Harry's Hofbrau

San Leandro Reviews

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Review Updated 1/1/14

Harry's Hofbrau is a small chain (it has four locations) of restaurants featuring meats and side dishes in a cafeteria-like setting. There is a counter on one side where you place your order and get your food and drinks, with a cash register at the end where you pay. The menu consists of typical American dishes such as Roast Beef, Smoked Ham, Corned Beef, New York Pastrami, Pork Loin and Rotisserie Chicken. Side dishes include mashed potatoes, vegetables, and stuffing. There are also daily specials, which vary by the day of the week. Most dinners are around $13 and sandwiches $8. Vegetarians may find it hard to find something to eat other than sides or a salad.

The San Leandro Harry's Hofbrau occupies a couple of very large, nicely appointed rooms featuring booths and tables and lots of wood. The backroom has a large bar and a gas fireplace, and it's very nice. The place is large enough that it doesn't feel busy, specially at odd hours.

Our first visit was in 2004, At that time I ordered the Danish steak, one of the specials of the evening (still on the menu for Monday nights, $10.30). This turned out to be a very thick ground-beef steak (reminiscent of meatloaf or Salisbury steak but thicker), covered with gravy and served with mashed potatoes. The steak tasted fine, though the gravy was a little bit too rich for my taste. The mashed potatoes weren't that great; they tasted as if they were out of a box, and I wouldn't go back here again if I had a craving for them.

Mike got a corned beef sandwich which consisted of two pieces of bread and slices of corned beef. He was expecting it would include the standard condiments, but I guess you have to specify if you want them, as the sandwich was just plain. The meat was fine, and he liked it, but it would have been better with condiments. He also had macaroni salad which he found just OK, nothing special. We ordered a side dish of stuffing, which was very soggy and I didn't like.

This time around, I went on an evening when they had no specials, so I ordered the Roast Beef, with mashed potatoes and gravy and a side of mushrooms. It was surprisingly good. The roast beef came from a cheaper cut, but it was cut very thinly and served on the rare side of medium-rare. It came accompanied by a tasty au jus, and it was all in all very tasty. My tastes may have become more pedestrians in the last decade, but I also enjoyed the mashed potatoes and gravy - though the mashed potatoes had looked gummy when they were served. Now, this is not a dish I'll be craving after, but it was good enough. The same can be said about the mushrooms, which are cooked and served whole.

Camila, my 9-yo, didn't want any meat so that left her with a choice of sides, only (~$3 each). She went for the mac & cheese, and an order of plain spaghetti (they have it to serve with the jambalaya). The sides are not very big, and $6 was pretty steep for what she got, but c'est la vie. She found the mac & cheese too cheesy but made do by alternating with the plain spaghetti.

Drinks were sodas, which at $2.25 with no refills are no bargain. Fortunately, we weren't particularly thirsty.

We still had room for dessert, and Camila went for the ice cream ($2.50). They had they choice of vanilla and mint chocolate chip, which she enjoyed, but she's not picky. I had a slice of cheesecake ($4), which was better than I expected and tasted exactly like you'd expect a cheesecake to taste. In any case, it was better than the Boston Creme Pie I'd had in 2004. That consisted of two layers of white cake filled with vanilla pudding and topped by chocolate frosting. ALL of it - the cake, the pudding, the frosting - tasted like out of a box, and yet it was strangely satisfying. It's still available.

In all, I found the meal to be pretty tasty and satisfying, but overall too expensive for what it was. I can't imagine going back anytime soon, but it'll probably be less than a decade before my next visit.

Harry's Hofbrau
14900 east 14th Street
San Leandro, CA