Garten in Severna Park is much more than a restaurant or even a modern beer and wine garden — it’s an experience.
The restaurant, which opened last fall, is the newest concept from the married team of Jeremy and Michelle Hoffman, known for their award-winning Annapolis restaurant, Preserve.
The exterior is fashioned like a castle with a bright garden mural reflecting Garten’s commitment to fresh, organic and sustainable food. Enter in the back through a vine-covered arch for indoor dining or to a patio with twinkle lights, making it fairy-tale like. It was chilly on the night we visited, so we opted for indoors, though there are patio heaters outside.
The restaurant is designed to make visitors feel comfortable in a modern yet old-world feel. Every part of the restaurant — from lighting and shadow play around the clean, uncluttered look to the plants of all sizes artfully tucked around — gives it a unique and inviting atmosphere. When I went, Moroccan-type music played softly in the background.
We were ushered to a table for two, and Steve, a personable and knowledgeable waiter, greeted us, offered his recommendations, and took our drink and appetizer orders.
We were appreciative because Steve didn’t point us to the most expensive dishes; rather, he highlighted diners’ favorites and his personal choices before he provided us with helpful information about what enhanced the flavor and taste of each dish. Steve also explained that though Garten is German inspired, and there are German dishes on the menu, Garten really offers an overall international, old-world cuisine. He also explained that the food is sourced locally.
Steve suggested we try the spinach and sauerkraut dip with homemade pretzels. We were intrigued, not sure how sauerkraut and spinach would mix, but they melded wonderfully. There wasn’t a strong kraut taste, but it gave the dip a piquant, flavorful bite. The pretzels, which looked more like dark baguettes, were unlike any I’ve seen or tasted. Lightly salted and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, they paired perfectly with the warm, savory dip.
For our main course, my husband and I ordered to share. He chose the winter salad, and I picked the chicken schnitzel. How can you not pick something that has such a fun-sounding name? The schnitzel was brined and breaded — definitely not the kind that comes in a bucket.
Brining the chicken infused it with a tart, salty flavor that you don't find from other cooking methods. Steve suggested the jager sauce on the side for an extra $4, and it was worth it. Jager sauce is a fresh mushroom sauce with an aftertaste that hints at the taste of wine. My husband called the mix of the jager sauce and chicken a taste explosion. The chicken came with a side frisee salad with lemon, capers and Dutch labneh. The salad had a slightly bitter taste (it was supposed to) that didn’t appeal to me, but my hubby liked it and finished it off, inferring my palette isn’t as sophisticated as his.
The winter salad was large and had an assortment of healthy goodies — blood oranges, beets, hazelnuts and a good helping of Monterey Jack cheese with hot honey vinaigrette. The combination of fruity, crunchy and savory made this dish a pleasurable, satisfying meal. The vinaigrette was almost sweet and subtly flavored the dish well. It tasted similar to champagne dressing.
Save room for dessert. You do not want to miss it. We chose the black forest mousse. It is a chocolate lover’s dream. Delectably light and airy mousse was topped with freshly made soft chocolate brownies (not chewy and not dry - just right) with scattered pieces of dark chocolate. Drizzled with a sweet, pleasantly tart sauce, this was a winner. I love chocolate-covered cherries, so this especially appealed to me. Paired with a strong cup of coffee, it’s the perfect ending to a super meal.
Servings were large, and prices were comparable to other area restaurants. Our cost for the food was about $60.
We’re looking forward to visiting for brunch and choosing from smoked salmon potato pancakes, challah stuffed French toast, pretzel bun breakfast sandwiches or a Garten breakfast platter.
Garten is considered a natural wine and beer garden. You’ll find a wide assortment of international and domestic craft beers and wines with a staff that is skillful in providence and pairing suggestions.
The restaurant has a Garten Wine Club with quarterly signups. Members get a monthly box of wine in three-, six- or 12-month increments, as well as exclusive discounts and offerings.