“The problem with typical German restaurants is they’re dying with their clients, seriously. They’re an older generation. The younger crowd. They don’t know what typical German food is.”
Hans Sitter understands the problem of owning a German restaurant too well. As the owner of King’s Biergarten in Pearland, Sitter has transformed a one-time carwash into a destination of German food, beer, and kitsch that’s one of the Houston-area’s most underrated dining experiences. Despite that success, as he notes, the concept’s appeal is limited.
So Sitter and his son Philipp are changing things up for the new restaurant, King’s BierHaus. Located near the Heights on the border of Shady Acres and Lazybrook/Timbergrove, the new King’s updates the formula and aims to broaden the concept’s appeal. The new restaurant will host a few nights of invite-only previews this week before throwing open the doors to the public on May 8.
“This (restaurant) is really his baby,” Hans Sitter says. “I’m the old fashioned guy and the funny guy, but the operator, the manager, and my partner is really my son. He said, ‘we have to bring more stuff in there. We have to take care of a much wider spectrum of people.’”
As Philipp explains, that means offering customers a family-friendly environment with different sections that provide different experiences. The highlight is a fully-landscaped, lush beer garden with trees, hammocks, picnic tables, and a water feature. It’s a decidedly more lush, bucolic environment than places like Axelrad or the recently opened Heights Bier Garten.
“What we’re trying to do is a modern approach to a German beer garden,” Philipp Sitter says. “What’s the difference between a German beer garden and an American beer garden? We still add the trees, the water, and the atmosphere. If you go to a beer garden in San Francisco, it could be a container with gravel. We’re more the European beer garden style: communal tables, a lot of trees, water, good for families, kids, friends, everything.”
On nice days, Sitter envisions the garden full of customers, eating dishes that range from traditional German fare like sausages and schnitzel to more contemporary fare like an apple pear salad or an on trend fried chicken sandwich topped with Swiss cheese and mushroom sauce. King’s even offers a kale salad. The classic dishes, including most of the sausages, are based on Sitter family recipes that Hans identifies as 150 years old. Recipes for the menu's three vegan sausages are considerably newer, but that's just one way King's wants to appeal to as many people as possible.
“Our staple is sausages and beer, but we go well beyond that,” Philipp sitter says. “Maybe you and I come in, we say, let’s try the goulash next time. Let’s drink a bottle of wine. It’s multi-dimensional like our seating is.”
Those who want to sit inside will find different options, too. A section of smaller tables with individual chairs feels more like a restaurant, while the bar area offers communal tables and lots of TVs.
Another Oktoberfest touch at King’s BierHaus will be the serving style. Similar to places like Hopdoddy, diners will order at a counter when they walk in, then a server will deliver the food, offer refills, and facilitate the rest of the meal. Full service is available at the bar.
“We have the Germanic theme, let’s have the Oktoberfest style of serving,” Sitter explains. “We feel like it marries to our brand well, because it’s themed German.”
The Germanic feel extends to the beverages as well. Of the 31 beer taps, all but five are from Germany. They’re available in regular pints, but Sitter encourages people to go for a half liter or full liter. Groups of two or more can opt for a 2.5L boot — roughly equivalent to an entire 6-pack by ounces; best of all, the $55 price includes taking the boot home.
Diners can learn more about the different beers by ordering a flight of four, four-ounce samples. The selection includes beers brewed at monasteries as well as Weihenstephan Vitus, a noble hefeweizen that’s been rated as the best beer in the world by the World Beer Council.
“Think about a Pauliner or Fraziskaner, but with the flavors amplified by three,” bar manager Keith Taylor explains about the Vitus. “It’s very intense but very delicious . . . I’ve never had anybody try that beer and say they don’t like it.”
Taylor and the Sitters have also sourced almost all of the restaurant’s wines, schnapps, and brandy from Germany and Austria. He’s encouraging customers to try a pear brandy that features a pear grown inside the bottle.
King’s also offers a 50 bottle whiskey list that covers both American and international styles, which draws upon the expertise Taylor displayed during his stint at Hunky Dory. “We plan on eventually bringing it three or four bottles of something awesome (ie, a small batch or highly allocated whiskey),” Taylor says. “Put that on the board. Basically, as soon as it’s gone, we’ll bring something else in.”
As he looks around the empty room, Sitter lays out his vision for what the future might hold. Imagine a full dining room on a Saturday night with live music filling the air and giant boots full of beer hitting the tables.
“If it gets really crowded, we may start introducing people to each other. Give it that real Oktoberfest feel,” Sitter says. “I think Houston is ready for something like that . . . Come, meet your neighbors, have a good time together.”
King's BierHaus, 2044 East T. C Jester Boulevard; 281-990-3042