At long last, Tim and Bronwyn Wiechmann (of T.W. Food) opened Bronwyn in Union Square yesterday evening, bringing Central and Eastern European cuisine - in particular, German - to Somerville. After fully gutting the former Ronnarong space plus an adjacent store, the Wiechmanns have created a two-room restaurant with European character that straddles the line between rustic Bavarian beer hall and elegance. Many of the decorations are Wiechmann family heirlooms, such as copper reliefs and sturdy iron light fixtures, and the gothic-style wood and velvet chairs imbue a sense of royalty.
Upon entering Bronwyn through a forcible wooden door, patrons find themselves in the first room, consisting of a bar and several long communal tables. By 6PM yesterday, the seats at the bar were already full; by 9PM, the room was packed with people eating, drinking, and waiting for a table. Turn right at the end of the bar and you'll find yourself in the dining room, all sky blue walls (matching the restaurant's facade) and a mismatched collection of those gothic chairs. Last night, the dining room was almost entirely booked for the duration of the evening. The opening service was full of energy, smiles, groans of delight, and guests waddling out the door appearing satisfied.
When the menu arrives with a sturdy, woven cover and embroidered "B" for Bronwyn, patrons have to work through two sets of options before even reaching the "Starters" section. First, the Brot. There's a bread basket full of oat-honey challah, juniper-sesame crisps, and more, or there's the Giant Haus Bretzel (yes, it's a pretzel) with roasted apple mustard. On opening night, one would have been hard-pressed to find a table not indulging in at least one Bretzel, and these will surely be a staple when the outdoor biergarten opens in the near future.
After the Brot, it's the pun-inducing Wurst section, which has everything from currywurst to zungenblutwurst. These, too, appeared on nearly every table - and disappeared into mouths with record speed.
On to the appetizers. Jewish diners may recognize many names here, from kreplach to knish to schmaltz. But these aren't your Jewish grandmother's holiday dishes (assuming you have one). The knish, for example, is made with foie gras, while the aged cheddar kreplach comes floating in beer soup. As for the schmaltz, it includes pork fat and cracklins. A must-try in this section is the Knödel, which currently features that short-lived seasonal gem, the fiddlehead. It's described as a dumpling, but it's really two slices of bacon bread pudding, sitting in a delicate fiddlehead puree and topped with four sauteed fiddleheads. Equally enticing is the Pierogi, with smoked kale and egg rémoulade.
The main course options are few compared to the rest of the menu; choose from four Nudeln (pasta) dishes and four entrees. But they're certainly not an afterthought, more like a careful curation. Standouts on the current roster include the Blutnudeln (Trentino blood pasta with spring onions and citrus), the Bavarian roast chicken (with citrus-pineapple cure and grilled red cabbage), and Jagerschnitzel (thin veal schnitzel, foraged mushrooms, walnuts, honey). If there's somehow room left for dessert, there's Kaiserschmarrn, a fun-to-pronounce Austrian apple pancake dish, which can be washed down with apple Schnapps, arriving in a tiny stein-shaped shot glass.
On opening night, the dining room was full of families and couples slowly making their way through many courses and mostly sipping wine (or Wein, rather). The Wein list features choices from Germany, Austria, northern Italy, and Central Europe. By the glass, you'll find options like a Kerner from Alto Adige, Italy, a Gelber Muskateller from Austria, and a Plavac Mali from Croatia. Bottles include numerous Rieslings, a couple Grüner Veltliners, and more.
But beer (Bier) was the drink of choice at the bar, and it will surely flow endlessly in the biergarten once that opens. The Bier list features the "traditions of Germany and Central Europe," which allows for the inclusion of German-style beers from elsewhere, even the US. The Leavenworth Eightmile Alt Lager from Washington makes an appearance, for example, as well as the Notch Session Pilsner from Ipswich. There are plenty that are actually from Germany, too.
Months of anticipation led right into a wildly successful opening night, and diner reactions indicate that expectations were met if not exceeded.