When word got out about the prospect of a German restaurant, complete with a rooftop beer garden, in Burlington’s old Five Spice Café space, there was next to no information to be found. The website didn’t even provide names of the owners. But now, the details are flowing like a summery hefeweizen on draught.
Owner Nick Karabelas, 26, will be running the business with two associates, and he’s passionate about beer and about European cuisine. “My grandfather … ran a bar for years. I kind of grew up in it,” he says of his family’s Durham, N.H., hangout. When his father moved the family to Switzerland for his job in “big pharma,” the youngster got comfy with schnitzel and ’kraut. His business combines them. “They say, ‘Do what you love,’ and this is what I came to,” Karabelas explains. “I’ve worked in kitchens before. This is my first venture as an owner.”
It’s also his first stint as executive chef. Karabelas, who is building his menu around German specialties, says he’s committed to quality. Citing cheese, potatoes and meat as the bases for his fare, he says, “There are great opportunities to use a lot of local products, to work with Vermont Fresh Network.”
Karabelas cautions eager consumers not to expect a full menu right away. “I have an ultimate menu I’d like to work up to,” he shares. “I’ll start small with apps, schnitzel and a sausage selection, a couple of basic salads. I think we’ll do a fondue night right out of the gate. We’ll ramp it up as we gain more experience.”
Finding good help appears to be a non-issue. Karabelas has received more than 400 applications from workers willing to wear dirndls and lederhosen. “We’ve got a couple of interesting tests and challenges to put to them,” he says of his hiring philosophy. “We’ll see the cream rise to the top.”
Construction is currently in progress on the two-story building, owned by Joe Handy. The bottom level will contain a kitchen and dining room; the top floor will hold a chalet-style bar, which will feature a mix of German and Vermont beers on tap.
While Karabelas hopes to have the keys in early July, he’s not certain that the spot will be done. “It was a hole in the ground. It’s been quite a process turning it into the picture I have in my head,” he says with a laugh.