My only real experience concerning 'authentic' eastern European beer halls has been a few nights in the Astoria Beer Garden in Queens, a seasonal delight. At the Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden, one can enjoy grilled burgers and kielbasa, pitchers of Hoegarden and, on occasion, some fine pierogi. Bohemian's space is mostly outdoors and closes once the cold weather hits.
Last night I had the good fortune to visit Bohemian's counterpart, Radegast Hall in Brooklyn, more German than eastern European and possessed of a slightly more elaborate menu. Also, the venue is indoors, a cavernous hall filled with wooden communal tables. Decor includes waitresses in ridiculous Heidi-esque costumes, wooden posts and beams, vaulted ceilings with old-looking chandeliers, and a general feeling of medievalness.
Do not visit Radegast for the barely adequate service. That would be a mistake. Visit Radegast for the thirty-or-so beers on tap, the nightly beer specials, or, just in time for winter, for their delicious mulled wine. Choose white or red (we chose white) and for your patience you will receive a stout glass full of warm wine, honey, cinnamon, and cloves. It's the kind of cocktail one can imagine coarse, unshaven warriors enjoying after an afternoon of plundering.
No beer garden adventure would be complete without snacks and Radegast has plenty of those. The grill station offers burgers, sausages, fries, and pulled pork. The pork is slow cooked for nearly a day and topped with onions that have been slow cooking as well in some kind of outstanding ketchup reduction.
As for the regular menu, expect hearty and heart-stopping selections, from pate on down. We enjoyed steak tartare, served finely chopped beneath a raw egg yolk and with the traditional condiments of worcestershire sauce, onion, cornichon, and whole grain mustard. Bread and butter pickles, caramelized pearl onions, and walnuts accompanied a creamy chicken and duck liver pate. Raisin walnut bread, hot cherry peppers, and fresh charcuterie--two versions of sopressata and one speck--brightened a cheese plate (six cheeses, ranging from very soft to very hard, none of which were ever explained to us).
The plates, billed as appetizers, were all very large and very affordable, falling in the 8-12 dollar range. We would have been fine with one fewer dish, but that wouldn't have been nearly as fun. Given the medieval setting, it felt appropriate to overindulge. After all, we're all just trying to store up for winter.
Radegast Hall and Biergarten
113 N. 3rd Street
Williamsburg, NY 11211