By Marni McEntee

The Freiburg Gastropub could be in any ratskeller in any town in any part of Germany.

Its décor—all retro lighting and tin ceilings— German-language menu and raucous weekend noise level are very much like the casual eateries, housed in the basements of German city halls (or rathauses), known for their hearty food and ever flowing taps.

Freiburg’s proprietors are quick to note, however, that theirs is Americanized fare. For one thing, the schnitzel—the popular breaded meat dish—and several other German staples, use pork, not veal, a political hot potato in Madison, says General Manager Lyle Hilfiker.

That’s prompted some by-the-book German surname bearers to proclaim the menu inauthentic.

“We don’t want to ward people off before they even walk through the door,” Hilfiker says.

Hilfiker says the menu is evolving as the restaurant works out the kinks. It will include more salads, and maintain a healthy portion of vegetarian choices.

During a recent Saturday dinner, customers seemed plenty grateful for a touch of the fatherland, and astonished at the 20 German beers on tap—soon to be 30. The wine list is also respectably Germanic. The full-service bar is a collegial place to enjoy the meal and a quick way to avoid a wait for a table.

As for the fare, that was respectably delicious as well, and pretty authentic tasting for this bearer of an Irish surname. Executive Chef Christian Behr’s grilled Riesling-marinated chicken was moist and tasty, the accompanying potato dumplings were a buttery delight and the asparagus was cooked to crispy perfection.

The Jagerschitzel, a pounded bone-in pork chop breaded with pretzel crumbs and bathed in mushroom sauce, hit the mark. It was served with sweet and sour cabbage and spaetzle. My husband declared it as good as any schnitzel he’d had during our years-long stint in Germany.

The herb-stuffed trout from Rushing Waters Fisheries was packed with flavor, despite Behr’s simple seasoning: butter, tarragon, parsley, chives and salt and pepper.

A favorite from the spare dessert menu—just three items—was the tart and sweet panakuchen—a deceptively light pancake filled with berries and vanilla ice cream.

A return visit found me carnivorously enjoying the schweinhaxen, a beer braised pork shank with a mustard vinaigrette served with the sinfully rich “heaven and earth”—mashed potatoes and apples mixed with carmelized onion and bacon.

Proud of his menu’s cultural amalgam, Behr hopes customers leave happily sated.

“On your worst day, if you have a great meal and people leave happy, that makes my complete day.”

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