525 Laguna(at the corner of Hayes and Laguna) San Francisco, CA 94102 Telephone (415) 252-9289
Update July 2007: I revisited Suppenkuche again with a German friend who assured me it had recently improved. Not on the night we visited. There was no problem with the service but the food still wasn't so great. The potato pancakes had much improved texture wise - they were crispy! But the flavours were bland. The apple sauce bore no resemblance to fruit. I had the vegetarian spaetzle this time which was only eatable once it had been dredged with salt. The Suppenkuche trademark seems to be over-large bland plates of food. My German friend was revisiting his recently improved opinion, deciding the place had gone back down hill again.
I had heard good reports of Suppenkuche so many times that when I received an invite to a party just a couple of blocks away from it, I decided we should begin our Saturday night with food at this popular German kitchen. Joining myself and F on this occasion were a couple of our French friends. F, who has German ancestry, had high hopes that the food would be reminiscent of the delicious meals his grandmother made him when he was a child. He had perused the menu online earlier and already decided exactly what he wanted to try.
Our company for the evening arrived a little earlier than us and had secured us a table in the back room. We were sharing the space with a large birthday party and the level of noise caused by echoing of the jovialities from the wooden, refectory-style benches was almost unbearable. The waitress recommended a swift German draught beer would help quickly acclimatize us to the decible-deafening atmosphere. I settled for a Heffewiessen whilst the others tried more adventurous German Ales replacing the Leffe they wanted, but the restaurant had run out of.
For appetizers, F's mind was already set on the potato pancakes with apple whilst the rest of us shared a plate of german meats and cheeses. Both dishes were huge and we were relieved we hadn't ordered an appetizer per person. The cold plate was beautifully presented on a bed of green leaves, with little pots of mustard and mayo, hard boiled eggs and tomato. The selection tasted fresh and uniquely German. F faired less well with the potato pancakes. Again, the portion was huge with several large, floppy pancakes and an accompanying bowl of apple puree. The seasoning was bland and the pancakes weren't crispy enough to make this starter even close to exciting. F sadly declared that the Suppenkuche version bore absolutely no relation to anything his grandmother had ever made him.
When our entrees arrived, our eyes expanded to the size of the huge plates the meals were presented on. None of us had seen such huge portions in our life, even though we've all been living in the US quite a while. It makes you feel a little bit weak and just a little depressed to be faced with a mound of food so big you know you won't even be able to make a sizeable dent in it. Immediately your brain starts to talk through all of the excuses you are going to have make later to the waitress when she returns for the (still nearly-full) plates.
We were all unecessarily overwhelmed by the volume and underwhelmed by the execution. I had chosen "Jägerschnitzel in Champignonsoße mit Spätzle", a sauteed porkloin with mushroom sauce and german noodles. The spatzle were disappointedly bland. Even the addition of salt helped them little. The pork was tender but the mushroom sauce very ordinary. F's Bratwurst with sauerkraut made even less of impression on him whilst the other two, who had each chosen the same stewed-pork and dumpling dish could easily have shared one between them and still had some to spare.
I am certain that Suppenkuche rarely sell dessert. The birthday table next to us ordered just one candle-decorated slice of Black Forest gateau to share amongst everyone, it seemed.
The evening's saving grace (aside from the good beer), was that we had spent some quality time with good friends, and that we had a party to dash to as an excuse not to linger in this pleasant, but noisy and lacking, homage to German cuisine.
How I reported my visit to Zagat:
Overwhelmed by the portion sizes and underwhelmed by the quality of the cuisine while you fight to hold a conversation with your friends in this decible-blasting refectory-style eaterie, you'll find there is only one thing for it: drown your sorrows in a decent beer, or two... Suppenkuche