In the past, many students, including myself, had considered Der Rathskeller in Memorial Union to be a quick, cheap alternative to a sit down dining experience. However, after visiting the Rathskeller following reiteration of the menu and the complete renovation of the ordering area, I was convinced that this was somewhere I could go for either a nice, sit-down meal to catch up with friends or family or stop by for takeout between classes and end up getting a great meal either way.
Upon entering the new Rathskeller, I was presented with an easy-to-read menu, a short line and a warm and inviting atmosphere modeled after The Sett in Union South. Unlike the old Rathskeller, which was confusing even to veteran diners, the new restaurant has a clear line that moved quickly. Diners place their order and pay at the front of the line and then receive a buzzer which allows them to sit down before receiving their food. Jim Long of the restaurant division called this “fast casual dining”, comparing it to the style of Panera Bread. This gives the new Rathskeller a much more upscale feel than the old cafeteria style.
Long said that the new menu items reflect some of the best recipes of campus restaurants. Some of the most popular items are the burgers, BBQ brisket, smoked turkey melt, three cheese panini and the “apfelgarten” Panini—a panini with fresh apples and cheddar cheese. After sampling each of these, there wasn’t a single one I didn’t love.
The “der kronjuwel burger” is served on a soft pretzel roll and topped with bacon, cheese, lettuce and tomato. The burger patty is now made out of fresh ground beef instead of frozen and is a 5 oz. patty instead of 4 oz. This was definitely one of the best burgers I’d had in a while.
The BBQ brisket was my favorite out of all of the samples. The beef was tender and smokey because they don’t reheat the meat so it’s better able to absorb flavors. It is served with cole slaw, cheese and BBQ sauce.
Another favorite was “der alpfelgarten” panini. It looks the same as a normal panini but inside are fresh apples and cheddar cheese served between cinnamon raisin bread. This and the three cheese panini are great options for vegetarian diners. At $4.95 for a half panini and soup/salad with a side, these are the most affordable menu items.
I tried the smoked turkey melt last. Normally you wouldn’t think of a turkey sandwich as anything special, but this is an exception. The honey mustard sauce was a stand out and it’s served on a Klausan’s cheese roll.
The sides are not to be passed up. The battered fries reminded me of the fries that the Great Dane serves, and the german potato salad is the perfect blend of sweet and sour.
Long said that this is the first version of the menu and they are considering input from students and staff. You can expect to see a new version in a couple months, as well as a fish fry starting in the beginning of March.
If you haven’t been to Der Rathskeller in a while, or if you’ve been going there for years, I’m sure you’ll find a new favorite in the reinvented menu. Averaging about $6.00 for an entree and side, the Rathskeller is not a restaurant to be overlooked.
Average cost: $6.00
Located in Memorial Union
Hours: Monday-Friday: 7:00am-10:00pm; Saturday-Sunday: 8:00am-10:00pm
Phone number: (608) 265-3000