August is the pride of the Heidelberg Inn at 35 Ellis street. All you can see from the street as you pass around the corner from Market, is a sign and some stairs leading down into a basement, but do not draw back just because it is a basement restaurant, for if you do you will miss one of the very few real Bohemian restaurants of San Francisco. Possibly our point of view will not coincide with that of others, but while there are dozens of other Bohemian restaurants there is but one Heidelberg Inn. Here is absolute freedom from irksome conventionality of other people, and none of the near Bohemianism of so many places claiming the title.
At the Heidelberg Inn one need never fear obtrusiveness on the part of other visitors, for here everybody attends strictly to his or her own party, enjoying a camaraderie that has all the genuine, whole-souled companionship found only where German families are accustomed to congregate to seek relaxation from the toil and worry of the day.
An evening spent in Heidelberg Inn is one replete with character study that cannot be excelled anywhere in San Francisco--and this means that everybody there is worth while as a study, from the little, bald-headed waiter, Heme, and the big, imposing waiter, August, to the "Herr Doctor" who comes to forget the serious surgical case that has been worrying him at the hospital. Here you do not find obtrusive waiters brushing imaginary crumbs from your chair with obsequious hand, nor over zealous stewards solicitous of your food's quality. It is all perfect because it is made perfect by good management. Here are German families, from Grossfader and Grossmutter, down to the newest grandchild, sitting and enjoying their beer and listening to such music as can be heard nowhere else in San Francisco, as they eat their sandwiches of limburger, or more dainty dishes according to their tastes.
One can almost imagine himself in one of the famous rathskellers of Old Heidelberg--not at the Schloss, of course, for here you cannot look down on the Weiser as it flows beneath the windows of the great wine stube on the hill. But you have the real atmosphere, and this is enhanced by the mottoes in decoration and the flagons, stems and plaques that adorn the pillars as well as typical German environment.
It is when the martial strains of "De Wacht am Rhein" are heard from the orchestra, which of itself is an institution, that the true camaraderie of the place is appreciated, for then guests, waiters, barkeepers, and even the eagle-eyed gray-haired manager, join in the swelling chorus, and you can well understand why German soldiers are inspired to march to victory when they hear these stirring chords.
But there is other music--sometimes neither inspiring nor beautiful when heard in a German rathskeller--the music of rag time. If there is anything funnier than a German orchestra trying to play rag-time music we have never heard it. It is unconscious humor on part of the orchestra, consequently is all the more excruciating.
But if you really love good music--music that has melody and rhythm and soothing cadences, go to the Heidelberg Inn and listen to the concert which is a feature of the place every evening. And while you are listening to the music you can enjoy such food as is to be found nowhere else in San Francisco, for it is distinctly Heidelbergian. We asked for the recipe that they considered the very best in the restaurant, and Hirsch, with a shrug of his shoulders, said: "Oh, we have so many fine dishes." We finally got him to select the one prized above all others and this is what Chef Scheiler gave us:
German Sauer Braten
Take four pounds of clear beef, from either the shoulder or rump, and pickle it for two days in one-half gallon of claret and one-half gallon of good wine vinegar (not cider). To the pickle add two large onions cut in quarters, two fresh carrots and about one ounce of mixed whole allspice, black peppers, cloves and bay leaves.
When ready for cooking take the meat out of the brine and put in a roasting pan.