Until very recently, a craving for German food would send you on quite a journey just to seek out dinner. It might take you to an establishment in Siloam Springs, Fort Smith or Eureka Springs. But now there's a new German restaurant in town.
Bauhaus Biergarten opened in downtown Springdale in October.
It serves traditional German beer and European wines from a small indoor bar and traditional German sausages and pretzels from a 1967 Airstream trailer in its front yard. Guests choose a picnic table for a communal style of seating, and since it's just a hop, skip and a jump from the Razorback Greenway, the parking includes plenty of spaces for bicycles.
Bauhaus Biergarten is the brainchild of Chef Jennifer Booker, renowned cookbook author and reality TV star, and local organizer Daniel Hintz, who kept bumping into each other. They met at Brightwater culinary school in Bentonville, then again at a James Beard dinner and again at Roots Fest.
"I came back a couple months later, and we were chitchatting about our culinary dreams of a restaurant or bar, of opportunities in Springdale," Booker says. She had invested in property in the area but still resided in Atlanta at the time. "We worked on two concepts, one was Bauhaus and the other was Southern Table."
They went forward with Bauhaus because it was "covid proof," she says. With plenty of outdoor seating, people could order, pick up and leave or have a seat without worrying so much about proximity.
Booker says in that stage she took her time to see how people were eating and wondered for a spell whether they would ever go back to eating inside a traditional restaurant.
Hintz, who had spent much of his recent career in revitalization of area downtowns, has a culinary background. He got to know Booker better while acting as her sous chef a couple of times, once at the Roots Festival. He says they connected over their shared values in hospitality -- that is, they agreed on how to treat people, but that it takes a lot more than that to run a restaurant together.
"I think there's colleagues, there's friends, but how do you become a business partner?" Hintz says. The experiences made it clear that "we enjoyed similar philosophies on culture and kitchen and before the concept, that was the evolution, that we believed in hospitality -- who, why and how you connect."
Hintz says that attracting someone of Chef Booker's caliber is a huge boon for the Northwest Arkansas food scene.
"She has such a broad base of knowledge to add to the talent that was here was a huge component," he says, though it took some convincing to transition her from the "I'll invest" mindset to the "OK, I'll move here" one. "People are excited to have someone of Chef's talent playing (here). It was really fun and brought a lot of energy around. That sustained us."
Though the two share concepts on hospitality, building culture and fostering community with their employees, vendors and customers, they also have to keep each other in check about certain things. Hintz has a tendency to be a big dreamer, and Booker makes it her mission to keep them on budget.
"We can spend a million dollars, that doesn't mean it's good or great," she says. The initial idea and vision is something they have to revisit if the scheming gets away from them. "We were doing German food, music, biergarten."
WHAT TO SERVE
The selections at Bauhaus are meant to challenge the customer to try something they've never encountered before. On the drinks side of things, it's not the kind of place you'll find a standard Michelob or Bud Light, but it's not a craft beer kind of place either.
"We sell only imported beer, that's what makes us unique, and it's a struggle," Booker says. When they first opened, that didn't turn many heads. But now that Bauhaus is regularly selling so much imported German beer and European wines that you can't easily find in Northwest Arkansas, that's changing.
"We're always on the lookout for surprising and cool things," Hintz says, to try "something a little different."
Bauhaus keeps certain selections on draft, such as a recent Shamay that Hintz describes as gorgeous and regionally rare, given that no one else in the state had it on draft.
The pair also incorporates familiar items with a Bauhaus twist during their pop-up menus, like mimosa flights made with "German bubbles," German potato salad, their own iterations of red beans and rice or German sausage in bangers and mash.
To encourage people to try the lesser known things on their menu, Bauhaus started offering a charcuterie plate; that way folks can try a bite or two without having to take a risk on a larger purchase of something they're unsure about.
On the charcuterie are things like blood sausage, head cheese -- a cold cut meat jelly made with the flesh from the head of a calf or pig -- and other things that people say "that sounds terrible, but surprisingly, I like it!" Hintz says.
"We've really created very much a learning environment," Hintz says. "People who have never had German beer, wines...we're expanding people's tastes and reinventing a relationship with things they (thought they) knew."
"We play around with it and see what people love," Booker says. Who knows, you might like Braunschweiger, a sausage made from beef or pork liver.
Still, they did include menu items that they knew would become crowd favorites.
Booker initially didn't want to concede on serving currywurst, the dish that combines two food cultures by covering bratwurst in curry sauce, but "everybody loves it," she says. The same thing goes for pretzels as large as your face -- the one she posted on Instagram is what everyone asks for -- and the beer cheese. "I might as well give up my degree," she jokes.
Both Booker and Hintz wanted a strong focus on the aesthetics of the place, using steins and mugs more than bottles and cans, and Booker really didn't want taps on the wall, but ultimately the drafts do bring in good money. Their compromise was to find a way to incorporate a tap less noticeable by design.
THE GERMAN CONNECTION
Bauhaus is located in the garage of the Monarch, an historic building in the Springdale arts district that is covered in a mural by Octavio Logo, and even that has a connection in its heritage, Hintz says. It was built in 1947 by a German team. That's what the three of them have in common, a connection to Germany.
Booker spent years cooking in Germany, at first while her family was stationed in Bavaria near Nuremberg. Being able to live and travel that part of Europe, while working with chefs and other culinary students, shaped her culinary mindset. She went on to live and work in Heidelberg, too, and loved it so much that she only moved back to the States when her daughter was born.
Hintz grew up in Milwaukee, where the elements of German culture, along with its beer and food, are everywhere, he says. Like many others in their community, his family would stop at small butcher shops regularly. These places had been owned by the same family for generations, and it was a common expression of the community's relationship with local food. Public parks had beer gardens, which were by design a family friendly, welcoming environment. All that was influential to the sort of establishment he wanted to open.
"The (German) concept (for Bauhaus) just emerged and made sense," Hintz says.
The idea behind Bauhaus was to serve great beer and food, but both Booker and Hintz felt strongly about infusing family and building community in everything that they do. They used images from their respective childhoods in place of gender signs on the restroom doors, enlisted local artisans to craft the inside tables and chairs and commissioned a local artist for the mural on the front of the building.
"We want people to come and feel comfortable, feel excited, (take in) German music and food," Booker says. "Lots of people can sit outside, and the communal tables make you talk."
Hintz says the congenial vibe of the Logo mural sets the tone, and that having some games around doesn't hurt in encouraging people to start to get to know each other. They keep a map on a wall inside so visitors can set a pin on the location they're from, tracking their ever-expanding network of friends from all over the world.
What started as investing and revitalizing four buildings in downtown Springdale has progressed to bringing life back to Holcomb Street through Bauhaus' little but growing community, and Hintz says he's grateful to be a part of those efforts.
Booker says people will call and ask if children are allowed. "Sure," she tells them.
"'What about dogs?' If they're well behaved," she answers.
"'Can we host beers and queers there?' Why ask? Just show up," she says. "We get everyone here. Someone with bright purple hair tatted up all the way, or a guy off of working the second or third shift. Everyone's welcome, friendly and comfortable with one another."