The bar formerly known as Dublin Cellar (and Wet Willy’s and then just Willy’s) is changing its name, atmosphere and origin of choice once again — this time to Renbarger’s Brewhaus, a German-themed bar.In theory, there’s always room in the markeplace for a competently executed concept -– witness the profusion of Irish pubs from Billings to Baluchistan.
However, the owner(s) of the spot most of us still associate with Willy’s have already failed to make a go of Irish blarney. Perhaps the failure of Dublin Cellar isn't unexpected given the close proximity of Molly Malone’s and O’Shea’s, two places that do Irish/Anglo fairly well. But in turn, doesn't this prompt legitimate speculation as to why an Irish theme was attempted in such a location in the first place?
Now the same management will retrofit the operation while the doors remain open. What are the criteria for a competently executed German theme, and does existing management have the expertise?
Color me skeptical, though it may not be all management's fault. The problem with German themes in American food and drink is that Americans generally know nothing about Germany save for cliches that pertain specifically to Bavaria, and the Bavarian “beer, pretzels and kraut” bit has been done to death in its common, purely stereotypical form - which isn't very flattering to reality on the ground in Bavaria.
In short, chances are that there won’t be very much truly German in a broader cultural sense about this new establishment. The beer will be the same lagers we see everywhere (as a hint, any "German" place selling St. Pauli Girl beer is out of the running), and the whole thing smacks of the random concept generator.
As always, I hope I’m wrong. I will give it a fair chance, and am ever prepared to eat my words.
If so, I'd like my words served with Senf, please -- the sweet kind that goes with Weisswurst, and not the spicier mustard more appropriate with Leberkase.