koln cathedral The Restaurant Owner Michael Momm
Loreley Restaurant & Biergarten, New York City

The beer is imported from Germany, the food is German-style comfort food, and the tables were made by a carpenter who builds furniture for brewery pubs in Cologne. But the similarities with what most people think is a typical German restaurant end right there. No jolly fellows swaying to folk music, no waitresses in dirndls, no cuckoo clocks on the walls, no yodeling. Nor does Michael Momm, the owner of Loreley Restaurant & Biergarten in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, fit any of the stereotypes. Michael is a professional musician, DJ, and music producer. He represents the younger generation of Germans, people who grew up with German traditions but are able to translate them into a contemporary lifestyle.

Loreley is named after the legendary siren who sits on a rock high over the Rhine and lures mariners to their death. Loreley opened in the fall of 2003. The restaurant, Michael thinks, fills a gap in the gastronomic landscape of New York City, where German-Americans, although a large ethnic group, are underrepresented. Among the more than 17,000 eating establishments in New York City, there are less than twenty German restaurants, and almost none that cater to the under-fifty crowd.

German Gemütlichkeit, a concept best approximated by "coziness" in English, means that people sit together at long wooden tables, which allows socializing with your neighbors, especially when major German sports events are being broadcast live. Except for the chestnut trees, which are typical for beer gardens in Germany, the graveled beer garden in the back of Loreley looks very much like a beer garden in Germany.

The traditions of the Rhineland and Cologne, where Michael grew up, have been a source of inspiration for Loreley. In addition to Kölsch, the beer of Cologne, which is served in the typical narrow glasses, about 20 major German beers are available on tap or bottled, as well as German wines. The menu includes German staples and regional foods. Being lured by this Loreley to downtown Manhattan offers the ageless pleasure of German food and drink — without the Lederhosen.

© 2004 Nadia Hassani
Spoonfuls of Germany, Hippocrene Books
NY Times Time Out New York


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