In a pandemic pivot that now seems to be an annual tradition, last week the venerable Upper East Side butchers Schaller & Weber reopened their outdoor ski lodge restaurant Hütte, serving a menu of cold-weather Austrian classics under the watchful eyes of all sorts of taxidermied beasts. There are vintage ski-gear posters, antlers, ice skates, pinecones, evergreen boughs, twinkling lights, cute little owls, blankets upon request, and about a dozen heaters blasting down from the exposed plywood beams above.
It's an inspired transformation of the building's back patio (you enter through the sausage bar Schaller's Stube, rather than the butcher shop proper), but last winter, in those pre-vaccine times, the almost entirely enclosed tented space felt way too indoorsy for me. Now that many of us are comfortable eating inside again, however, I jumped on an invitation to check out the space last weekend, excited to gorge on game meat and cheese fondue.
Sadly, the game is gone from the menu, but they push the fondue hard here. And it's expensive: a warm pot of cheese and a board laden with ready-to-dip accouterments will run you $70 minimum for the table; it's $35 a person, but you have to get it for at least two. The cheese itself is lush and creamy, slightly sharp, and definitely a bit boozy. The board looks festive and is fun to eat, with three kinds of sausage, standard-issue raw vegetables, and some welcome cornichons and apple slices. But really, our favorite thing here was the hunks of toasted Balthazar rye bread—I would love a lower-priced version of this, bread and cheese only, hold the carrots and pea pods.
At our host's urging, we had the Beef Goulash Soup to start (nicely seasoned, the meat quite tender) and the Tyrolean Cheese Dumpling, which was delicious in that specific way big balls of buttery cheesy dough can be. Smart move, too, to nest the thing in a mound of pickled cabbage, with bits of chewy speck strewn about. Other options up top include Pumpkin Soup, Vegetable Spätzle, and a mix-and-match selection of cheese and charcuterie, the latter, of course, from Schaller & Weber's vast larder next door.
Entrees range from a $20 Alpine Burger, which comes with bacon and "wedge fries," to a $34 Seared Duck Breast. We landed somewhere in the middle with a terrific Bacon Wrapped Pork Loin, the thick ovals of meat surprisingly juicy, and the bacon doing its job by adding smoke, fat, and a bit of crunch. The mushroom pappardelle that came with it was good as well, if oversalted. The kitchen plated our serving a bit oddly, splitting it in two and adding some extra pig, but know that usually you get three slabs of meat atop your pasta for $28.
If you're feeling some sticker shock from these prices, you're not the only one. We watched three tables of people sit down at Hütte, scan the QR-generated menu, and promptly leave.
Our dessert, a slice of Black Forest Cake, was outsourced from the nearby Viennese bakery Cafe Sabarsky, and had so much (unadvertised) raw brandy in the cherries that I, a non-drinker, couldn't eat much of it. The Chocolate Fondue seems like a better bet anyway, with apples, strawberries, marshmallows, pretzels, and bacon for dIpping, though it will set you back an additional $25.
Hütte is located at 1652 Second Avenue, between 86th and 85th Streets, and is currently open on Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., and from 11:30 a.m. (from brunch) to 11 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday (646-981-0764; huttenyc.com)