When Ryan Benoit and Jon Turgeon first met as freshmen at St. Bernard’s, they didn’t even like each other. But through a mutual love of sports and food—and being forced to car pool—they wound up being best friends. Now they’re business partners at The Seehund German Pub & Restaurant in New London.
Even in their younger days, they thought someday they’d have their own restaurant. But someday came sooner than anticipated when The Seehund’s previous owner moved out of state to be closer to family. At the time, Jon was already executive chef and Ryan was a fry cook. “He kind of pitched it as a joke to us—you wouldn’t want to buy this from me, would you, HA HA HA?” And no kidding, that’s exactly what they did. Ryan’s since taken over the front of the house while Jon continues his executive chef role in the kitchen.
Whether you choose lunch, dinner, a bite from the pub menu, or breakfast on the weekend, you’re in for a treat and won’t leave hungry.
If you’re looking for a few bites with your beer, you’ve got options aplenty. The Reuben balls are a crispy treat, stuffed with corned beef, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes and topped with Russian dressing. Think of them as a German twist on Italian arancini.
Housemade potato pierogi, topped with smoky bacon and grilled onions, served with sour cream, are rich and delicious.
In a sharing mood? Four different German sausages and four different mustards, served with sauerkraut and red cabbage, is a great way to explore the menu.
Up for a challenge? Behold The Reubenator (Pictured at the top of this review; the sandwich immediately above is The Reuben). Perfect for those days you’re so hungry, you’re not really sure if you’d like a pastrami or corned beef sandwich or maybe couple of fried eggs or ALL OF THE ABOVE, because that’s what this is, replete with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and housemade Russian dressing. It’s served with a heaping mound of their fresh-cut kinder onion threads. You might think the biggest challenge would be eating the whole thing, though I learned a little nine-year-old girl pulled it off. For me, I stared at it for a while in awe, wondering how to attack it.
Finally, I admitted, “I must Reubenate! I don’t even know how to start to eat this damn thing!”
The bartender suggested, “Unhinge your jaw?” Seriously, that’s just about what you need to do. But talk about love at first bite. Mmmmm. From the crunch of the toasted marbled rye, to the absolute onslaught of flavors and textures with that extra over-the-top component of two fried eggs, this is one killer sandwich. One I’d nominate as a top contender for best in Connecticut. “The eggs are what actually make that sandwich,” Jon says. “Even though it’s not on the menu that way, it’s always recommended to add the eggs—it just takes it to a whole ’nother level. The ideal, premium, is to get the double egg on the Reubenator.”
Their thinly pounded schnitzel on ciabatta is every bit as delicious, and perhaps easier to wrap both your mouth and your head around. Choose chicken, pork or veal with lettuce, tomato, red onion and dill mayo—and choice of fresh-cut fries, kinder onion threads, German potato salad or a small “haus” salad.
Though their sandwiches and pub fare alone are enough incentive to head toward New London, The Seehund is also a great spot for dinner. They offer four different schnitzels: huhn (chicken); jaeger (hunter)—that’s pork; zigeuner (gypsy)—eggplant, for a vegetarian option; and what I enjoyed on my most recent visit, the classic wiener (veal). The wiener schnitzel is pounded thin, fried to a golden crisp and served on a bed of herbed spaetzle, then topped with creamy mushroom gravy and served with Brussels sprouts, sautéed in butter, chicken stock and smoky bacon. Each schnitzel is served with a different sauce and unique accompaniments.
Their apple pan scallops, pan-seared, then served in an apple cider reduction over spaetzle with bacon-topped Brussels sprouts are another favorite.
The one meal I’ve yet to try, and plan to go back for soon, is breakfast. It’s served Saturday and Sunday only, and offers so many creative dishes. “That is such a great menu, honestly,” Ryan says. “The breakfast cook, Larry, he does breakfast and lunch. I started calling him Larry Potter because some of the breakfast stuff he does is out of this world.”
He goes on to describe something Larry recently made as a special. “He fried up two eggs over medium, and then breaded them just like a schnitzel and deep fried them real quick.” The bartender chimes in, “It was so good! I didn’t know you could deep-fry an egg!” Of course, I never thought of that, either. He served it on a ciabatta bun with sausage links and American cheese.
They’ve been trying to do specials every weekend, but since they’ve also been planning special events and fundraisers, they haven’t had much time lately. The day we met, Jon and Ryan were getting ready for a beer dinner the following week. And they’re shooting for another special night in May. Not sure yet if it will be wine or beer—or mead! They found a mead company in Portland, Maine. Though I always thought of mead as thick (gee, thanks Canterbury Tales), Jon was quick to let me know that’s not the case. “It’s like a honey wine. There was a lavender one. We’ll be using that for our Mother’s Day menu for strawberry lavender soup.” Look for the special menu coming soon.
Eventually, Ryan and Jon would like to brew their own beer and have their own brewpub. Ryan’s dad was one of the three founding members of Shipyard Brewing Company. And as a young boy, Ryan spent time running through the brewery and ordering juice on the rocks at the bar. “Beer’s in my blood; food’s in his,” Ryan says, describing himself and his best friend and business partner. This winning combo is why, if you find yourself anywhere near New London, you owe it to yourself to stop in. Definitely bring your appetite. Just not on Mondays, the one day of the week they’re closed. And don’t forget the magic words—and their t-shirt slogan: Ein bier bitte—a beer please!
The Seehund German Pub & Restaurant is located at 345 Bank Street in New London, CT.