Hoboken, Hudson County, New Jersey 07030
Here are a couple of interesting facts I learned about Oktoberfest from the label on a bottle of Sam Adams' Oktoberfest one of my all-time favorite beers:
1. In Germany Oktoberfest is actually in September.
2. The best selling Oktoberfest beer in the world is Sam Adams' Oktoberfest (what a surprise they would write this on their own label).
Unfortunately I missed the Helmers' Oktoberfest Party on Thursday October 18 because I was home studying for the GMAT. But after finally completing the grueling exam this past Saturday Ashley and I wanted to go out for a celebratory dinner–not only for the fact that I scored fairly well but also because I wouldn't be bogged down by studying anymore (which coincidentally is why I hadnt written anything for over a week). We chose Helmers because we thought its festiveness this time of year would be fitting for our occasion and we wanted to make up for the night we missed there.
When we arrived we grabbed drinks at the bar while waiting for a table. Helmers has an extensive beer menu which is one of the main reasons why it is one of my favorite hangouts. I ordered a Paulaner and Ashley ordered a of Framboise Lambic–a sweet raspberry beer (although it doesn't taste like beer) that Helmers has on tap. As we sipped our drinks we surveyed the scene watching the plates of food being served to the tables and trying to decide what we were in the mood for.
By the time we had nearly finished our drinks we were called to be seated. As always our waiter was pleasant and friendly as were the bartenders who had served us.
Now if you love to gorge yourself with fried onion rings then you need to try Helmers Bavarian Onion Rings. This appetizer is nothing more than a huge mound of razor-thin slivers of fried onions. It looks almost like a funnel cake and definitely has a "wow" effect when it arrives to the table. It is probably too much for just 2 people but we finished it anyway. It would have been nice if they gave us something to dip them in though we ate them so fast we didnt notice at the time. When we finished we noticed how soaked in grease the napkin was beneath the onion rings. Wow.
Ordering the main course was easy for Ashley but difficult for me. It was easy for her because she knew she wanted the Bauernwurst and Bacon Salad after she saw someone else eating it the last time we were there. It was difficult for me because I am by no means an expert on German food so deciphering the menu was a bit difficult. I didnt think the menu was descriptive enough for someone who doesn't know the difference between wurst and schnitzel however our waiter was extremely accomodating and helped me decide on the Wurst Platter so I could sample a few different things.
Ashelys salad was hearty helping of mixed greens and vegetables topped with chunks of bauernwurst–which looks and tastes almost like keilbasa–each wrapped with a thin slice of smoked bacon. Although a salad it was a full meal (though lighter than most other selections on the menu). Ashley said she would definitely order it again sometime soon.
My meal was a platter of 3 assorted wursts (which are German-style sausages): bratwurst, knackwurst and weisswurst. I didnt know which one was which so I identified them as the white one the grey one and the pink one. The sauerkraut on the side was smooth and almost velvety–it was by far the best sauerkraut Ive ever had. In the middle of the platter was a plop of mashed potatoes smothered in gravy–also excellent. We were also given three different kinds of mustard for dipping–one that was sweet and mild one that was sweet and a little spicy and one that was "hot" (though it really wasnt that bad). All three were pretty good and it was fun to dip the different kinds of wurst in all the different mustards. In case you didnt know guys love condiments.
My second beer was a Weihenstephan which is another great beer that I drink all the time (they also have it on tap at Maxwells). Although I have been drinking it for years I only learned how to pronounce its name properly that night from out waiter.
As for the different kinds of wurst their flavors varied. The pink one which I later found out was the knackwurst tasted almost like a hot dog–it was good but nothing I hadnt tasted before. The white one (weisswurst) was a bit bland but it dressed up nicely with some mustard gravy and onions. The grey one which was the bratwurst was my favorite–it was delicious and I would probably order a meal that features bratwurst specifically next time I eat there.
As usual our experience at Helmers was both fun and educational. I guess you could say that Helmers takes traditional German food and "jazzes it up" a bit–somehow the restaurant has managed to put together a perfect mix of tradition and modernness.
It was a big heavy meal so afterward we had to go home to digest for a little while. Then we walked down to 3 Forty Grill to have a few martinis. 3 Forty Grill is one of my favorite restaurants in Hoboken and sometimes we also go there to drink martinis in their lounge area when we are in the mood for that sort of thing. The atmosphere is dark and trendy with the standard electronic lounge music setting the mood in the background. While we were there I noticed that people who work at lounges always seem so serious–they don't smile much. It was a sharp contrast from the atmosphere at Helmers' where the lighting is bright and all the employees have smiles on their faces. Wouldn't you expect the German restaurant to be the serious one?
OLDER REVIEW PRE-FIRE:
Monday to Thursday: 11:30 a.m. - 11:00 p.m.
Friday & Saturday: 11:30 a.m. - midnight
Sunday: 2:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.
Reviewed by The Woodman
A few things come to mind when you walk in the doors of Helmer's Cafe´, my first two: Did I just walk into the back door of the local VFW hall? When I move to the suburbs I want the bar in my basement to look exactly like Helmers. Located on the corner of 11th and Washington in Hoboken for over 65 years, little has changed and that's one of the things that make this dining experience so unique. Serving authentic German food and boasting a lengthy(150++) beer list(18 on Tap) Helmers can satisfy all sorts of palates.
My guests and I arrived on a Saturday night around 7:30 and found an interesting crowd already knee deep in beer and bratwurst. The bar dining area seats about 50 plus 10 or so seats at the bar. It is interesting to note that many regular patrons prefer to eat at the bar(probably to keep them as close to that beer selection as possible). This is the room that we sat in and got a true sense of the old world ambience. I could write a whole page on the beer alone(great idea!!..next time) Many patrons come often just for the beer(I think my local pharmacist has a room there).
We sat at the bar and ordered some Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest, a seasonal draft currently available on tap, which was a nice treat. I followed it up with an old, yet rare favorite of mine, Magic Hat # 9 from Vermont. As my cousin and I savored the sampling of tap beers the girls reminded us that we were there for dinner(oops) and our table was ready. It was a difficult task to leave the bar and its beer list that is one of the finest in the NYC area, but the waitress reminded us that we could order beer from our table too!! (Whew)
Having experienced a Helmers entree before the four of us skipped appetizers. However, I have had the Leber-Kaese, which is a grilled type sausage on the spicy side. I also recently ordered a sampling plate of German sausages(wurst), which wasn't on the menu, as an appetizer and they were happy to oblige. German Wurst is very unique and can be made from anything from pork to veal with a variety of spices inside. Feel free to ask the helpful wait staff for advice on ordering wurst and don't forget the mustard!!
The entree´ menu is very large and can be a bit overwhelming. The good news is that the newcomer to Helmer's cant go wrong with the German Specialties. We each ordered one entree´ from this menu. The Oktoberfest Platter is the Grand Slam of Helmers. It is massive in portion including: 2 Wurst, Baurenwurst(sort of a spicy hot dog) and Weisswurst(an excellent white wurst made from veal), a thick smoked pork chop and a glob of mashed potatoes with gravy and onions. In amazement my cousin finished the entire platter as I reached for my phone to call a cardiologist. Next up was the classic Wienerschitzel. Don't be scared by the name, all it consists of is a pounded veal cutlet lightly breaded and pan fried with a fried egg on top. This is a very plain yet tasty dish for German cuisine, normally served without gravy. The last two meals were Scwabische and Jaeger Schnitzel. The two are very similar: the aforementioned breaded veal smothered in a thick brown sauce and topped with bacon and mushrooms (Scwabishe) and onions and mushrooms (Jaeger). Either choice is highly recommended. Order a side dish of Spaetzle to go with the brown gravy from the veal dishes. Spaetzle is a dough like side dish and is somewhere between egg noodles and fresh pasta. Germans serve this like we serve rice or potatoes with a dish and it goes best with gravy. We skip desert in lieu of more beer..But if you have the room don't miss the Black Forest Cake or Struedel.
Overall the four of us rated our meals a 9 out of 10. The beer menu an 11. Whether you are in the mood for an authentic German meal or the largest European beer list in town, you can't go wrong. Helmer's is the type of place you don't go to once a week, but every time you leave you find yourself asking..Why don't I come here more often? I will!