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Review: Bratz Y'all! in Bywater

The biergarten serves brats, brews and other German specialties

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It's hard to resist the allure of a good biergarten. At Bratz Y'all!, rows of wooden picnic tables face lattice-lined walls, giant barrels serve as stands for overflowing potted plants and dangling pendant lights illuminate the outdoor area. Order from the window carved into the side of the building where a chalkboard lists the daily specials, or have a seat inside the cozy front room overlooking the space's massive open kitchen.

  Owner and native Berliner Sven Vorkauf launched the popular sausage and pretzel stand in 2012 and has developed a local following for his presence at festivals and public markets. His new brick-and-mortar space, which is tucked behind Pizza Delicious in a gravel-filled lot on Piety Street in Bywater, has an extended menu of German specialties and multiple German beers on tap.

  Part beer garden, part bistro, the menu stretches from the casual beer-and-brat format to larger dishes that showcase the heartier breadth of German cuisine. Breaded and pounded pork schnitzel loins sidle mounds of vinegary German-style potato salad. Giant potato dumplings come swimming in a deep, dark gravy. Flaky apple strudel arrives hot from the oven with scoops of vanilla ice cream.

  Freshly baked pretzels, or laugenbretzel, come studded with fat salty crystals. Though perfectly fine on their own, the Bavarian obatzda is an addictively creamy brie and cream cheese spread sweetened with onions, paprika and caraway seeds — perfect for dunking hunks of the salty, squishy pretzel, which along with a veggie sandwich is among scant options for vegetarians on the pork-heavy menu.

  Sausages come in all sizes here, from the massive King Brat, a fat grilled pork sausage filled with cheddar and wrapped in strips of bacon, to the classic Berliner currywurst, where lightly fried smoked pork sausage comes topped with a sweet apple and curry-tinged ketchup and fried onions. Then there's the skinny, slightly spicy Nurnberger, which arrives tucked into a doughy pretzel bun showered with soft caramelized onions, sharp mustard and sauerkraut.

  My favorite of the sausages are the smoky landjaeger links (which also happen to make a great road trip snack). They are affixed to wooden sticks and sold at the register.

  The Drunken Pig sandwich is less sausage, more the German answer to cochon de lait. Tender, milky bits of slow-roasted pork marinated in dark beer and herbs are ladled into a roll and topped with mustard, caramelized onions and sauerkraut.

  A note on the sauerkraut: This isn't your run-of-the-mill, bracingly sour ballpark hot dog stand stuff. Instead, the medley is soft, almost caramelized; cooked with a smoked ham hock, the finished product carries strong caraway notes that impart a lingering sweetness and warming feel.

  The real showstopper doesn't come in sausage form: It's the Sunday night-only schweinshaxe, a caveman-sized roasted pork shank that arrives blistering from the oven and easily feeds two very hungry people. Crunchy fatty bits give way to tender pieces of roasted pork, while the accompanying potato dumplings help sop up the delicious juices left behind.

  Though the selection of German beers and wines are great accompaniments to a meal, after a heavy dinner, a Kuemmerling shot is the way to go. The tiny bottles of the dark and bitter German herb liqueur carry pungent notes of black licorice and other herbs that are said to aid digestion. If nothing else, it offers an excuse to linger a little longer at this charming new restaurant and say Prost.

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