If you’ve been following Wednesday Food Day here on LAIY, you know that we’ve been salivating a little bit every week of January with news on Wolfslair, the Vine North of Sunset biergarten that moved in the space Cafe Wa s once inhabited. The space looked sexy and the concept seemed perfect and they had done a lot of their work before opening their doors even a crack: we were quite stoked about visiting. This past weekend, we remembered the ‘lair was likely open and that we should stop in. Thankfully we did, getting a sampling of German inspired treats to share.
We rolled up to the ‘lair around 10PM this past Saturday to a mildly crowded place. Some of the outdoor tables were occupied, the bar was bustling, and the main dining room was filled with three or four larger parties, flanked by parties of one or two along the walls. It is a dark space, lit by one communal light in the center with the help of two large televisions and 1940s light fixtures along the walls. It’s a very sleek place, black and reds and rich browns are the colors of choice. There are even a few wolf friends lurking about, too.
The menus arrive and are these dainty little newspaper that fold into thirds. A lot catch our eyes but we must decide on drinks. Their beer selection is quite good, alternating between German beers, unique American beers, two or three other European brews, and old standbys like PBR and Amstel Light. They also carry a full bar, which is a plus at a biergarten, and have a selection of German-ish drinks. Beers arrive in very pretty silver steins that are simple and smooth and the cocktails arrive in tall glasses with a lemon which is pretty boring. We grabbed both the German Medicine, a lemony honey skip through a wheat field, and the Knicker Dropper, a lemony honey skip through…wait: they tasted almost exactly alike. With the exception of the Medicine being quite wheaty (because of the honey beer in it) and the Dropper being quite stiff at first (from the dark rum), the two were not that captivating and the fact that they had the same presentation did not help. We decided to stick with beer after, specifically Allagash “Always Right” White.
The food was a decidedly different beast, something we were panting over like wolves in heat: did we want to share things or get big plates or get würstchen or what? We had no idea. Opting to start small, we settled on getting some sharing plates, knowing all too well that we’d have to revisit the place for the Schnitzel, Whole Trout, Mary’s Chicken, Würst, and Rueben at some point soon. We played things fairly safe, getting the Deviled Eggs, Chicken Schnitzel Sliders, Potato Pancakes, and Mac & Cheese. First up: Deviled Eggs. These have been trendy for quite some time and were a welcomed surprise to see on the menu. The dish arrived super fast (like all of the food, actually) and they were meh. Very meh. Not bad, not good–just meh. It was like I made Deviled Eggs blindfolded without any seasoning: the whites of the eggs were uneven, the yolks were dry and unseasoned, and Old Bay was sprinkled on top with a little sliced cornichon and dill garnish. I’ve made Deviled Eggs quite a bit in my day and I understand how hard it is to make them; however, it is certainly not hard to flavor the yolks, who are supposed to shine the most in the dish. Instead, the sprigs of dill and the (somewhat silly) cornichons were what we clung to as the Old Bay attempted to sweep a lack of flavor under the rug. Perhaps purée the yolks with lots of dill, some cornichons, some (SOME) Old Bay, and salt, pepper, and mayonnaise? Something needs to be done because they were bad. We didn’t even finish the five we had, a lone tear rolling down my face like that waste commercial from the seventies.
We held our heads high as the Chicken Schnitzel Sliders arrived. We were quite intrigued by these little guys who were schnitzels with lots of coleslaw piled on, tucked between brioche buns. We had just had the Duck Sliders at Tar Pit the night before and were holding them to a very high standard. Thankfully for everyone, the sliders held up quite nicely, making us forget about the Eggs quite quickly and ignore the boring cocktails. The sliders are a balancing act of lightly fried chicken schnitzel and cabbage, which looks and feels like it is going to overpower everything. Not the case: the mustardy coleslaw seems to wrap itself around the chicken, who then explodes its flavor everywhere. These were absolutely delicious and made me almost demand we order the full Schnitzel entree. Definitely looking forward to giving the full entree a shot.
Potato Pancakes came next, a last minute addition to the grouping out of a “Are we that hungry? Maybe? Sure, we are.” feeling. These were very satisfying and lighter than expected, little nuggets of potato garnished with apple sauce on two and sour cream and scallion (we believe?) on the others. These were like your grandmother made them for a holiday dinner. The cakes themselves were moist and had those necessary hints of onion required from this food item. Not bad at all, we said to each other smiling.
The last item we got was by far the roof raiser: the Mac & Cheese. Now, Mac & Cheese is very hard to fuck up but it’s also a dish that is very easy to fuck up. If you use too much cheese or not enough cheese or too many extra non-traditional items or too little non-traditional items, your dish ends up being boring or insanely good. There’s no in between, although there are degrees of boring and good. Flavor is also a delicate issue in this dish as the noodles themselves can absorb too much of the action, making it virtually tasteless. Wolfslair got it completely right though: they mashed together four rich cheeses, thick shells, and bacon together to make this dish. The cheese was both gooey and firm and consistent, unlike many “good attempts” that somehow fall prey to being a little powdery. The shells, while thick, maintained their own composure while also serving as little canvases for the cheese to run wild over. The bacon was an excellent addition and definitely infrequently perfect in its presence. Wolfslair’s Mac & Cheese very well may be my new favorite macaroni and cheese dish in the city. I was dying.
Wolfslair has made a very good attempt at being the first Los Angeles biergarten to be a food destination. While definitely not five star (specialty cocktails and Deviled Eggs, talking to you), we won’t give it the title of “first Los Angeles biergarten food destination” because it still has some work to do. And, really, we didn’t get to try any of the full entrees yet so that would not be a fair read. Our advice? Give it a try. The place is definitely not going anywhere and certainly is on the up and up. We’d also like to congratulate them for eliminating all traces in the space and in our minds that Cafe
Boring Wa s was once a “thing.”