For those that don't know, the East Side has been in New Britain serving absolutely delicious German food for something like a century (yes, a century), the last 70-75 years in its present location on Dwight Street.
The place takes kitch to a new level. There are beer steins and brickerbrack literally everywhere; the male staff wears leiderhosen and the ladies look like Heidi; there is a giant mural of Heidelberg in the main dining room (my wife lived in Heidelberg and said the mural is right on); there is um-pa-pa music like you'd hear at Octoberfest on a constant loop; and if you order a full liter of beer the entire staff comes to your table and says (OK, yells) "when you order the big beer, you get the big cheer! Ticky-tacky, ticky-tacky, hoy! Hoy! Hoy! Ticky-tacky, ticky-tacky Hoy! Hoy! Hoy!"
This would all be WAY, WAY, WAY over the top if the food was not so amazing. The food, however, is that amazing. In fact, if you haven't eaten at the East Side, you haven't really lived.
We started our lunch with the complimentary cottage cheese and coleslaw, which you spoon on to as many saltines as you can stuff into your face. This sounds silly, but the cottage cheese is tangy and delicious and the coleslaw is made with a vinaigrette rather than with mayo, which makes it very light and refreshing (and a perfect pallette cleansor). The first time I went to the East Side I had to be warned about not overdoing it and I have seen many others fall prey to the same temptation.
The other pre-dinner trap at the East Side is the wonderful mini-loaf of light rye bread (served with fresh butter) that magically appears on your table and then reappears as quickly as you and your companions can devour it (:>).
I started with a liter of Warsteiner Pilsner (thus entitling our table to the "ticky-tacky" cheer). A liter is quite a bit of beer (more than 2 1/2 bottles of beer, in fact) but the Warsteiner Pilsner is so crisp and light that it goes right down. There are about a dozen very German beers on the menu (including 3 different varieties of Spaten) and some American brews as well (why anyone would go to the East Side and order a Long Trail or a Bud is completely beyond me). I have had most of the German beers and they are all delicious, but I really like the Hofbrau Original (accurately billed as "the original brew of Bavarian Kings. Full bodied and well balanced".).
All the lunch dishes come with a choice of soup or salad and my mother-in-law and I had the onion soup (my wife and my mother-in-law's friend had the salad (???)). German-style onion soup differs from French onion soup in a couple of key respects. First, there is no wad of cheese or bread, which means it is not a meal in and of itself. Second, it uses either a vegetable or chicken broth, not a beef broth. My mother-in-law and I both though the soup was tasty. Honestly, I don't care how the salads were.
For dinner, I had the sauerbraten and the ladies each had the jager sehnitzel. I was hoping the ladies would all have different dishes so I could talk about a bunch of things, but there you have it (:<).
For the uninitiated, sauerbraten is marinated beef in a sour cream sauce. It is even more delicious than it sounds and the East Side's sauerbraten has the distinction of being plenty tender, but still retaining enough texture that it doesn't dissolve into the rich sour cream sauce.
The sauerbraten also comes with red cabbage (actually red cabbage turns blue when you cook it, so it is necessary to add an acid, typically vinegar, to keep it red) which is just amazing. I also had a choice of a traditional dumpling, a potato pancake, or spatzle, which is an egg noodle. I chose the dumpling, but I wished I had gone with the potato pancake (see below).
Jager sehnitzel consists of veal escalope (a fancy word for thinned using a mallet, roller, or knife handle), which is breaded and fried, then covered in a brown mushroom sauce. It is every bit as rich and delicious as it sounds, with the different textures of the veal, the breadcrumbs, mushrooms, and brown sauce coming together like a symphony. I had a taste of my wife's lunch and it was amazing (A quick aside. My wife almost always makes the better menu choice, so I was pretty satisfied with myself today when she said that she loved her meal, but wished she'd ordered the sauerbraten).
The jager sehnitzel also comes with a side dish and my wife and my mother-in-law had the spatzle, while my mother-in-law's friend had the potato pancake. I am not a big fan of spatzle, but my my wife is and she thought it was delicious. The potato pancake was excellent; brown and crispy on the outside and white and soft on the inside (you also get complimentary apple sauce and sour cream).
For desert I had the bananna cream pie, which is made with real bananas and real whipped cream (:>)(:>). The East Side also makes a great cocount cream pie (also a double (:>)). The ladies had the German chocolate cake. It is absurdly delicious, especially because it has a layer of carimel and cocunut in the middle (about 5 (:>)'s).
The East Side has separate lunch and dinner menus which have a variety of German and "American" dishes (why anyone would go to the East Side and not order German food is beyond me). They also have a take out menu and a separate menu for the outdoor "Beer Garden" that was recently constructed on the roof.
One of the best parts about the East Side is that it is not expensive, especially in light of the quality and quantity (the portions are large). Today, our bill (before tip) was $100. When you consider that that there were four entrees and appetizers, three deserts, and essentially 3 beers on the tab, that's pretty good.
I know New Britain is not the hub of local fine dining but there are very few restaurants in Connecticut where you will eat as well or have as much fun as you will at the East Side. So, go there as soon as you can, stuff your face with saltines with cottage cheese and coleslaw, order a liter of beer, and sit back and enjoy a great ride and a great meal.
Here is a link to the East Side's website - http://www.eastsiderestaurant.com/index.html