Prague Spring in a Brooklyn Winter 


Radegast Hall and Biergarten

113 North 3rd St, Williamsburg
Rating: 4L's

After false starts, bureaucratic hoopla and mountains of paperwork, Williamsburg’s Radegast Hall finally opened, with a sense more of relief than excitement, during the weary, bone-cold days of a fast-dwindling year. Still, happy grunts and colliding beer steins of salutation are warranted: operated by actual Bohemians (and maybe a Moravian or two), Radegast is a detailed Austro-Hungarian pastiche with a communal vibe.
Occupying a converted industrial space in a still low-slung portion of its neighborhood, the Hall consists of two long, high-ceilinged rooms — one with tables and booths scattered around an expansive central bar, the other a more classic beer garden with long benches. The roof is retractable, so the whole place will be open-air in summer, but for now the atmosphere is intimate despite the cavernous size. Sepia is the dominant hue, and the lighting comes from candles and heavy iron chandeliers; the furniture is made from thick, unfinished wood.

The food, like the tables, is sturdy and brown and good at soaking up beer. (The beer, in bottles, pints and pitchers, draws from ubiquitous and lesser-known European breweries.) Just reading the menu is enough to make you apple-cheeked, triple-chinned and the proud owner of multiple pairs of brightly colored suspenders that hook into khaki shorts with waistlines wider than the inseam is long. When the kitchen’s closed (late nights and on Mondays), or if you just don’t think you can handle a schnitzel of such magnitude, there are sausages and sandwiches on a grill at the back of the garden — the fare is hearty and hearteningly messy, though the burger-meisters manning it would perhaps benefit from the institution of a Habana Outpost-style order slip system.

Indeed, Radegast is plainly a work in progress. (The watering hole across the street must be swimming in the ATM fees paid by the dazed patrons Radegast sends over, debit cards already out.) But still, early signs are promising: you wouldn’t expect a place of such scale, and such an assertive project, to blend into its environment so well, or to be so free of posturing. It speaks well of Radegast’s owners that their establishment feels so casually right, and less like a gimmick than one might fear. It is, though, possible to take authenticity too far: if you make your waitresses wear the same blouses as those featured on the label of St. Pauli Girl, is it any wonder if they’re too demoralized to attend to their tables?

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