Thursday, September 23, 2010

Gerhardt's Bierstube

I lived in Bloomington for 8 years for grad school.  Back then all Terre Haute was to me, was the place you turned from I70 to 46.  The first time I ever actually visited Terre Haute other than to travel through it, was for a friend's birthday.  He had requested that a group of us make a pilgrimage to an awesome German restaurant in Terre Haute.  He and his partner had clearly been there before although neither had ever lived in Terre Haute.  We drove an hour just to get there.  I'd never had German food before, but I was blown away.  We all had feasts, but everyone ordered different things and we all shared.  I remember feeling that I was not large enough to cope with the huge amounts of excellent food we got and shared (I was the thinnest person in our group).  Our meal was called the German Feast, and by sharing we had many meats, tons of sides, and then dessert, oh and of course imported beer to go with it.  And the fried sauerkraut balls.  I normally skip appetizers at fancy restaurants, so I'll have room for dessert, but I make an exception for Gerhardt's sauerkraut balls.  They are definitely one of the hidden gems of Terre Haute.


So to get to Gerhardt's you travel north on Lafayette until you come to the cute little German building that looks like it was airlifted from Bavaria.  That's not it, that's the German-American Oberlander's club.  Keep going until you get to the SECOND cute little German building that looks like it was airlifted from Bavaria.  THAT'S Gerhardt's.

We've been back several times since, although we are certainly not regulars.  The couple that first took me there are now my son's fairy godparents, and we take them to Gerhardt's when they  manage to get to visit us here in town.  I'm a little hesitant to review the food more specifically because I'm just not that familiar with German cuisine.  What I remember are the meats, the sides, dessert, and of course the sauerkraut balls, which I'll just be mysterious about.  I've had many different meat dishes there: a sauerbraten (sorta a vinegar and spice pot roast), a sausage platter with lots of different German sausages (including blood sausage which I have only ever had from Gerhardt's), several different schnitzels (breaded meat cutlets with various sauces or accompaniments), a nice thick hamy pork chop (kassler rippchen).  My favorite is the rouladen - a beef and bacon presentation.   These are served with many sides too, spatzle a kind of German noodle, fried potatoes, potato salad, red cabbage, applesauce, fried apples, etc.  Oh and a good delicate apple streusel for dessert.  Now that we live in Terre Haute we can (and always do) take home the leftovers, because my experience is that the portions are big here, but I don't want to waste any of the yummy food.

Gerhardt's has been in operation for 33 years, but this year they finally stopped serving lunch because of falling demand.  I get a lot of very energetic "moving-forward" vibes from many segments of Terre Haute, but the German community is one of the few that I get "winding-down" and "holding-on" vibes from.  Everything I've heard makes me think that Terre Haute has had a rich German-American heritage.  We still have a fairly active German-American community.  But it is getting older, and the younger generations are more American and less German.  Oh you can still hear German spoken aloud at the Terre Haute Farmer's Market, but it's by the Amish, rather than by other immigrants or their descendants.  There was a German-American booth at the Street Fair a few years ago selling excellent homemade German food, but I heard them talk about how hard it was for them to staff the booth and whether they'd be able to do in in future years.  The "Oktoberfests" keep getting pushed earlier and earlier into September and are frankly kinda disappointing.  But we still have an active German-American club - "the Terre Haute German Oberlander Club" - and we still have a top-notch German restaurant, er "Bierstube" (Beer Hall) - well a Beer Hall that serves a lot of traditional German food restaurant-style.  And, I for one, and very grateful to Gerhardt's for introducing me to German cuisine.  Gerhardt's is ...

Just one more reason I'm proud of Terre Haute.


  1. My brother had his post-baptism dinner there. (He was baptized "late" during the 2nd grade.) The Bierstube is a Terre Haute Classic for sure.

    Andrea H.

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