Review: Hog Heaven


Don’t be misled by the witty name: There is nothing uncultivated about LowBrau Bierhall, the chic yet casual midtown watering hole that has the city’s beer and sausage lovers swooning.

The formula is simple enough: deliciously uncomplicated fare served alongside high-quality brews in a stylish setting. What sets LowBrau apart from other worthy establishments that serve good drink and food, however, is the genuinely convivial atmosphere in which it all comes together.

Part of the success stems from LowBrau’s design. Co-owner Michael Hargis, whose background is in architecture and construction, re-imagined the space (formerly Lounge ON20) as “a modern German farmhouse.” Communal seating—the place is a sea of gray-washed picnic tables, all fashioned from reclaimed lumber—is how Low- Brau fosters a festive Bavarian beer-hall vibe without having to resort to dirndl-clad waitresses and schmaltzy polka music. (Still, the novel display of cuckoo clocks is a nice touch.)

Hargis says that he and business partner Clay Nutting wanted to create an unpretentious place that “paid homage to the communal aspects of the German beer halls, where people from all walks of life would come together and meet at these tables. This place is all about community.”

Indeed, you almost can’t help but meet new people at this joint. On a recent visit, my companion and I wedged ourselves onto a crowded bench where we exchanged menus and high-decibel small talk with our neighbors over the beer-hall din: Are the duck fat fries any good? Which of the Belgian beers have you tried? Turns out the duck fat fries are good (it’s all about the dipping sauces), as was everything else we sampled from the short but smartly conceived menu, which the owners plan to augment in the coming weeks and months.

LowBrau’s emblem—a crowned pig—is your cue that this is sausage territory. We sampled the bratwurst with herbed onions and hot peppers as well as the hot Italian sausage (I didn’t detect much heat from it) topped with caramelized onions and sweet peppers, both served on just-chewy-enough pretzel bread sourced from Freeport Bakery. They were rich and flavorful without being too greasy or heavy, as sausages go.

And vegans can rejoice: There are two animal-free sausage options, an Italian made with eggplant and fennel, and a smoked apple sage version with potato. The mustardy potato salad— dressed German-style in a vinaigrette, not mayo—makes for a zesty side, while the Bavarian pretzel, soft and slightly chewy, is great for a light nosh. (Again, the dipping sauces rule.)

And then there’s the beer: a Belgian- and German-centric selection of bottles and draughts plus some local standouts. (The liter steins definitely add to the experience.) From the Knee Deep Simtra Triple IPA to the Weihenstephaner Pilsner, beer enthusiasts will find much to like here. A special house beer—a Kölsch made by Ruhstaller—is in the works. Brews not your thing? The cocktail and wine lists are concise but hardly skimp on quality.

As with any new spot, service was rocky in the days immediately following LowBrau’s opening. Our affable, hardworking server gave it her all; if only there were five or six more of her working the floor the night we visited. Those kinks are sure to be smoothed out over time. And yet it’s a testament to LowBrau’s boisterous charm that the lapses didn’t dampen our spirits one bit. Prost!