In one of my favorite films, Sahara (1943), there is a scene between a German POW and an Italian POW. The Italian says something derogatory about Adolf Hitler and the German goes wild and says, "You insult the Fuehrer!" To which the Italian replies, "That would take an artist. I am just a mechanic." Let's move forward to Oktoberfest 2014 at Johnny's Dock in Tacoma. Today I am merely a mechanic. That was the worst German food my wife and I have ever eaten.
We were at Johnny's to celebrate Peg's birthday and enjoy German food with Peg's friend Joanne and Peg's sister, Pat. Both Peg and Pat graduated from high school in Germany. Peg and I have had many meals at the old Bavarian in North Tacoma as well as Vierthaller's outside of Sumner and other German restaurants and delis in Tacoma. We would usually visit Spring Lake Café in Fircrest, where we've celebrated before with excellent German music and food.
Our schedules didn't match up with Spring Lake this year, so going down the list of Oktoberfest celebrations in Tacoma, we landed at Johnny's Dock. We've dined there before, so were really looking forward to Oktoberfest.
Our waiter was Tom, who did a great job for us. I ordered my standard Shirley Temple with my usual warning, "Your tip depends upon the number of cherries." A Shirley Temple is essentially 7-Up or Sprite with maraschino cherries and syrup that colors the soda reddish. Tom delivered the initial glass and a subsequent refill with three or four cherries along with a small ramekin filled with additional cherries.
My first indication that the German food might have problems was when I asked about the seasoned "brot" mention on the Oktoberfest menu and found out it was just the standard French bread served with any meal at Johnny's.
The second indication was the "Pop Tart" appearance of the weiner schnitzel. A little squirt of some sort of white gravy does not an authentic schnitzel make. It couldn't have been sitting around since the first of October . . . or could it? And what was really appalling was that the schnitzel was about one third the size of the pancake. The proportion was really off, but since neither had more than a couple of bites taken out of them, it probably didn't really matter.
My pork roast was far and away the best food at dinner. There was quite a bit of it. Luckily, I love the taste of salty packaged brown gravy, so I ate every shred.
The warm German potato salad was passable, but after two bites I'm pretty much through with warm potato salad. What I really like is red cabbage, it's one of the aspects of Oktoberfest I look forward to. Not at Johnny's, however. The red cabbage was served in a little plastic cup instead of being piled onto the plate. I've gone to Safeway before and purchased a large jar of red cabbage for around $2. Perhaps, there has been a shortage of cabbage, lately and it's too expensive to serve in dinner-size quantities. The red cabbage tasted dry like it have been sitting for some time, also.
The bread pudding was the saver. It was cooked perfectly. We bought one dessert and shared with four spoons. It was very, very tasty. It was what I expect from all of the food at Johnny's Dock. Perhaps, German food is completely beyond the cooking staff at Johnny's? Maybe they thought they would be swamped and so they purchased frozen versions of Oktoberfest delicacies and warmed them up in the microwaves . . . well before anyone arrived . . . and we had the left-overs.
Whatever the reasoning behind the Oktoberfest menu at Johnny's it was just plain wrong thinking. Nothing worked. I hope they just forget this madness next year. Stick to the regular menu . . . oh, and what's with the loud rock and roll music blasting away at five in the evening?
Our waiter Tom did a great job. He came by offering more Shirley Temples than I could drink with more cherries than I wanted to eat. He explained, he delivered, in short he did an excellent job. The only problem was he couldn't change anything. I hope he is still there when we return for a regular dinner. Waiters like Tom are worth their weight in gold. They add quality to fine dining and more importantly, they can make a bad meal bearable.
The view, the service, and dessert . . . were reasons to return. Oktoberfest is a reason to never return.