Yelp Stars: **** (4)
Address: 1601 Meridian Ave, San Jose, CA
Phone: (408) 266-9022
Background: I really shouldn't be allowed out of the house without caffeine. This was a late morning/early afternoon trek that I was half awake for. My basic understanding was that this place was a german deli that came recommended by someone at Seamus' work who made some awesome North Carolina barbecue for him. I say awesome because I had some of that barbecue and it was just the best. I happily stumbled out to the car with that taste on my mind. I knew that this place wouldn't have anything like that, of course.
Food: Classic german food has never really been very exciting to me. My general problem is that I either get something that's rather bland, or something that has a flavor range that doesn't appeal. This time around was a bit different, but doesn't change my overall opinion. That being said, the lamb shank was good. The meat was braised. Tender, but not dry. The sauce it had been simmered in had a pleasant sourness to it, with a heavy tomato base. The steamed vegetables left much to be desired. Each one was either undercooked or overcooked, a problem I usually encounter with vegetable medleys. I opted not to get gravy on the mashed potatoes. They didn't really need it, either. They were smooth and creamy with a subtle butter and garlic flavor.
The real treat for this meal was the chocolate chip crumb cake afterward. Super, super sweet (that combined with the soda managed to give me a sugar headache) and chocolaty. The crust on top seemed to be made of nothing but brown sugar. I probably should have had a cup of coffee with this one, because it begged for some kind of compliment. They heated it for me and offered to melt some butter on top. This added a creamy, salty, sensual element to the dessert that whipped cream could not hope to match. Of course, if you're into canned whipped cream then they'll happily pile that on instead.
Decor: There's something to be said for a 'classic diner' look, and that's really all I think while I'm in this joint. There's a standard countertop and a couple of server windows that looks back into the kitchen. You can only catch glimpses of what they're doing back there. A row of booths follows alongside the counter. Simple brown cafeteria trays are provided for trucking your food from the counter to your plastic-topped table.
The decor would be alright were it not for slightly wobbly tables and seats I could feel the springs in. Some of the tables were rather haphazardly placed and crooked. Not impressive.
Service: Service was great, if a little confusing. All of our servers were patient, friendly and knowledgeable. They offered suggestions, including volunteering information on toppings. Though we got confused about what we were supposed to do and took half of our food to the table and the other half to the register, they managed to figure out just what we had and not make us repeat anything. Surprise requests were taken in stride. The light banter between them provided a small amount of entertainment while we enjoyed our meal.
Value: The sandwiches here are rather large, so they're a rather good deal. The entrees aren't quite there for me, but considering portion size it's not bad. I'd say expect to pay between 10 and 16 dollars a head, depending. Really nice if you like German food.
Overall: I think that this place is a much better alternative to something like Harry's Hof Brau. The food is better and the service is great. Not all the side dishes were up to par. As far as deli or cafe style dining goes, I'm much more excited by someplace like La Villa in Willow Glen. Still, Gunther's will probably get a little more business from me.
Final Rating: 7 out of 10