- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 24, 2008

It’s not yet October, but Oktoberfest is here. The Old Stein Inn in Edgewater is an authentic German haunt year-round, but Oktoberfest creates an even more special reason to visit this southern Anne Arundel County staple.

The well-laid-out, secluded outdoor biergarten is an inviting setting for an evening of laughter and cheer.

Add to that Sylvia, “the strolling accordion player,” who makes the joint feel like a quaint hideout in Germany. Weather permitting, the outdoor experience is a lot of fun with family or friends. (Just make sure to bring a jacket or sweatshirt.) If you are up for a less boisterous atmosphere, plenty of indoor seating is available as well.

The Friday night crowd was in full gear, gleefully participating in a number of sing-alongs to favorite German drinking songs. The inn’s special kickoff celebration coincided with the official start of the Munich Oktoberfest, this year from Sept. 20 to Oct. 5.

Old Stein is featuring plenty of Oktoberfest beers from Erdinger, Paulaner, Ayinger and Warsteiner. An extensive German wine list is available as well.

A special menu for Oktoberfest touts pork shank, wursts (sausages) and smoked pork loin along with some other noteworthy offerings.

“Chef Dirk’s Maultaschen” ($12) was described as German ravioli filled with crab and bacon. This varies from the traditional in that “egg roll” would be a more apt description for these tasty appetizers. Crispy wrappers were stuffed with a lightly seasoned crab filling.

Some might be overwhelmed by Old Stein macaroni and cheese with seafood ($24). The simple name doesn’t do justice to this sophisticated creation. First, it was loaded with seafood: shrimps, scallops, crab and calamari, each cooked to perfection. The “macaroni” actually was fresh, tender spaetzle, and the cheese sauce was more of a broth, very rich and bursting with distinctive Munster flavor in addition to Parmesan. It also is available in a half portion.

Hungarian beef and pork goulash ($15) was thick and hearty, perfect for the cooler evenings that are upon us. Nice chunks of meat, peppers and onions were served up in a thick broth, bursting with caraway seeds and paprika and made even richer with a dollop of sour cream. Hearty mashed potatoes were a filling accompaniment along with a wonderful sweet-sour red cabbage.

An assorted wurst appetizer ($7) is slices of bratwurst, bauernwurst, knackwurst and weisswurst. Thin slices are lightly crisp and bursting with flavor. Spicy German mustard makes a great accompaniment but can easily cover the individual flavors of the different wursts if too much is spread on them.

All of the wursts are available as a platter, which is two sausages, sauerkraut and German potato salad.

Kassler rippchen ($20) is two smoked pork loin chops served with sauerkraut and German potato salad. The fatty chops were smoked nicely, and the German potato salad was a welcome change from our local mayonnaise-based rendition. The sauerkraut was too sweet for someone with a typical American upbringing, in which the sauerkraut generally is bought at a supermarket in a bag or can and little is done to it other than adding water, salt and pepper and heating it - instead of rinsing the brine from the cabbage and cooking it slowly with bacon, wine and a grated apple.

The Old Stein sampler comes with one rinder rolladen (a rolled slice of beef stuffed with vegetables and bacon) a petit pork schnitzel and a Bavarian bratwurst served with spaetzle and red cabbage.

Bavarian apple cheesecake is a standout. It’s topped with wonderful large chunks of baked apple, perfect for the season. A light, flavorful pastry crust showcases the smooth, creamy cheesecake. The Linzer torte, named after an Austrian city, was filled properly with raspberry jam.

The Selinger family, originally from Neustadt an der Weinstrasse in the Rhineland-Palatinate state of Germany, is celebrating 25 years of owning and operating this unique restaurant and bar.

The Old Stein does not take reservations but does have a “call ahead” list: Call one hour before your expected arrival. We had to wait about 15 minutes before a table became available in the biergarten.

RESTAURANT: Old Stein Inn, 1143 Central Ave., Edgewater, Md., 410/798-6807

HOURS: 4 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday and until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday

PRICES: Soups and salads $5 to $10; appetizers $5 to $10; entrees $13 to $24; desserts $5.50

CREDIT CARDS: All major cards

PARKING: On-site

ACCESS: Wheelchair accessible

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