Zesty! Günter Hans
Story and Photography: Lydia Graves
It is the beginning of October; it’s the beginning of fall. It’s finally cool enough outside to wear the sweater you’re always so cozy in. There’s been a drizzle all day, but nothing to cause any nasty mud. It’s just enough to make you want to snuggle up, watching a movie⎯probably a Halloween one at that. But one thing is missing. Could it be a nice, warm “bretzel” from Günter Hans?
I’m largely of German origin⎯my father’s side almost in its entirety and a half from my mother’s side. With that being said, I take my German food very seriously. I can practically live off of sauerkraut, and spätzle is one of my favorite dishes. Even traveling through Kansas City, you can always bet I will be trying something at the downtown restaurant, Grünauer. When I discovered there was a cafe like this in Columbia, Missouri, I’m sure you can understand my excitement.
Günter Hans is a European Pub & Cafe in downtown Columbia. They specialize in rare beers and wine on tap, but the spot has food worth a stop in, too. Owner of Günter Hans, Lydia Melton, even states on her website, “When it comes to food, we don’t do much... but what we do, we do extraordinarily well.” She is not wrong. When thinking generally of pubs and their food, not too many outstanding thoughts come to mind. I would rarely order in just for snacks alone. It is the complete opposite at Günter Hans.
This isn’t as much of a surprise when knowing the history of the business. Melton, the owner, studied abroad in Belgium during the early 2010s. It was only natural to embrace the culture and cuisines there, so upon her return to the states, she tried to find restaurants that satisfied her new cravings. All of which fell short. In an effort to recreate the artisan-style European foods, her pub was established in 2013. Since the beginning, only authentic foods have been offered. As Melton previously wrote, “...our style is non-traditional, and we prefer the path less traveled (a little bit of everything done extraordinarily right so to speak).”
Of course, not long after I dawned on the restaurant’s presence, planning to go soon followed. Strangely, I had passed the location many times, but it is slightly hidden to the point I had never noticed the glowing lights or gorgeous patio. I sat outside. With the whole courtyard encompassed by brick walls and fairy lights, it was easy to forget I was in a city at all. It was easy to be transported to a new place while singing along to the music from the stereo.
As I knew it would be, the menu was small. Still, it became hard to choose as everything sounded delicious. Not only that, but the price was excellent, even for a college student. I began with a house pretzel, or “bretzel.” I can honestly still smell it. It was very bready and warm as if just taken out of the oven and sprinkled with a little salt. But, as many soft pretzels tend to be, it was not overly salty. It had a perfect, almost nostalgic, taste. It was made even better by requesting garlic butter on the side. The butter moistens the bread and adds another flavor component that is unbeatable.
The pub’s take on calzones was also eye-catching. Their German version especially pulled me in with sauerkraut and bratwurst all wrapped up in a doughy pretzel crust. The first bite, the tangy cabbage shined through, but it didn’t take many more to reach the sweetness of the sausage accompanied by an embrace of cheese. With the seasoning resting atop the calzone, it did become slightly salty, but overall, it was delightful. I’m still craving more.
Finally, as a breakfast lover, waffles will always be a requirement to taste if they’re on the menu. For those that don’t know, liege waffles are a delicacy of Belgium and Norway. They are made with yeast dough and studded with pearl sugar. This pearl sugar holds its shape as the waffles cook, leaving gloriously crunchy bits of sugar while eating the waffle. The ones I ordered were not as expected. They seemed tougher, as if slightly overcooked. But the flavor was beautifully present. The waiter had recommended the cinnamon sugar butter which paired nicely with the dessert.
Melton took years of baking to develop her recipes at Günter Hans. So much intricacy and care went into her food, atmosphere, and the nontraditional vibe of the pub. All of which piece together into a phenomenal picture. It is a dreamy atmosphere. Get lost in the stars dancing with the string lights; enjoy a gooey, cheesy German bretzel calzone, mouthing songs from an incredibly well-curated playlist. Günter Hans, and every little puzzle piece that makes it up, is a warm hug. The hug we all need right now.
Please check out their website and be sure to try them in the near future!