Jacob Wirth offers a blast from the Theater District’s past

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2016/05/23/jacob-wirth-offers-a-blast-from-the-theater-districts-past/

BOSTON – Sandwiched between the new AVA Theater District tower and the modern HI Boston hostel, Jacob Wirth on Stuart Street downtown stands out as an historical reminder of what used to be common in the budding theater district of the 19th century.

“The neighborhood has gone through a phenomenal amount of change and it’s still changing,” said Kevin Fitzgerald, the owner of Jacob Wirth’s German beer hall. The landmark was created from two 19th century row houses and in many ways reflects its origins, both inside and out.

On a street now dotted with Chinese restaurants, the old Jacob Wirth clock hangs from an iron bar jutting out from the storefront and catches passersby as an invitation to step back in time. Inside, memorabilia line the walls and German flags hang from the ceiling. Toward the back, a large portrait of Jacob Wirth hangs proudly overlooking patrons.

The beer hall with its wooden plank floor and double swinging doors has served brews from Budweiser to more modern drafts like Fort Hill since 1878. Its eponymous founder modeled the bistro after Bavarian beer halls in his native country. In 1977, the city designated both the exterior and Wirth’s interior as historic landmarks.

The restaurant serves up authentic German specialties like steamed bratwurst, jaeger schnitzel and grilled weisswurst alongside modern American fare.  The extensive selection of beers still features Budweiser (Wirth became the first American distributor of the suds from St. Louis, as he came from the same village in Germany as the Anheuser family.) as well as brews from Boston’s own Harpoon and Samuel Adams to Spaten Optimator and Warsteiner Dunkel from Germany.

The interior is open, reflecting the style of German beer halls.

A portrait of Jacob Wirth sits on the wall overlooking patrons (NewBostonPost photo by Beth Treffeisen)

A portrait of Jacob Wirth sits on the wall overlooking patrons (NewBostonPost photo by Beth Treffeisen)

People often stop by when they crave a bratwurst, a beef and pork sausage with onions commonly paired with red cabbage or sauerkraut. Other menu items include a Weiner schnitzel sandwich, a pounded and breaded veal cutlet served on a pretzel bun, and paper-thin pastrami slices topped with Swiss cheese and served in a sour dough roll.

Traditional fare is made following the original recipes Wirth’s family brought from their native land. The food and beverages keep people coming back, even when they’re from way out of town.

Julie Mack is one of those fans who come to Wirth’s year after year. The Los Angeles resident said she discovered the restaurant at 31-37 Stuart St. four years ago when she was moving her son into an Emerson College dormitory nearby.

A long wooden bar greets guests at the front door (New Boston Post photo By Beth Treffeisen)

A long wooden bar greets guests at the front door (New Boston Post photo By Beth Treffeisen)

“We went for the convenience, the location and to stay in downtown, originally,” Mack said. “We really enjoyed it that first time.”

Ever since, they made dining at Wirth’s a tradition when visiting Boston. During their most recent stop, on a Sunday evening, the dining room was quiet and Mack noticed that the huge chalkboards that once listed all the different beer and ale choices had been replaced with big-screen television monitors.

But the food hadn’t changed, and she had a sister-in-law from Wisconsin who could vouch for the authenticity of the traditional fare. The northern Midwest state has a large German-American population.

“From what I could gather, it was very good German food,” Mack said, referring to the review from her sister-in-law. “At least in terms of Wisconsin German food.”

German flags decorate the restaurant (New Boston Post photo by Beth Treffeisen)

German flags decorate the restaurant (New Boston Post photo by Beth Treffeisen)

For Ashley, a patron who visited Wirth’s at the end of April, the place served both awesome burgers and offered a great selection of beers.

“My experience was great,” she wrote in a message. “The restaurant is spacious and the food is great. It is not really an intimate type of feel, but who cares!”

The neighborhood has been changing, as Chinatown expanded during the past century and more recently with the arrival of high-rise buildings, including the AVA, at 45 Stuart Street. The nearly 400-unit apartment building soars 300 feet from a once-open parking lot next door.

A view of Jacob Wirth from outside (New Boston Post photo By Beth Treffeisen)

A view of Jacob Wirth from outside (New Boston Post photo By Beth Treffeisen)

Fitzgerald welcomes the addition of the high rises that have sprouted in the area as well as new hotels, as they provide a source of foot traffic that can generate new business. And the move by Emerson into the neighborhood over a decade ago and the expansion of Suffolk University into the Downtown Crossing area nearby has helped bring a younger crowd during the school year.

“It’s not easy to stay connected with peoples’ tastes and at the same time keep the historical significance of the place,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s a constant juggling act.”

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