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Sep 16, 2012 03:41 PM

Saturday Thoughts about Die Koelner Bierhalle, Pork Slope and High Dive

Beautiful day, Saturday, so my wife and I decided to stroll along Fifth Avenue in Park Slope, something we haven't done in a while. (Apparently, it's a popular stroll, given the number of pedestrians and the hustle and bustle.) We walked from our abode on PPW to Die Koelner Bierhalle, just to try it out. We had very recently visited Greenwood Park, the new beer hall on 7th Avenue and 19th Street, and we were interested in comparing the two.

Die Koelner Bierhalle is even newer, created in a converted lumberyard on St. Marks Place, just off Fourth Avenue. DKB is situated in a large, spacious setting that reminds one of a warehouse. The benches/tables are set up pew-style, with a middle aisle. When you enter, you can claim a seat at any of the benches that are unoccupied, and a waitperson will come by to take your beer order (but not your food order).

Or you can do as we did, which is to walk up that center aisle and sit at the bar to the left at the head of the aisle. The bar seats are heavy stools, reminiscent of butcher blocks, that are more comfortable than they appear at first. The bartender, Jacob, genially greeted us and immediately poured two small tastes of German lager, a very nice touch. My wife isn't so much into German beer as I am, so she went with a Gruner Veltliner, and I opted for one of the samples Jacob had kindly provided.

For food, the routine is you go to the grill (which is situated where the altar would be if the space were actually a church), and you give the grill person your order. Check out their website for your options, which are pretty much either hamburgers or sausages. You pay the grill person there and then and get a receipt, and then you go back a little later to see if your order is ready. Not the best system, but it worked OK for us on Saturday. Prices are very moderate, around $6 for a sausage hero (which is just a sausage of your choice on a roll, with or without sauerkraut). They also serve up heated pretzels, which are quite good.

They practically make a fetish of glassware, completely the opposite of Greenwood Park, where plastic cups are your only option. Apparently each of the German drafts (and possibly the bottled beer as well) has its own glass. Some are tankards, some are mugs. You can order by the half-liter or the liter. Jacob was very proud of the glasses, showed us several of the tall glasses they use for the various wheat beers.

All in all , we liked Die Koelner Bierhalle a lot, partly because we enjoyed chatting with Jacob, the very affable bartender, and partly because of the food, which was good and inexpensive, and partly because of the setting.

So our vote is for Die Koelner Bierhalle over Greenwood Park.

When we finished we strolled back along Fifth Avenue and stopped at Pork Slope, which had opened recently to great fanfare. Our first visit. Place was about half full, but REALLY LOUD, not from music, but from the patrons. Bar stools are uncomfortable, apparently designed to prevent loitering at the bar. Plus they told us they didn't have any white wines at all, despite the menu saying otherwise. All these things were very effective at getting us to leave, which we did.

We went next door to the High Dive, which is aptly named. One guy nursing a beer at the window, gazing at passersby. Another guy sitting at the bar, also nursing a beer, staring into space. Some people out back, in the garden, blowing cigarette smoke into the bar space. One female bartender involved in an intense (and loud) conversation with a lady friend at the end of the bar. One drink each for us and out, and then home.

The great thing is, we REALLY enjoyed our walk. Loved seeing our neighbors, in all their guises, wandering around the neighborhood, didn't mind the disappointing (for us) visit to Pork Slope, and thoroughly enjoyed our beer hall visit.

Long live Park Slope...

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  1. Great report, thanks for taking the time to write it!

    It should be noted, among the other differences between Greenwood Park and DKB is that there is no outdoor space at all at the Bierhalle. Aside from that, I also like it a lot better. I only went there once on their first or second "full open" night, and their glassware situation put them firmly in the weeds. It took a very long time to retrieve the proper glass for each beer, and they quickly fell behind the crush of patrons at the bar. Also, on that night there were no servers to get drinks, so adding them will certainly streamline the beer procurement process.

    I'm waiting for the hoopla to die down a bit over Pork Slope. I've walked in 2-3 times and walked out again without getting anything. No interest in standing around waiting for a seat to open up while trying to ingest whatever unhealthy fried food I fall prey to.

    Personally, DGF and I like High Dive. But I'm a little ashamed to say it's mostly because of their popcorn machine and Old Bay Seasoning. <*blush*>

    Please don't ban me from Chowhound for admitting that! :-)

    5 Replies
    1. re: egit

      Geez, I had to laugh at your remarks about High Dive. I forgot to mention in my post that we did have the popcorn and enjoyed it quite a bit. I think I would have had a better reaction to High Dive if the barmaid had at least quit talking to her friend even as she served up drinks to others (including us). She'd pour the beer and start walking toward the customer, only to stop and turn around in order to continue the conversation. I hate it when you feel like you're interrupting your bartender or waiter when all you want to do is order something.

      1. re: BrookBoy

        I hope your tip reflected the bartender's attitude.

        1. re: Sluggo1407

          Actually, I thought about stiffing her, but, as always, I ended up leaving a decent, if not generous tip. We had the one glass of wine and a draft beer, and I left $2.

          That's more about me than about her. I just would not have felt right leaving a buck, or leaving nothing. Normally, I would have left $3, which I think is actually a pretty good tip, but she wouldn't have any way of knowing that.

          I doubt that stiffing her would teach her a lesson. I'm sure she would think, "...that cheap SOB..." Alternatively, I could have told her I wasn't gonna leave a tip because of her poor service, but that would have ended the day on a sour, combative note, and I didn't really feel that way. So it was two bucks and home.

          I get your point, though, and there are times where I do cut the tip severely or entirely, and in such cases I generally say something to the server/bartender/cab driver. I guess I wasn't at my "tipping point" (pardon the pun) at High Dive.,

        2. re: BrookBoy

          Yeah, that's a bar peeve of mine as well. I know which one you're talking about. She's definitely one of those sweet/crazy personalities. She does know how to treat her customers right, but she's also most certainly a talker.

          N.B. There's nothing extraordinary about High Dive. They have a reasonably good selection of beer, the aforementioned popcorn, and there are usually plenty of seats at the bar when I/we want to go. That's why I like it-- nothing more.

          1. re: egit

            I get your drift, and I'd go back as well. It's not like they're deceiving you or anything. If they describe themselves as a dive, well, ya takes yer chances. And they have that tasty free popcorn...

      2. The original comment has been removed
        1. I have had a couple of bad experiences at Die Koelner Berhalle, so it's nice to know someone had a good time there.. I feel the place is dark, loud with terrible food and service. Even with the fact that they are essentially just grilling Schaller and Weber sausages, the food has been terrible..

          Waitresses have been absent to unprofessional.. And when I say absent, the last time I was there, two waitresses left out the front door holding hands.

          4th ave pub down the street was where I ended up going without evening ordering a beer the last time.

          1. Very helpful notes on Bierhalle!

            1 Reply
            1. re: Nihilista

              Went back there last weekend.. The key is to sit at the bar.. The food was still bad, this time I ordered the plate of spaetzle.. It was a dry mess. It was like boiled pasta dry, with some ham and onions. My first bite, the thing balled up in my throat it was so dry.. Needless to say, we tossed that thing too.

              But, we sat at the bar and had no problem being served a beer..

              I noticed that they added lights along the walls. So, it is not so dark.