German restaurants, it would seem, are becoming a rarity, not just in the U.S. but also in Germany.
Whenever I visit Germany, as I did in May, I always ask any German natives I know for restaurant recommendations in the cities I plan to visit. Invariably the suggestions are for favorite Italian, Greek or Mediterranean restaurants, or maybe the best place to get a currywurst, which is basically a wiener sprinkled with curry spices and served with ketchup.
But restaurants that serves what we consider to be the typical German foods -- schnitzels, sauerbraten and such -- are surprisingly hard to find. They’re there, but not prominent. And sometimes, as with the Hofbrau Munchen Berlin, they seem to exist mainly for the tourists. (A Bavarian “beer hall” restaurant in Berlin is sort of like a Cajun Mardi Gras themed restaurant in Orlando.)
Schumann’s Jager Haus, a German restaurant on Church Street in downtown Orlando, has more in common with that Berlin restaurant. It is heavy on the atmosphere -- indeed the atmosphere is one of its best selling points -- but the food is a bit far from the fatherland.
And in the case of the Wiener schnitzel, it was downright disappointing. Available with a pounded pork or chicken cutlet (but not veal), the schnitzel -- I ordered pork -- was hard, dry and crusty. Just the sort of thing that would send Germans running to the nearest Turkish restaurant. The schnitzel came with rubbery green beans and mashed potatoes that made me think of rye bread. It turns out the potatoes had been soaked in caraway.
The “traditional” goulash had a dominant vinegar flavor that overwhelmed the ample amount of stewed beef, which was served over nicely made spatzle dumplings.
The spaztle was at the heart of one of the appetizers my guest and I had ordered. Kase spatzle was a gloppy delight of noodles with melted cheese and chunks of ham. Think of it as cheese fries with a Teutonic twist. Arguably the least authentic thing on the menu, but it was enjoyable in a guilty-pleasure sort of way.
(It could be, too, that we were just happy to finally have some food in front of us following a long wait after ordering. I had requested some bread to tide us over, but what the waiter brought us was horribly dry and largely inedible.)
The kartoffelpuffer (you can call it a potato pancake, if you prefer), was thick with shredded potatoes and onions, a nice crisply fried version of the traditional appetizer, served with both sour cream and applesauce, so we didn’t have to choose. (Nice touch.)
Schumann’s, which is owned by the Mulvaney family, known more for its Irish pubs around town, has a decor that immediately identifies it, in a stereotypically kind of way, as a German restaurant, with the steins, beer barrels and banners that you’d find in, well, that Hobrau Munchen restaurant in Berlin.
But I don’t mind that. I thought the atmosphere was the best part of the experience at Schumann’s, and it could have gone further with some oom-pah-pah music that was somehow absent (the young clientele likely prefers more contemporary tunes). But I’d like to see it spend a bit more time curating the traditional German restaurant. Otherwise, it might as well serve Italian.
Schumann’s Jager Haus is at 25 W. Church Street, Orlando. It is open for lunch Monday through Friday and dinner daily, including late night hours (though that information is mysteriously missing from the restaurant’s website). The phone number is 407-985-1950.