The Breads and Bakers of DTLA’s BierBeisl Imbiss

Chef Bernhard Mairinger’s new downtown restaurant brings Austrian specialties to the Spring Arcade

Usually a laid-back omepot for quick meals, fresh baked goods and well-crafted sandwiches, salads and entrees, an Austrian imbiss totally fits the current casual culinary scene in L.A. And leave it to Austrian-born chef Bernhard Mairinger to debut his own version, BierBeisl Imbiss, this week in the Spring Arcade downtown. Not only will there be sausages, sachertortes and beer, but also a full-fledged bakery turning out stunning breads, pastries, and more.

Mairinger made quite an impact with his schnitzel, sausages and schnapps at the original BierBeisl in Beverly Hills (it was one of our picks for Best New Restaurants in 2012). Moving his concept east and landing in Downtown feels right for the young ambitious chef. The fact that he wanted to have an on-site bakery meant he needed more space, which he found in the Historic Core. While Imbiss isn’t huge—it only seats 55 people inside and out—it feels airy and spacious thanks to high ceilings with natural wood arches across the ceiling. They used wood from an old youth hostel basketball court for the tables; the stained cement floors, exposed brick and white tiles complement the room. It might be fashioned after little shops and stands you’d find in places like Berlin, Vienna or Salzburg, but still feels very L.A.

“In Austria, an imbiss is usually a tiny little stand that you go up to late afternoon and grab a bite,” Mairinger says. “Sausages are ready to go and easy to pick up. There are sandwiches, beers and dumplings. It’s just good, down-to-earth food. But I want to elevate that experience for L.A.”

Opening daily from breakfast to late-night, there’s just about everything on the menu, from morning pastries to sausage rolls and beer. There are some favorites from the original BierBeisl menu, including the schnitzel and potato salad, but also an expanded sausage menu, including käsekrainer, a cheese-studded link, and weisswurst, a veal and pork white sausage. There’s an array of traditional sandwiches like Leberkas’semmerl (veal meatloaf on a house-made roll), brat’l (crispy pork belly) and böerger (a beef-pork patty topped with a fried egg). All of the sandwiches come with a choice of bread, but thanks to the two master chefs Mairinger brought in from Austria, it’s not your usual wheat-sourdough-rye offerings.

“Rene Felbermayer was recommended by a friend. He’s always worked in small, family-owned bakeries, where everything is done from scratch,” Mairinger says. “Michael Hanl, on the other hand, worked for a large commercial bakery that does huge amounts of baking with their own proprietary mixes. The two couldn’t be more different, which is why it works so well. Their intensity and focus on the bread, on the craft, is just amazing.”

The two bakers and chef collaborated on all of the baked goods at BierBeisl Imbiss, often combining thoughts, techniques, and recipes from each chef’s playbook. “I wanted to make a bread with pork lard, the schmaltz left behind after cooking down the pork belly,” Mairinger says. “After Rene found a flour he could use—100 percent organic rye flour from Grist & Toll in Pasadena—he tested the idea. This bread is so good. It has a nice caraway and coriander flavor.” It’s one of the ones offered with salads and sausages.

There’s also an apple spelt bread the chef is very proud of. Made with 100 percent spelt flour, there’s flax, caraway and apple, which adds moisture. “We just put our heads together to figure it out,” Mairinger adds.” We made a first run, changed some things, and it came out. This will definitely be one of our top sellers, I think.” That will be sold as small loaves from the bakery, or you might find it, along with other sweet breads, in the morning bread basket.

In the pastry department, there are sweet rolls, tarts, and cakes. You’ll find seasonal specialties, something like banana schnitten, a layered cake with shortbread, meringue, apricot jam, vanilla cream, fresh bananas and a light dark-chocolate mousse. The grape strudel Mairinger served at the original BierBeisl is back, only this time made with puff pastry, thanks to Felbermayer. “It’s the most perfect puff pastry I’ve ever tasted. It’s crunchy, flaky and buttery, but not crumbly,” Mairinger says. “Just perfect for the apples, grapes and bit of vanilla cream.”

BierBeisl isn’t quite full-service. Order at the counter where some items are served immediately from the open kitchen. With a custom-made wooden tray and number in tow, find a seat and the rest will come to you. “It’s not just a take-out window like a true imbiss,” says Mairinger. “People can stop for a snack, a pastry, breakfast or a full dinner because there will be specials. It’s a place for any time of day on any occasion. Way more casual than BierBeisl in Beverly Hills.”

BierBeisl Imbiss opens daily from 8am-2am beginning July 9.

BierBeisl Imbiss, 541 S. Spring St., Downtown, 213-935-8035