The duo behind Los Angeles German restaurant and beer garden Wirtshaus, Bjoern Risse and Bülent Yildirim, are set to open the doors to their newest German Restaurant and Biergarten, Rasselbock, in the Bixby Knolls neighborhood of Long Beach, California, in late September. Rasselbock follows the hospitality team’s opening of their now five-year-old Wirtshaus, and their newer Hermosa Beach outpost, Brat & Bräu, which debuted in December 2015.
Rasselbock, which means “jackalope” in old German, the fabled animal with the jackrabbit body and antelope horns, will display the restaurant’s namesake theme throughout its approximately 2,000 square feet of space, with a focal point in the form of a 40-foot bar. Capacity at the new dining destination will hover around 110 people, with room for 22 at the long bar, 50 at the main dining room’s communal tables, and 40 on the dog-friendly outdoor patio.
Along the lines of the pair’s original concept for Wirtshaus, a gathering place for all ages akin to the beer gardens of Europe, Rasselbock’s menu aims to please a wide range of guests with a variety of modern-German plates meant for sharing: market-fresh salads, homemade sausages from family recipes, authentic Schnitzel and house-made desserts, including a generous array of gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan dishes, plus kid-friendly items and a separate menu section “Just for Dogs”—who also get their own “day” at Rasselbock on Thursdays, when “Dogs Eat on the Haus.”
Rasselbock’s menu items will run the gamut from the requisite Bavarian Pretzel, Potato Pancakes and Traditional Bratwurst, to the exotic, inventive and/or indulgent Duck Bacon Sausage (duck and bacon sausage, with jalapeño), Rasselbock Schnitzel (breaded, sautéed pork loin topped with garlic cream sauce and fried egg), “A Dude’s Salad” (German fries topped with feta, cucumber, tomato, red onion, pepperoncini, bell pepper, black olives, garlic aioli), and sweet offering, “Viva Alemania,” consisting of a fried pretzel coated in churro sugar, served with Nutella and fruit compote.
Rasselbock’s drink menu will focus on German and Belgian beers, with 18 options on tap and 15 in bottle, fresh Sangrias and a carefully curated Californian wine list. Rasselbock will host an All-Day Happy Hour on Mondays, mid-week will see “Wiener Wednesday,” and Saturdays and Sundays will feature a Brunch Menu served until 3 P.M., with items like sweet or savory Belgian Waffles made in-house, Bottomless Mimosas and their Homemade Sangrias.
“Our original restaurant concept was partially, to create a modern mix of German standbys – in terms of both food items and décor – and Californian elements. With that, we achieved something that didn’t previously exist in L.A.”, said Risse, co-owner of Wirtshaus, Brat & Bräu and now, Rasselbock.
Design details at all three of the team’s venues are a blend of German symbols, with a California tone—such as the jackalopes, antlers, famous soccer players and surfer motifs—all incorporated into the overall settings in a clean, “hip” manner, using mediums like spray paint and purposefully faded wallpaper to complement the woodwork famously found in German eateries.
Sports play an important role in both owners’ lives: for Risse, that means surfing on a regular basis, and for Yildirim, it is his dedication to being a serious soccer player. The surf notion shines through at their Hermosa Beach eatery, Brat & Bräu, while soccer takes the lead at Wirtshaus, which often holds revelrous soccer match viewing parties.
Risse and Yildirim have known each other for the better part of 25 years. The pair hails from the city of Hagen, in Western Germany, both attending the same high school and college. While working towards their business degrees in college—Risse with a concentration in marketing, Yildirim with one in finance—they were first introduced to the restaurant industry, both working various jobs at restaurants and bars.
Risse moved to the U.S. about nine years ago, subsequently traveling extensively as a business consultant. Risse especially enjoyed his visits to New York where at the time, a number of German-style beer gardens were popping up, all over the city. It was during a 2010 return to Germany, that the two decided that they wanted to open a similar venture in Los Angeles. Shortly thereafter, Yildirim packed his things and moved to Hollywood, where they opened Wirtshaus in July of 2011.
Wirtshaus, which recently celebrated its fifth anniversary, weathered Los Angeles’ sausage-and-beer hall boom with the restaurant’s well-rounded menu of authentic German dishes, with an American overtone, such as fan favorites “Homemade Spätzl,” “Apfelstrudel” (homemade apple strudel), and the restaurant’s ample Schnitzel offerings.
Wirtshaus also garnered a cult-following with its German beer list, boasting 35 different options, some of which are exclusive to the restaurant. Both Wirtshaus and Brat & Bräu also introduced to Los Angeles, German-derived, non-alcoholic beverage menu items like the “Spezi” (half Coke, half Fanta), “Apfelsaftschorle” (mineral water, apple juice), and “Karamalz” (German kid’s malt beer).
Risse continues, “At our second location, Brat & Bräu, the space limitations forced us to hone our focus. It’s our casual, beach-side sausage and beer spot, with updated California takes on standard sausage dishes, using all-natural, locally-made sausages from family recipes, with no preservatives, never frozen, and made with hormone-free meat. We were just as picky about our beer list, with some exclusive German finds. High-quality meats and great beers, pre- or post-beach day.”
“And Long Beach is a very interesting market, at the moment. We’re seeing a trend of restaurant expansions from L.A. to [Long Beach], and people are moving here from L.A., as well. We especially like the neighborhood feel and sense of community that Bixby Knolls offers, and we felt that a new, family- and dog-friendly [restaurant] concept would benefit the area,” adds Yildirim, co-owner of Wirtshaus, Brat & Bräu, and Rasselbock.