Sunday, June 04, 2006

Hagerstown's Schmankerl Stube Bavarian Restaurant

This post relates to two wonderfully divergent entities at once: a quite formal old-school German Restaurant and the Western Maryland Blues Festival, both right in the heart of Hagerstown, Maryland. First the blues fest, which was in Hagerstown's City Central lot: On the bill were Sugar Ray Norcia and the Bluetones, the Holmes Brothers, Tab Benoit, John Lee Hooker, Jr. and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Having missed lunch, it was clear to me upon arriving at 2:30,that I'd enjoy the next seven hours a lot more if I first addressed my hunger and thirst by the best means available.

That meant quickly slipping away from my pals, who were happy with fare from numerous festival vendors. It also meant missing the first half of an exceptional set by Sugar Ray Norcia and the Bluetones, exiting Hagerstown's City Central lot, and walking two blocks to 58 South Potomac Street for sausage and brew at Schmankerl Stube Restaurant.

Even at the off-hour of 3 p.m., Schmankerl Stube had a few patrons, but none with the yellow wrist-bands from the fest. For beer, I went with a Paulander Salvator (Doppel Bock) on tap. If any other brew exists that could me more to my liking, I'd like to know about it. Then came my food, a $12 appetizer that sampled four different sausages, each cut into three slices. The sausages were Debreziner (pork and beef), Knackwurst (pork, beef, and garlic), Weisswurst (veal), and Bratwurst (pork and veal). Accompanying them were small cups of two different mustards and a curry sauce. Not long, and I was ready to head back for Sugar Ray.

The second part of Sugar Ray and the Bluetones was great. After that, the Holmes Brothers put on a terrific rendition of their soul/gospel style of blues. Tab Benoit followed with a strong mix of his swampy blues, rock, Cajun, and everything New Orleans, pretty much electrifying the crowd and confirming his emerging stature at the pinnacle of the blues world. At some point, I encountered my friend George, who was inviting everyone to meet him later on at a table in Schmankerl Stube's outdoor Biergarten.

John Lee Hooker, Jr. followed Tab, and since he would be at Baltimore's 8x10 the next night, I figured now would be a good time to head back to the Schmankerl Stube and and look for George. His table in the beer garden was already full, so I ended up again at the bar, happily kibbutzing with a a whole new crowd of blues lovers. For brew, I chose Hacker Pschorr Marzen (Octoberfest) and enjoyed it every bit as much as the Paulander. The menu tempted me with the likes of veal shank, pork shank, and it even had a vegetarian selection that included zucchini, broccoli, beans, carrots, celery, and potatoes in a "spiced" tomato sauce "overbaked" with parmesan cheese. However, being just a couple hours post-sausage, I limited myself to a simple salad of lettuce topped with almonds. It was time now to get back to the City lot for a killer finale by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.

Though perhaps a bit formal and genteel for some blues people, Schmankerl Stube Bavarian Restaurant had almost as much to do as the music with making yesterday afternoon particularly memorable. Their web site includes everything you might want to know about except the prices. Take it from me, they're fair. Check it out: