Are you searching for an Oktoberfest experience? Have you been to Freibergs German restaurant in Johnson City, Tennessee? Right in the heart of the old downtown Johnson City a cluster of specialty restaurants has developed that is drawing diners from around the Tri-Cities. By far the most interesting and unique is Freibergs. Located at 203 East Main Street, Freibergs is not hard to find. Just look for the big fountain directly in front.
We visited on a Friday night when Downtown Johnson City was celebrating “First Friday,” which was not a raving success in itself, or so it seemed. Perhaps the monthly street festival was dwindling down for the summer when we visited. Inside Freibergs, we were greeted with a friendly greeting and seated in the seemingly “old” and charming dining room.
The only negative thing about our whole visit was the afternoon sun! The way it was coming in was frankly miserable, and the table we were given took the worst of it. From what one server said, it is a regular thing.
Eating hot, heavy German food in the direct sunlight is not optimal. After we were partly through with our food, they noticed we were moving chairs to attempt to get out of the sun, and they offered us another table. (Many were available.) Perhaps the perspiration and squinting should have been a clue long before that point.
We really had no idea about what to order, except we had agreed ahead of time we wanted to try the famous Pan Fried Potatoes with Onion and Bacon. (The official name is Bratkartoffein.) We had heard John Quaintance on WFHG radio talk about these, and we had also read raves about them on the Internet review sites. They did not disappoint.
Our other side dish was a big decision. Our server was very helpful, even bringing samples of a few side dishes that were quite different than anything we had ever had: Bavarian Potato salad, Red Cabbage, and sauerkraut. Part of the fun of the evening was the different taste experience, and it started with these samples.
Red cabbage was the most interesting taste of the whole evening: It had a cinnamon type of taste, unlike anything we had ever had. We opted for the regular sauerkraut, and it was also not what we expected. There was almost no vinegar to this dish, or so it seemed, and it was very filling. This was not your common variety of canned sauerkraut. It had body and loft to it. The Bavarian Potato Salad was a warm dish resembling a cold white potato salad from McAllister’s Deli in Kingsport.
Our main dishes were wonderful, and the servings were over-generous. You can see tantalizingly-clear photographs of the options on the Freiberg website. I had the Freiberg Schnitzel with Beer Cheese on it, and it was so very good. Next time, though, I will probably order the beer cheese on the side so as to more thoroughly enjoy the crispness of the Schnitzel. The pork for the Schnitzel is hand-pounded, and we figured out the hammering we heard was not a remodeling project, but my schnitzel! My dinner companion had German Style Boulette which was ground beef smothered in onions. He found it very good.
Freibergs is one restaurant that you leave looking forward to coming back. “What will I have next time?” you are wondering as wonderful-looking plates are going by the table. The main thing to remember is either sit upstairs out of the sun or come when the sun has already gone down for the evening. That’s a small price to pay for amazing food and a little taste of Germany right here in the Tri-Cities.