slaw, and cottage cheese spread
So given the dinner-theater feel of this place, we had pretty low expectations for the food. Boy, were we wrong. The food was amazing. We started off with 2 of the beer samplers so we could decide what kind of beer we would have. The waitresses brought out a cottage cheese spread and slaw that are served with crackers. After deciding on the (giant) Spaten Oktoberfest and Franziskaner Hefe-Weiss, we thought we would try some appetizers. The stuffed mushrooms were different than any stuffed mushrooms I've had. They were barely cooked, so retained some crunch, and had a crunchy crabmeat filling with a white wine butter sauce that I soaked up with bread. The burgermeister plate was a simple but delicous bratwurst over sauerkraut, which Scott devoured. We didn't realize that at East Side, entrees come with soup AND salad, so next up came a German onion soup, which reminded me a bit of French onion soup minus the bread and cheese, and a fresh salad. They also served a house made bread which I believe had some fennel seeds baked into the dough. Yum. The entrees are served with family-style corn and some sort of turnip/carrot mash. I didn't actually eat much of my filet mignon until the next day (because I was so stuffed), but it was pretty good. Scott's prime rib, however, was definitely the best prime rib I have ever tasted in my life. It was perfectly soft and flavorful, and will be my first choice when we go back. Overall, we ate more food than I care to admit. East Side is big on both portions and flavor, and provided us with one of the best and most filling dinners we've had in a long time. I cannot speak for the authenticity of the menu items, as I am not very familiar with German food, but many dishes sounded unique and interesting, and we are excited to back and try more!
Scott's Prime Rib

Overall: An awesome restaurant if you love good food, good beer, and German culture, and especially good for large and rowdy groups. It is a tad on the expensive side, but the quality of food makes it worth every penny.

Renee's 3 Favorite Things:
1. Scott's prime rib :)
2. Beer selection was impressive
3. The value. You get tons of food, all great quality, for your money. It's a little expensive, but worth it. There is also good attention to detail for such a busy restaurant.

Scott's 3 Favorite Things:
1. Beer quality/selection
2. Size of the beer
3. The amount of food you get!

Will we go back?
New Britain is a little out of the way, and East Side is a bit pricey, but we look forward to going back relatively soon with a large group of people.

East Side Restaurant
131 Dwight St
New Britain, CT 06051
(860) 223-1188

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