Wedged between Public Bar and Shake Shack, in the nebulous area between Dupont Circle and Downtown, is the month-old Sauf Haus Bier Hall, the hottest, noisiest place I’ve been to in years. Read on …
If you got a knock on the head, and woke up inside of Sauf Haus on a busy night, you might briefly think you were at Eighteenth Street Lounge. I passed a young customer-counter outside, then walked up long flight of stairs to get there (it’s on top of Shake Shack), and immediately got in a three-person line for what turned out to be a surprisingly nice unisex restroom. As I reached the front of the line, a rather desperate-looking young girl asked me if she could go in and quickly wash her hands, and I said of course (props to her because she really was in there for about fifteen seconds, giving me a thankful nod on the way out).
But it’s odd to me why someone here would want to wash their hands because this place is a *dive*! There is but one plausible explanation which I shall address in a moment.
Sauf Haus was packed, and I mean Eighteenth Street Lounge packed, so I was stunned to see one, single barstool available, and nabbed it pronto (thus not seeing the rooftop patio and bar). It was very hot in there, perhaps eighty degrees, so a cold beer was starting to sound awfully good.
This was a very young, boisterous crowd, probably averaging in their late 20s, and with very few people over 40. Umm …
Which is why I was so surprised – no, make that shocked – to see their beer selection. All-German, and 16 taps pumping out ice-cold half-liters and liters of some very worthy beers – names like Stiegl, Franziskaner, Weihenstephaner, Hoffbrau, and Spaten (which my auto-correct just changed to Spittoon). Honestly, I thought I counted 18 taps when I was there, but everywhere I fact-checked online says 16, so we’ll go with that number for now.
Not immediately realizing how German this place was in spirit, I ordered a “pint” of König Ludwig Dunkel Weiss ($8), and got served my beer perfectly poured into a Weizen glass. Yes, it was served too cold, but it was hot enough in the bar where you wanted your beer nice and frosty.
I’m not sure how many decibels were flying around Sauf Haus last night, but have you ever seen those conversion tables? The ones where 30db equal a quiet library whisper at 6 feet distance? Well, this would have come out somewhere between a motorcycle and a sandblaster – I was shocked to see the sign that said “60 Maximum Capacity,” although the room was not all that large, so 50 people bouncing their shouts off the walls can make a lot of noise.
They have sausages on the menu here which, I believe, are locally sourced, but the thing that attracted my attention (recall now the young girl washing her hands) was the large, blue, circular plastic tray on my left which contained the single largest pretzel I’ve ever seen. This pretzel was so big that if you unraveled it, it would probably be about a yard long, and it had the thickness of a russet potato, or a girl’s arm.
Looking at the menu, I saw these pretzels in addition to the sausages, and they sell three sizes: 1) two little ones, 2) a one-pound pretzel, and 3) a two-pound pretzel. Yes, a two-pound pretzel – for twenty dollars! Apparently, these are baked at Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe, and having been to Heidelberg dozens of times before, I believe it. I’m assuming the pretzel on my left was the two-pounder, but quite frankly, I’m surprised it only weighs two pounds.
I finished most of my beer, then hopped off my barstool, headed back down the stairs, and went out into the night.
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