I once had to sing for my supper. It was October, hence Oktoberfest, and we were eating at Brummis. Co-owner Veronika Brumm insisted everyone in the restaurant sing, and with her infectious enthusiasm we all soon were, in German-even me, a person who ranks public singing with unfortunate events like vasectomy via Weedwhacker or seeing a Twilight movie. Yet, like the food, it was good.
But that’s all par for the course at Brummis, as I learned when I sat down one morning prior to lunch service with Veronika and her daughter, Manuela (or Ela), to discuss their restaurant, open since July 2008. “There are 106 reviews of the restaurant on Santa Barbara dining,” Ela claimed, “and they all say it’s [Veronika’s] hospitality, her personality that makes the place. It’s all about great food with a great server: and mom’s the server.”
Veronika piped in, “Thank you, Daughter.” And Ela replied, “Yes, Momma.”
The comforting rapport these two have clearly is the heart of this restaurant. Ela generally does the cooking-from longtime family recipes, as Veronika’s parents and grandparents all owned restaurants in Germany and Veronika claimed “it’s in my blood.” Veronika is the entire waitstaff, not only explaining dishes to those new to German cuisine, but playfully badgering when necessary. For instance, she said, “If I see someone has left a little bit of schnitzel on the plate, I point and ask, ‘What’s that?’ And they eat it and say, ‘Yes, Mom.’”
Mom also turned out to be the driving force behind the move from near Berlin to Santa Barbara. As Veronika tells the story, “In 2007, we traveled from San Francisco to Los Angeles and we stopped in Santa Barbara. I told my daughter, ‘That’s my town forever.’ And my husband asked, ‘For vacation?’ And I said, ‘No, forever.’ There’s a German phrase, ‘Life’s too short to stay in the same place.’”
So, after years of running an insurance company in Germany, Veronika came to Santa Barbara. “My husband gave us the restaurant as a surprise,” she said. “Fifty percent for me, 50 percent for my daughter. We’ve come here to cook for the American people.”
The Brumms do hope, with their tasty food, to dispel some common myths about their native land’s cuisine. “Yeah, people usually think it’s really heavy, but it’s not heavy heavy,” Ela said. “If you go to a Chinese place and order Kung Pao chicken that’s really greasy, that’s heavy.” She even represents a new generation’s take on the food, saying, “Since I’m a vegetarian, we have lots of vegetarian options on the menu-the Spätzle, the dumplings, the potato salad. All the sauces are vegetarian, too-none are made with chicken stock-so you can have those on the noodles.”
They are planning something a bit more meaty for the holidays-traditional roast duck. At first Veronika used the German word, but as Ela filled in the English, Veronika started flapping her arms to imitate the bird, the exact kind of thing that makes her such a hit with customers. “It’s the most common dish you can have in the north,” Ela explained. “Christmas means ducks.” Veronika added, “In the south, they make goose, but it’s too dry to me.” Along with that duck will be a first course of a traditional chicken soup and a dessert of chocolate pudding with vanilla sauce. The Brumms ask that people coming for the special dinner-to be served Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day-make reservations as they need to order the correct amount of ducks.
As for 2010 and beyond, the Brumms do have plans, but Veronika half joked, “It’s top secret.” Ela elaborated, “We want to try to sell a few products. People ask for things, but we say not yet. We have a lot of ideas.” One of those ideas is putting in a little bar in the back of the room where the Hofbrau on tap resides. The pair is also excited about a recent revamping of the short wine list, for, as Veronika said, “We added some nice German wines, a very good riesling and gewürztraminer.” The wines do seem like fine additions: The riesling is Chateau St. Michelle Saint M, a new line they’re carrying actually made in Germany by the acclaimed Dr. Loosen, and the gewürz, from Hogue, consistently is rated highly in wine mags.
In the meantime, mother and daughter Brumm will keep serving fine food and memorable, mom-able meals. For, after consulting their books to see that they did do solid enough business last January 1, they reminded me as I left to get that in the article. Veronika said, “Also with the special,” as she flapped her arms, and Ela quickly added, “Donald!”
Experience the homey feel and food of Brummis, the German Taste, located at 3130 State Street. Call 687-5916.
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