This is the second part of an ongoing series covering Harry Lyons’ Bill of Fare, an out-of-print book guide to Hawaii’s finest restaurants, featuring dining tips, cartoons and recipes. Harry Lyons was the editorial cartoonist for the Honolulu Advertiser throughout the 60’s and 70’s.
Note that, being this book was published in 1972, many of the eateries featured in it are no longer in business, including Beethoven’s Fifth, which was formerly in the downtown Honolulu area.
Review by Harry Lyons
92 North King Street
“In the center of the City of Honolulu we would like to give you a quiet and good meal with what we call “Gemutlichkeit.” We do not want to be a quick service center. However, we aim to serve you good, fast and most of all individually.”
With these words on his bill of fare, owner Pete Birnbaum spells out the philosophy of his warm, cheerful, very German restaurant smack in the heart of downtown Honolulu.
They so serve you a “quiet and good” meal, but BEETHOVEN’S FIFTH is anything but somber. The tavern-like atmosphere is alive with the sounds of piped-in German music and occasionally punctuated with the happy chirps of heavy wood cuckoo clocks from the Black Forest announcing the happy hour. Another sound you can count on is a happy hum of conversation.
People are relaxed and satisfied here. The food is hearty but never heavy. The tablecloths are red-checked, the dark beams rich and rugged. A bust of Beethoven surveys the scene from its perch in the center of the room. Big oil paintings and a tapestry of a stag at bay share space on the walls with huge wooden hogshead casks.
Over the busy bar hang big porcelain beer mugs, Lowenbrau steins and old hunting horns. This is the only German restaurant in town at this writing, and Herr Birnbaum has spared no effort to give it the atmosphere and warmth of a hospitable Bavarian inn.
Settle down at a cozy table or a soft black leather booth. At night, thumb through the little heavy leather-bound menu. The parchment pages are divided into both English and German descriptions of their offerings.
BEETHOVEN’S FIFTH is open for both luncheon and dinner. At noon, business is brush with downtown Honolulu’s business trade. I love the soup here, made with lentil with sweet-sour taste, and ham and pruned added. Wunderbar! Entrees include bratwurst, knackwurst, German pot roast of beef, Bavarian liver sauté, eggs Benedict, a Rueben sandwich or cold sausage salad.
Sauerkraut, potatoes, apple rings, onions, spatzle, salads and cheeses are artfully combined with the above to offer a vast and varied luncheon menu.
Dinner welcomes you with the lentil soup, Hungarian Goulash soup, liver dumpling soup, or a tasty appetizer of a filled patty shell with ragout fin and asparagus. There are specials offered Monday through Saturday (closed Sunday) and they include treats like Veal Cutlet ala Holstein with fried egg, anchovies and capers on Monday, veal and pork meatballs in supreme sauce with capers, white wine and fine herbs on Wednesday, and Veal Cordon Bleu stuffed with ham and Emmentaler cheese on Friday. Stop by yourself to check on the other entries. They’re excellent.
Veal cutlet, marinated roast beef, liver and onions, knackwurst, smoked pork loin, veal steak and cold sausage platter are here every night.
The rich German desserts are great. A fine selection of imported and domestic beers and wines flow. A LYONS TIP: ask for a “bear-hunter” after your meal. It’s a honey-flavored liqueur with a silky-smooth swallow and a kick like you’ve met up with a Black Forest bruin.
HOT GERMAN POTATO SALAD
2 lbs. potatoes
3 oz. bacon
2 oz. oil
3 oz. vinegar
1-1/2 oz. small diced onion
5 oz. water
1-1/2 oz. chicken base
7 drops egg color
2 tsp. German mustard
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. finely chopped parsley
Slice potatoes thin and boil. Add salt, pepper, parsley, onion and oil. Put water, egg drops, vinegar, German mustard, and chicken base in pot. Bring to boil. Pour over potato salad. Dice bacon and fry very crisp. Pour bacon (including grease) over entire dish. Serves six.
~ Harry Lyons
*This establishment is NO LONGER IN BUSINESS.
While we’re now on the subject of a German restaurant, “Kona” Wally, the Tasty Island reader who reintroduced me to Harry Lyons’ work, spent many years living in Germany while in the armed forces, becoming fluent in the German language. And every time he returned home to the islands, he’d seek out German restaurants to get his fix on the likes of of authentic Schnitzel, various wurst and bier.
Along with Beethoven’s Fifth, other German eateries in Honolulu “Kona” Wally has visited in the past (and are no longer around) included:
• Hoffbrauhaus – International Market Place, Waikiki
• Pepi’s Hofbrau – Lewers St., Waikiki
• Bavarian Beer Garden – Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center
• Alpine Haus – Lewers St., Waikiki
• Kaiser Wilhelm’s – “some strip mall”
All those places have been added to the Oahu Eateries Memorialized list.
Unfortunately if you look up German restaurants on Oahu on Yelp, there currently are none, except for the Wurst-Wagen, which is a lunch truck. Being part German myself (my grandfather on my mother’s side was half German, half Hawaiian), I also would love to reconnect with my German roots through the cuisine. If you’re aware of a restaurant on Oahu (or on any Hawaiian island) that serves German dishes, please let us know!
On his most recent trip to Honolulu last weekend, Wally tried to hook-up with the Wurst-Wagen lunch truck, however that didn’t pan out due to the storm, and also their location.
In the next installment, Harry Lyons reviews the Blue Dolphin Room…