“In Germany, they need little excuse for a celebration,” said Tyrolean Inn co-owner Whitney Belvin.
And though some of us missed the May 21st celebration of Maifest—a traditional Bavarian welcoming of the warm season—you can still party German-style via a short drive up Highway 9 to this quaint Ben Lomond restaurant.
The knotty-pine interior, beer mugs hanging from the ceiling, unique clocks on the walls, decorative beer steins lining the shelves, the beer garden with its statuary, the menus written in German (and English)—all make you feel like you’ve been transported to a little part of Germany.
Whitney and her husband Chuck are the third owners of the Tyrolean Inn. The original owners, Tony and Joyce Wolf, opened a deli in the location 40 years ago. Then Gabi and Dieter Seider, who were from Munich, took over until they “were ready to throw in the towel,” according to Whitney.
For Whitney and Chuck, “It started out as an investment opportunity for the entire property which has several rentals.” Consequently, they suddenly found themselves as restauranteurs.
“While we had no experience running a restaurant,” Whitney said, “we knew from being restaurant patrons that it’s all about good food, atmosphere, and service.”
They created an atmosphere that emphasized German culture and one that welcomes everyone, including kids and pets on the outdoor patio.
“We keep the kids bounce house up every night that we're open,” Whitney said. “We often have guests call just to make sure it’s up so their kids can enjoy themselves, too. If the kids aren't up for bouncing, we have a great kids’ play area. Plus they love getting their pictures taken with all our statuary.”
And then there’s the food.
The Parkers played it smart and kept Chef Greg Magnusson, who has been the chef at the Tyrolean Inn for 17 years.
Magnusson has a long history as a chef in the restaurant industry. He previously cooked at the Hollins House in Santa Cruz and at the historic and prestigious Cliff House in San Francisco.
The Tyrolean Inn menu is loaded with all sorts of German treats, from appetizers of Geräucherte Forelle (smoked trout), Heißes Bauernschmankerl (toasted German farmer’s bread with garlic, bacon, tomato and mozzarella) and Weisswurst mit Breze (a traditional Munich dish of boiled Bockwurst served with mustard and a soft pretzel) to entrées that include Sauerbraten (marinated roast served with red cabbage and bread dumpling), Jägerschnitzel (pork cutlets in a creamy mushroom sauce, served with spätzle and vegetables) and Pfeffersteak (Black Angus New York steak with crushed peppercorns, bacon and red wine sauce, served with potatoes and vegetables).
I loved the smoked trout appetizer, which is served with horseradish cream and the toasted German farmer’s bread from . I also like the way Chef Magnusson prepares his spätzle—a German-style pasta. I’ve had it at other restaurants where it was simply boiled. But Magnusson does a secondary preparation of browning the spätzle in a little butter and fresh herbs. It’s very yummy!
Whitney said her favorite dish is “by far” the Schweinshaxe, or pork knuckle.
“It’s the ‘elbow’ of a pig leg,” Whitney explained. “It’s slow roasted for four hours and has a crispy shell on the outside, and the meat falls off the bone. It’s served with a bread dumpling, brown gravy and sweet and sour red cabbage.”
She said Chuck’s favorite is the Wienerschnitzel—pounded pork cutlets, lightly breaded and fried.
“Every bite deserves a fresh squeeze of lemon,” she said. “And it’s the closest thing to abalone without the abalone price.”
Whitney said what she enjoys most about owning and operating the Tyrolean Inn is that it’s fun.
“Dining at the Tyrolean is like going to a different world,” she said. “The staff dress in traditional German clothes (dirndls for the gals), we have lots of ‘kitsch’ on the walls, we have eight German beers on tap, we play old Bavarian folk music. People come for the great food, but it’s also the entire experience of being in Germany right here in our back yard.”
FYI: The Tyrolean Inn will be open Memorial Weekend on Saturday for dinner from 4 to 10 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 9 p.m. They are closed Monday.