Scholz Garten – The Oldest Bar in Texas
The mission statement of Scholz Garten could be handily summarized via the green wooden sign which sits outside its gate: “Kalt bier und gut bratwurst!”. Perhaps it is the simplicity of the restaurant’s purpose that has helped to keep it open since 1866; its cold lager and delicious German smokehouse-style food has stood the test of time and established itself within the Austin community. Beyond its merit as a restaurant, however, Scholz Garten operates as both the oldest bar in Texas and the oldest biergarten (or “beer garden”) in the United States! If you are in Austin, you gotta hit sup Scholz Garten!
Established by German immigrant and Civil War veteran August Scholz in 1866, both the menu and overall feel of the restaurant has remained largely consistent with the original concept. As with other biergartens, guests are seated in the large outdoor area which features a stage, several shared tables (spaced appropriately), and a good deal of shade put off by the patio umbrellas and a local tree. The atmosphere is inviting and encourages good conversation between friends and family, allowing people to discuss their days and plans just like those who lived 155 years ago.
Patrons can expect to be served Wednesday – Sunday from noon to 8 PM, with COVID currently cutting down on their occupancy limit to allow for safe distancing in seating. Scholz Garten does catering services to guests, as evident in the cute red electric truck parked outside most of the time. In line with its history as a social gathering place, the biergarten continues to host its “Happy Appy” from 3-5 PM Wednesday – Friday in which starters for the table, cocktails, and wine are served for just $5.
While missing this deal by a day, my family decided we couldn’t go without trying one of Scholz Garten’s signature dishes: a giant Bavarian pretzel which serves 2-4 people. Considering my only experience eating a giant pretzel consisted of those tough and stale things they serve at the mall food court this blew my mind. Fresh, soft, and chewy, this colossus of a pretzel is served with special Dusseldorf mustard and Scholz Garten’s own Bier Cheese sauce.
Next on the appetizer list were the Sauerkraut Balls: a deep-fried mixture consisting of seasoned mashed potatoes and the item’s signature ingredient of pickled cabbage. As with all dishes we were served, the presentation and overall quality was top-notch. As an appetizer, it came served with Scholz Garten’s homemade mustard and a side of sour cream.
For those who are lacking in experience with German food and wanting to dip their toes in the water (like myself), the Currywurst was especially delicious. As a common street food and one of their national dishes, this dish is perfect for picky eaters (it’s essentially just fries and saucy sausage…) or those wanting to try a taste of Deutschland.
The Scholz Haus burger, as ordered by my grandmother, is an item on the menu which keeps things simple yet still finds a way to make itself unique. Featuring all of the toppings of a typical burger, the bier sauce and German-style mayo as well as the freshness of the angus beef patty elevated it to the next level.
Although the menu is large and encapsulates much of Germany, a great deal of it is a sausage fest with options ranging from rabbit & antelope to vegan wursts available for sale. Pick a topping, pick a sauce, and pair it all with Scholz Garten’s crispy waffle fries whose addictiveness rivals that of a certain chikin restaurant and you’ve got a recipe for success which has lasted over a century. My aunt opted for the Veganwurst with caramelized onions and Dusseldorf mustard; having tried it I can say that it was almost indistinguishable from their meat-based sausages in taste and texture.
Since 1866, the owners of Scholz Garten have understood the establishment’s importance to its community as a place of friendly discussion and gathering. Apart from anything else, it is Scholz Garten’s identity as a venue for people to eat and laugh together that has allowed it to stay in business for over 155 years and counting; for the sake of good German food in the Austin area let’s hope for many more to come!