October's Can't-Miss Dish

By Ellen Bhang · 10/04/2021

Looking for a no-fail, mouthwatering, gonna-tell-your-friends-about-it plate? Each month, Boston Globe columnist Ellen Bhang highlights the dish you need to try right now—and something to sip alongside it. 

On the plate: Bronwyn Bretzel

Where to find it: During a month when jack-o’-lanterns and other spooky paraphernalia take over neighborhood porches, Bronwyn—a German restaurant in Somerville’s Union Square—offers a welcome change of scene. Here, the team is going all out on Oktoberfest, not Halloween. Through October 30, they’re turning up the oompah-pah soundtrack, donning traditional Bavarian dirndls and lederhosen, and rolling out a festive menu in the dining rooms and biergarten. This annual celebration features classic festival fare like Footlong Currywurst, a 12-inch sausage with curry-spiked ketchup; as well as a vinegar-braised beef brisket called Sauerbraten, served on red cabbage simmered with bacon and topped with black cherry barbecue sauce. 

Notes on the nosh: Begin your Oktoberfest feast with a Bronwyn Bretzel, a soft pretzel crafted from butter-enriched dough. Each creation—the size of a bumper car steering wheel—sports a burnished skin flecked with crunchy nubbins of rock salt. Each comes with zippy horseradish mustard and an optional ramekin of cheddar cheese sauce for dipping. This quintessential carb is the autumn antidote to pumpkin-spiced everything. 

“On weekends in September and October, we serve 150 per day,” says co-owner, chef, and baker Tim Wiechmann. The process involves proofing the yeasted dough (letting it rise), rolling it out, then proofing again. To achieve the snack’s pleasantly chewy texture and elastic springiness, Wiechmann says it’s essential to work the dough by hand. “We stretch it the length of my arm—a boxer’s reach,” he says. 

If you’re wondering if the word “bretzel” is a mash-up of “Bronwyn” and “pretzel,” it’s not. In the German-speaking world, there are multiple names for what we know as a pretzel—breze, brezn, and brezzl are among the regional variations. Wiechmann says that after he and his wife, Bronwyn, opened the restaurant in 2013, customers came in asking for bretzels with a “b,” and that spelling stuck. 

Sip alongside: German brewery Weihenstephaner—which declares itself the world’s oldest, founded in 1040—has been Bronwyn’s “haus” brand of beer since the beginning. This month, get the Festbier, a crisp, golden-hued lager. Order it by the pint, by the liter, or—if you’re feeling particularly spirited—in a two-liter plastic stein shaped like a boot, perhaps Oktoberfest’s answer to an illuminated, inflatable front-porch ghost.

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