Step into the mammoth space that is Paulaner(265 Bowery; 212-780-0300) and you may forget you’re in New York City. The ceilings are high and vast, the never-ending communal tables could seat even the largest party of chanting German football fans, and gleaming copper vats of bubbling beer barely even make a dent in the space between the bar and dining room. It’s the kind of place that seems a touch out of sorts on the Bowery, with its raucous nightly energy and, again, largeness standing out next to its somewhat subdued neighbors. That is, until you taste the food, which has all of the attention and precision you’d expect more from a mom-and-pop menu crafted from the most old-school of Bavarian German souls.
There are many dishes worthy of trying, like a bright, chilled pea soup with delicate chiffonade swirls of mint; fluffy yet chewy baked pretzels with Bavarian cheese spread; ethereally light spaetzle with vegetables; or a crisp but yielding pork knuckle you wanna bring home and call your own. But for something truly special, go to town on the sausage sampler and sauerkraut.
The selection may change the night you’re there, but a recent combo featured weisswurst, bratwurst, and merguez, all nestled on a bed of sauerkraut with a trio of mustards. The weisswurst is soft and gentle, unsmoked, the meat and herbs somehow becoming creamy. The bratwurst — traditional in the best sense of the word — is slightly spicy, and rich without being overwhelming. The merguez, with its crisp skin and fragrant balance of warm spice, offers a slightly more heated and rather exotic bite. It’s the kind of plate that’s perfect for a group with very large beers in hand, washing down a long day or smoothing the stomach for a long night ahead.
The Village Voice is counting down to our Best of New York City issue in October. We’re combing the city every day, one dish at a time, to guide you to the most delicious food in NYC. These are our 100 Favorite Dishes for 2015, in no particular order, save for the top 10. To read about previous dishes, browse our 100 Favorite Dishes page.