Bread and Brew
Who knew that an authentic-ish German beer hall was what North Mississippi Avenue was missing?
It's often hard to find a seat at Prost!, which opened last fall. The crowd becomes part of the ambiance, which includes thick wooden pillars, a big wood slab of a bar and an assortment of specialty glassware. Part of the fun ordering a beer here is finding out which of the traditional glass vessels it will be served in.
German beer-drinking culture is ancient, and has its esoteric side. Prost! is more of a crowd-pleaser, though. Its 11 taps pour out the Old Masters of German beer, with offerings from Spaten, Franziskaner and Paulaner and one tap that changes weekly.
The food is mostly sausage and sauerkraut, complemented, at times by the adjoining collection of food carts.
The line where Prost! ends and the carts begin is slightly blurry, thanks to a large deck that juts into the lot that holds the tented seating for the carts. You can bring cart food onto the deck, or even into the pub - just don't bring your beer out of bounds.
The hours when all of this comes together are few: for instance, one beautiful sunny afternoon, all the carts were shuttered. A few days later, during an extended cloudburst, the carts were all in business but the bar was closed.
These carts run the gamut from the mainstream - the taco truck Nuevo Mexico - to the offbeat - Sushi Tree's all-vegetarian sushi. The Sugar Cube is selling brownies and cupcakes, and Sellwood's well-loved Garden State has a second location here.
That rainy day, I headed for the Big Egg, which specializes in breakfast sandwiches. Among more tame egg-based sandwiches, this cart has the audacity to take on the creature known as a Monte Cristo, and take it even further over the top.
The Big Egg's version starts with two slices of vanilla-cardamom brioche French toast. Inside is Black Forest ham, an egg and gorgonzola cheese. It's topped with powdered sugar and edged with sweetened breadcrumbs.
Sitting outside, under an awning streaming with rain, and eating this hot, salty, sweet and pungent creation, you experience at one time all that is great and all that sucks about the food cart phenomenon.
Would I ever eat this sandwich with a beer? Why not? You don't worry about appearing excessive when the guy sitting next to you is drinking out of a one-liter stein.
Inspiring the microbrews
Prost!'s beers come in small, medium and large sizes. The small, .3 liter glass works well if you're trying something for the first time. I found the dark Kostritzer Schwarzbier pleasantly toasty, with a slightly bitter edge but none of the heaviness of a stout. Later I had a tall, elegantly curved glass of citrus-tinged, slightly sweet but refreshing Hacker-Pschorr Weisse. On another visit, it was a hefty mug of Spaten Dunkel with a malty glow about it.
The small kitchen sends out bratwurst, curry wurst, smoked sausage and braunschweiger. The bratwurst sandwich features a fine, fat and snappy bratwurst from Tigard's Original Bavarian Sausage on a hot dog bun, smothered in sauerkraut and liberally drizzled with mustard and a curry ketchup. When I was done eating there was a fair amount of everything left on my plate except the bratwurst.
For a snack, there are fresh pretzels, which are more like contorted breadsticks than actual pretzels. They come with two delicious mustards and a little pile of salt.
The local owner of Prost! is part of business partnership that also owns two Prost!s in Seattle, as well as two other pubs, Die Bierstube and Feierabend. With such a strong local brewing scene in Portland, it may seem odd to open a spot here that's dedicated entirely to imports.
On the other hand, it was complex, artfully brewed beers like these that inspired the microbrew movement in the first place.
3 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. Saturday-Sunday, 4237 N. Mississippi Ave., 503-954-2674, entrees $4-$11