Saturday, August 28, 2010
Name: Hallo Berlin
Location: 55 Corbettsville Rd., Conklin, NY 13748
Phone: (607) 775-4391
Price: Likely around $80 for two
Hallo Berlin is easily among the area's strangest establishments: a "German Soul Food" joint in the middle of nowhere and a stone's throw from the NY/PA border. Located in the tiny hamlet of Corbettsville, they've been serving authentic German fare and imported German draft beer for years. The sign out front says "since 1840." I don't know if I quite believe that, but needless to say, Hallo Berlin has been a fixture in the area for many years. Trivia question: who was the U.S. President in 1840? Answer to follow.
We arrived at 6:30 on a Friday evening and surprisingly found the restaurant to be nearly empty. I had wondered beforehand if we would need a reservation but in the end I decided not to bother. Definitely a good decision on my part. Upon entering the restaurant you will notice the fantastically old-fashioned bar straight ahead, and all sorts of artifacts lining the walls. Megan and I decided to have a seat at the bar while we waited for our friends Tom and Bryan, who somehow managed to get lost on the way there, and eventually we were greeted by an older German man (we would later learn that his name is Thomas) who was the face of the operation all evening, serving as both bartender and waiter. I believe he is also the owner.
We ordered some drinks and I opted to get a draft of the Koestritzer Black Lager, a beer I'd had before, but never had served to me in a humongous one-liter mug like this one! When our friends arrived, we were promptly seated in the dining room, a fairly small, quaint space.
The menu at Hallo Berlin is obviously one of the most unique in the area, replete with various traditional German dishes and sausages. All entrees are served with soup and bread. Megan, who was a little hesitant about eating German food, decided to go with the Sauerbraten with Spaetzle ($20), and I decided that I had to try out the "Dr. Atkins Diet Special" ($17) which consisted of three different wursts (vealwurst, beefwurst, and porkwurst), a German meatball, red cabbage, sauerkraut, and various dipping sauces--mustard, spicy mustard, and one which may have been a homemade ketchup of some sort.
The soup was a potato and lentil soup that had small pieces of sausage included and was rather tasty. Not amazing or anything, but a good homemade soup. Served with hunks of bread and butter, it was a reasonably good start to the meal.
Soon after, it was time for a beer refill, and being the huge beer geeks that we are, Tom and I opted to try out a Berliner Weisse. This is a somewhat rare style of beer that has a sweet and somewhat sour taste. We decided to try both the red and green varieties that were offered. We thought they were pretty good but were left questioning their beerhood. The best news is that we finally found a beer that Megan liked, who referred to the drink as "really delicious." And Martin van Buren was President in 1840. Yay for non-sequiturs.
Anyhow, the main course was awesome--my meat platter was great, very well-prepared and well-presented. Apologies for the dark pictures that do not do the presentation justice. The sauerkraut and red cabbage were perfect complements to the wursts and the meatball was delicious. Of the wursts, I think I'd have to say that the vealwurst was my favorite. Megan thoroughly enjoyed the sauerbraten (German pot roast) and the spaetzle (German pasta). I tried a couple bites myself and was equally impressed.
No sooner did my meat-coma commence that it was time for dessert. Megan and I split a slice of the German Chocolate Cake. It served as a fine conclusion to the meal, if not an entirely memorable one.
I would be negligent if I didn't take the time to discuss the service at Hallo Berlin. The waiter, Thomas, was incredible in my opinion. An older gentleman, what he lacked somewhat in speed, he more than made up for with his dry, European sense of humor and his conversational style. A job well done indeed.
Hallo Berlin is not without its flaws. We felt the prices were a little outrageous. While the sauerbraten was really good, for example, I guess I didn't really see what made it a $20 plate of food. All this means though is that Hallo Berlin is a place best left for special occasions, or times when you just feel like splurging. Be prepared to pay handsomely--for the four of us, the bill came to a cool $180 including tax and tip.
Overall, our trip to Hallo Berlin was a great success. Where else in the Binghamton area can you get authentic German beer served to you in mugs larger than your head? Where else can you get authentic German food served to you by a subtly hilarious German waiter? Expect to throw down a fair bit of cash, but a visit to Hallo Berlin is definitely an experience the likes of which very few restaurants in the Triple Cities can offer.