A while back I had reviewed a Durham favorite, Guglhupf, for it's bakery and brunch eats. Great patio, great pastries, it's easy to see why people rave about this place but I had never made it to dinner at the Hupf. It's located in an odd section of 15-501 that's not quite Duke territory, not quite Chapel Hill and I rarely get out here. But finally I did and it was a great meal! While I loves me some J. Betski's, Guglhupf also rocks out German food but in an entirely different way. Read on, my friends!
From the outset, I really wasn't sure what to expect for dinner service at Guglhupf since in my head, it's all about lunch and brunch. You see the cafe menu chalked up when you enter but immediately notice the hostess stand to your left where I was immediately greeted. I had to wait a bit so I grabbed a seat right outside the kitchen to watch the action. The back of the restaurant was a flurry of activity and cooking with great smells emanating out. The dining room was primarily a "mature" crowd (40 - 60) and the dimly lit dining room was alit in amber glow. Look up overhead and you'll notice the paper lanterns lighting the scene, funky and a bit different than expected.
We make our way up the stairs to the second floor which winds around the circumference of Guglhupf overlooking the first. Interesting design, it makes for a super airy feel which is great for people-watching. Our waitperson stops by, decked out in a black-tee and pants. So here's where Guglhupf maintains its cafe background. Given it was a Saturday night, some people were dressed up in jackets but the staff was dressed down and there was white-paper lining the tables. So it was a mix to me in terms of the ambiance that Guglhupf is throwing out, a bit casual cafe but in a slightly more upscale fashion.
They've got several beers on draft, I go with a .5 liter Kolsch, order up a split-pea and hamhock soup, along with braised short-ribs. They also had some seasonal specials but I had stalked the menu a bit and new exactly what I wanted. The Kolsch is served in a nice boot-shaped glass and is a good way to start of the warm evening. The split-pea soup is on the light side, decent but not overwhelming. I would have preferred a bit more density to the soup but it was good. But yes, the main! The short-ribs were incredibly good! I've eaten shortribs for a long time, my mom makes a great home-cook version but these were equally awesome. Slow-braised in pan jus, paired along with some perfect spaetzle (German noodle) flecked with herbs and some well-sauteed greens-cauliflower, wow! There's something about meat, whether you're talking about beef, pork or fish, that when it's cooked with the bone-in, it's SO much better. And the meaty, sinew of the short-rib paired along with it's contrasting side rocked it out. Very well prepared, flavored and thought out dish, it was yummy times two. Or maybe even four. And it was a very generous portion. I've done short-rib before and been given one measly bone. Two is nice but Guglhupf dished out three so I was able to share the love.
With that great meal, I wasn't able to make it to dessert but you know that Guglhupf is going to excel in that area. Service all night was spot-on with water refills, plate clearing and descriptions so kudos there! Overall while I wasn't sure exactly what to make of dinner at Guglhupf, it really worked well for me. This place would be great as a first date or for a dinner party. The one suggestion I do have is to move to tablecloths and raise the bar a bit on presentation. Food this good deserves better than paper tablecloths or shorts-sneakers which I saw in the dining room. And while I'm not the absolute biggest fan of German food, I really did love my meal at Guglhupf. They stay true to their roots without being stuffy or boring. No skinny-Minny hostess up front in a short dress with an attitude, just a well-done effort all around from food to staff and ambiance without much pretension at all. I'll be back and yes, I'm saying that in my best Ahnold Schwarzenegger as testament to the great dining at Guglhupf...
2706 Durham-Chapel Hill Boulevard
Durham, NC 27707
Guglhupf - Reviewer: Ron Wen - Rating: 4 out of 5 stars