- HOW THEY EAT THEM IN CHICAGO: Fassler's Chicago-style franks are long and loaded.
What do you envision when you hear the phrase "German beer hall"?
For many of us, the phrase conjures up ideas of huge, foam-topped steins carried by waitresses dressed like the fabled St. Pauli Girl. Soccer/futbol banners hanging from the rafters, and polka music oom-pah-pahing from the bandstand while the aroma of grilled brats floats through the air.
The newly opened Fassler Hall (located next to Dust Bowl Lanes & Lounge, with the same owners) is a somewhat more Americanized twist on the traditional Bavarian drinking establishment, blending strong, hearty beers and brats with the familiar trappings of a sports bar. When it comes to decor, Fassler is big on long, family-style wooden picnic tables and smaller side booths for those who crave a bit more intimacy. Our crew of four adults and one child occupied one of these booths on a recent Thursday visit and, after some fumbling with a somewhat odd table-to-bench gap, settled in to see what Fassler has to offer.
Step one: Any good German beer hall had better start with a fine selection of beer, and Fassler has some delicious German draft choices (half-liters for $5, $5.50 and $6). German beers on tap include options by Spaten, Hofbrau, Stiegl and Paulaner, with multiple other German beers available in bottles. Happily, one can also find a good selection of local brews (Lost Forty, Core, Rebel Kettle, Stone's Throw, Flyway) among a healthy array of domestics. Our crew was especially fond of the strong Spaten Optimator and the fruity Stiegl Lemon Radler.
Fassler clearly aims to offer heartier food choices than those found in the average bar menu. We started by sharing the salty and delicious Duck Fat Fries ($6, free with any order on Mondays) and two large soft pretzels ($6). The pretzels were decent, but were made outstanding with a side of smoked Gouda cheese sauce that the entire table raved about. Other options on the limited appetizer menu included a Pimento Cheese Charcuterie Board ($14) along with pork rinds with French onion dip ($7).
For entrees, Fassler focuses largely (but not exclusively) on its house-made sausages and franks. The menu features nine different sausage and hot dog selections, including the trusty Bratwurst ($6) and Cheddarwurst ($6.50), to more daring choices like Habanero Chicken ($6) and lamb ($7.50) sausages. One of our dining mates opted for the Sausage Sampler ($13) — three choices of sausages, plus sauerkraut and mustard (and no buns). All three were juicy and flavorful, with special kudos given to a Jalapeno Cheddar offering that had a slow, sneaky burn. Another of our tablemates opted for the Chicago-style frankfurter ($6) — a generous-sized frank topped with pickle, sport pepper, tomato, onion, relish, celery salt and yellow mustard — a more-than-adequate dog.
The star of our table, though, was the lovely pork shank ($18). The shank — slow roasted, braised with honey and served bone-in — was an impressive size, with plenty to share. The meat was tender and moist, its somewhat crispy outer layer providing a nice crunch. Despite some help from all corners of the table, our team left some of the dish behind.
In our quest to try German specialties, we also ordered the pork schnitzel ($14), served with a "triple mushroom sauce." The schnitzel was thin, crispy and quite tasty, with a rich sauce.
All entrees come with a choice of two sides, including a delicate sweet potato spaetzel, German potato salad, braised red cabbage, Brussels sprouts and the aforementioned Duck Fat Fries. With the exception of the red cabbage, which was a bit raw, the food got good reviews all around.
For dessert, Fassler Hall offers only one choice: Pretzel Bread Pudding ($6). It was dry, given that pretzels are less absorbent than bread. A more generous serving of sauce might have helped make this dessert a moister, better treat.
One note on ambience: If you're coming at a busy time, expect Fassler Hall to be quite loud and a bit challenging for conversation. The large room, concrete floors, exposed piping, televised sports and loud (non-German) music make this a place more suited for lusty shouting than for intimate exchanges. When warmer weather arrives, Fassler's large outdoor patio will be very inviting for those seeking a more peaceful place to bend an elbow.
This writer made a solo return trip to Fassler for a quick and quiet lunch several days after the first visit and chose the Kraut Burger ($7). This was a nice lunch option, served on a warm, soft pretzel bun with sauerkraut and smoked Gouda cheese and a side of fries. The burger itself was fine, if a tad on the smallish side.
In sum: Fassler Hall is a welcome Bavarian addition to the burgeoning Little Rock beer scene, bringing new flavors to town and a new venue option for East Little Rock night-lifers. Here's to hoping that we raise many a stein here.
311 E. Capitol Ave.
Quick biteEvery Monday is "Sausage Party" day at Fassler Hall: All sausages are half-priced (except the Sausage Sampler). Patrons may also purchase "grill-ready housemade sausage" to go for $8 per pound.
HoursOpen 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
Other infoMimosas are served at Saturday and Sunday brunch, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.