Apart from visiting my relatives, getting to eat bratwurst is one of the best things about going to Wisconsin. The last time I was there, around July 4, I think I ate three in four days. But a full German meal, complete with sauerkraut and potatoes, spaetzle or another weight starch, is probably a once-a-year affair for me. This is true simply because I typically leave these meals thinking I’ll never be able to eat again. If there’s an ideal place to have that once-a-year German experience, it might be Schnitzel Haus, a truly authentic eatery in the Bay Ridge neighborhood of Brooklyn.
Now before you jump to the conclusion that my craving for German food ran so deep that I scoured uncharted depths of Brooklyn to find this place, let me enlighten you. Empanada Boy and I found out about Schnitzel Haus from a couple we met through our wine club. Margarita and Tater Tot are both from the Midwest and met in Menomonie, Wisconsin where German roots and German cuisine run deep. They now live in Bay Ridge where they were naturally drawn to Schnitzel Haus. They encouraged us to come out and check it out, and the schnitzel and brat cravings started stirrimg in my stomach. We drove out last Saturday to meet them there.
We started things off in the traditional way with liters (2-plus pints) of beer. I had the Spaten Oktoberfest, one of many German options to chose from. Margarita, who doesn’t care for beer, ordered a dry Riesling. When the beer arrived, I was shocked to see how big the glasses were. I guess the metric system just doesn’t register in my mind’s eye. I could barely lift the stein to my lips to drink, but I was determined to finish it off.
The menu at Schnitzel Haus does devote a lot of space to its namesake dish, but it also includes a long list of sausages and other German specialties like Sauerbraten, Kassler Ripchen and Rindsgulasch mit Nudeln. (What exactly these are I will leave to your imagination.) EB ended up ordering the Paprikaschnitzel (see top image), a pork cutlet, breaded and fried with paprika gravy. The color was beautiful, but I found the sauce a bit lacking. It seemed like it should have been spicy or at least zesty. Instead, the sauce was bland and heavy with little of the smokiness I find in other paprika sauces.
I was set on eating sausages and studied the options carefully. Knackwurst, Weisswurst and the sausage sample platter all sounded appealing, but I could not resist the Bratwurst, which came with a pile of bacon-laced sauerkraut and a massive ball of mashed potatoes. Tater Tot ordered the same thing. The sausages were delicious, with just the right snap and a great blend of spices. But two sausages, plus the flavor-packed sauerkraut (which achieved an essential balance of tang and fatty richness) left me little room for the mashed potatoes. As in most instances, I found those to be little more than filler and generally uninspiring. Oh, and must I remind you that I still had most of my liter of beer left to drink?
Margarita had the unique experience of being a vegetarian at a meat-centered restaurant, but even she found plenty to eat. In addition to two crispy potato pancakes, she got a plate filled with spaetzle, a type of traditional egg noodle. Both were tasty, although I would imagine it was tough to consume that much starch in one sitting.
Needless to say, I fulfilled my destiny when it comes to German restaurants and over-ate to the point of discomfort. After finally managing to gulp down my last sip of beer, I was about ready to roll out of the place. The food at Schnitzel Haus is excellent, but all I could think as we got up to leave was that my stomach might not be ready for another meal there until after about a year of recovery.
7319 Fifth Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11209