Cumberland County’s beverage scene has exploded in recent years. Breweries, in particular, are doing quite well, with the county ranking number 10 in the state for the number of breweries, according to the “Breweries in Pennsylvania” website. Many of these establishments work as hard on their food as they do on their beer and therefore should be taken into consideration when making dinner plans.
Desperate Times Brewery is one such establishment. The business at 1201 Carlisle Springs Road in Carlisle offers a German-inspired menu, designed to complement its award-winning beer.
On the menu
The night my friend and I arrived, we easily found a spot in the large parking lot. When we walked into the place, we deduced that we’d have to seat ourselves, so we picked a table in the middle of the large room. Shortly thereafter, a waitress greeted us with menus and took our drink orders. We both agreed that the New Deal Double IPA didn’t disappoint.
The food menu is divided into six sections. Under “The Pinch,” guests can order appetizers like “hobo bread” (hard pretzels served with German mustard); “The Dish,” comprised of baked brie, cherry preserves and crostini; or our choice, “The Rattler” ($8), which we agreed was delicious. The delicate and moist meatballs made with beef and pork were simmered in a savory tomato sauce and topped with melted mozzarella cheese and served with crostini.
“The Paddy Wagon” section of the menu allows customers their choice of three sausages served with German mustard and potato salad, or sauerkraut. My friend chose a knockwurst deemed the “Elliot Ness,” a Bavarian Kaiser Bratwurst known as the “FDR” and a traditional German hot dog named the “Real McCoy,” along with potato salad ($14.50).
The sausages came skewered with cute, little German flags sporting numbers that corresponded to the menu selections for proper identification. My friend said that he enjoyed everything about his choices, from the texture to the seasonings. He declared the German potato salad “exemplary,” remarking that the seasoning was “just right.”
About a dozen sandwiches are listed on the menu and include choices like the Cuban called “The Capone,” served on authentic Cuban bread from Ybor City, Florida; a schnitzel sandwich called the “Micky Finn”; and my choice, “The Willard,” which most will recognize as a “Rachel,” with ingredients like turkey, Swiss cheese and sauerkraut served on toasted rye ($8.75), with chips on the side.
The generously portioned sandwich was good, the rye was flavorful and adorned with just the right amount of homemade Thousand Island dressing (there’s nothing worse than a soggy sandwich with an overabundance of condiments). The sauerkraut, with its tanginess, complemented the other ingredients so that I could taste each flavor individually, as well as the components together as a whole.
If you’re subscribing to the “New Year, New You” theme by eschewing carbs, there are four salads from which to choose. Desperate Times offers a chopped salad known as “The Chopper,” a Caesar known as the “Clean Sneak,” a mixed green salad with goat cheese called “The Lois Long,” and an Asian salad known as “The Big Six” made with spinach, quinoa, red and green cabbage, carrots, sugar snap peas, green onions, mandarin oranges and peanuts and served with a Thai peanut dressing.
The brewery welcomes little ones, too, as evidenced by a children’s menu offering items like a peanut butter and jelly, a fluffernutter and chicken tenders, all for less than $6.
After my visit, I learned that the business was formerly a John Deere dealership, which explains the soaring ceilings, the oversized windows and the cement floor, which is all fine and fits in with the industrial vibe, but this also translates into a chilly environment during the wintertime. I felt as if my experience would have been better had I been able to dine sans coat.
I also found the names of the dishes to be a bit confusing and was trying to find a central theme, but when I asked why they called our meatball dish a “rattler,” the server couldn’t provide us with an answer. It’s clear that some names tie into prohibition and others to famous gangsters. I did discover that my sandwich, “The Willard,” was named after the national president of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, so perhaps I just need to brush up on my history.