If you live in or near Marquette, you've probably heard about--or been to--the city's newest restaurant. Since opening its doors in mid-summer, Das Steinhaus
has been serving up authentic German food and drink with a local, seasonal twist.
Das Steinhaus isn't the first restaurant to occupy the unassuming rear corner of the Harlow Block. First the New York Deli made the location a downtown hot-spot, then Kareem's was followed by the Sai Uwa Thai Bistro.
When Sai Uwa Thai Bistro closed its doors in late 2012, future Steinhaus owners Justin Fairbanks and Dave Cappaert pounced on the opportunity. Though they're just a few years removed from their studies, both self-described "food and drink lovers/critics" have prior industry experience
Fairbanks earned a culinary degree from New York's Institute of Culinary Education and worked at the beloved Harbor House restaurant in Copper Harbor, while Cappaert came up through NMU's hospitality program and served as the bar manager at Elizabeth's. Fairbanks works as the restaurant's head chef and Cappaert curates its extensive beer, wine and cocktail lists. The owners have already hired 14 employees, 11 of whom are currently enrolled at NMU, and may need additional help as the business grows.
"Marquette doesn't have much foreign cultural influence in the restaurant scene, let alone a German restaurant," Cappaert says. Fairbanks's experience at Copper Harbor's German-themed Harbor House and extensive travels in Austria lend Das Steinhaus's menu some serious authenticity.
In keeping with their commitment to innovative, seasonal dishes, the menu is in a constant state of flux.
"Justin is constantly researching and testing new recipes to bring to the restaurant," says Cappaert. "He uses fresh ingredients and makes just about everything on the menu from scratch."
Some perennial offerings are already making waves. The German pretzels--puffier and less salty than their American counterparts--are an early hit. Wild venison appears in steak and sausage form. An optional egg on top gives traditional dishes like jager and pork schnitzel a quirky edge.
The restaurant's young owners also want to turn the place into Marquette's go-to Sunday brunch spot. With $5 bloody marys that feature add-ons like fresh oysters and a menu that includes crepes and duck confit hash, they're well on their way.
Behind the bar, Cappaert oversees four taps anchored by Michigan's German-style Frankenmuth Pilsener and Weihenstephaner, a traditional German beer from the world's oldest brewery, and an impressive selection of cans and bottles. It's one of the only bars in town that serves Blackrocks Brewery's limited-edition Flying Hippo IPA and features an impressive lineup of Michigan-made beers from Jolly Pumpkin, Dark Horse, Founders and others.
A trained mixologist who once ran a Hilton Hotel bar in Australia, Cappaert does plenty of experimenting of his own. He's particularly proud of his signature creation, the Peppered Petal--"Gin, fresh lemon, wild hibiscus syrup, and fresh grapefruit juice bruised and served up with a light dusting of black pepper on top," he says--as well as the U.P.-flavored Maple Old Fashioned, a simple mixture of bourbon, ginger beer and real maple syrup.
Whether you're a seasoned German food and drink enthusiast or can't tell the difference between schnitzel and Schweinshaxe, Das Steinhaus is a place to watch in downtown Marquette.
Located in Marquette's Harlow Block building, Das Steinhaus is open Wednesday through Saturday for dinner and offers Sunday brunch from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Brian Martucci writes about business, finance, food, drink and anything else that catches his fancy. When he's not working out of his office on Marquette's East Side, you can find him stretching his legs on the trails or sampling local flavors at Blackrocks and the Ore Dock.