Some words are simply fun to say, like Schnitzel Fritz. Go ahead - say it.
It's hard to utter the name of this casual German restaurant and delicatessen on the city's east side without smiling. Unfortunately, not everything there is as enjoyable as the name.
The menu features nearly a dozen varieties of schnitzel ($9.99 each): tenderized pork that's pounded thinner than a pancake, then breaded and baked.
The options are traditional, such as the wiener schnitzel, which has nothing to do with hot dogs but everything to do with Vienna, and is topped with a lemon sauce. Others are creative, but not what you might expect at a German eatery; consider the schnitzel Hawaii, which is topped with a pineapple ring.
The Mozzarellaschnitzel, jalapenoschnitzel, and Reuben schnitzel opened my eyes to other, imaginative preparations.
We stuck with the traditional: Jaegerschnitzel and rouladen ($12.99). The schnitzel was heavily breaded and covered with mushroom gravy. The breading overpowered the meat; thankfully, the sauce was the redeeming element. The house-made German potato salad, composed of potato chunks, bacon and onions all doused with a tangy vinaigrette, was particularly impressive. I wish I'd thought to ask for it to be served warm.
Each dish includes a choice of the potato salad, red cabbage, sauerkraut, späetzle, french fries or fried potatoes.
The rouladen came with späetzle (egg noodles), red cabbage and an indistinct green salad. The cabbage makes a statement, both in look and flavor, which was slightly sweet.
Rouladen is flank steak that has been pounded flat. Bacon, onion and pickles, yes pickles, are rolled up in the meat. It's not often I am disappointed by meat that falls apart with the touch of a fork, but the steak was overcooked. As my friend, a German cuisine connoisseur, noted, "One of the glories of Rouladen is the crunch that comes when your palate confronts the pickle. The individual tastes and textures of this dish need to both blend and be separate." In other words, there was no crunch and everything was jumbled together.
The staff at Schnitzel Fritz is exceptionally friendly and helpful. Orders are placed at the counter, but food is brought to the table. Several shelves filled with German food items greet diners as they walk in the door. That area is quickly forgotten thanks to the array of cakes in the display case. We knew we would order dessert.
The choices included Black Forest torte, apple strudel, German cheesecake and bee sting (bienenstich). Each is $3.99. The cakes are made locally by women the restaurant contracts with. We ordered the Black Forest torte, although I was also tempted by the bee sting, a buttery brioche cake filled with vanilla cream custard topped with honey and toasted almonds. This is another one for next time.
The Black Forest torte did not disappoint. Cherries and fresh whipped cream separate the layers of rich chocolate cake. It's decadent and worth every calorie.
Changing daily specials are also offered ($13.99), such as bratwurst, sauerbraten, rollbraten Hungarian goulash and German style ribs. The latter two are always available but don't include a choice of soup or dessert, which comes with the special. A variety of wursts are also on the menu.
The décor features posters of Germany and a long shelf of beer steins. Each table has a small German flag so there's no chance of forgetting the menu's origin.
Schnitzel Fritz doesn't necessarily transport you to Deutschland, but it gets kudos for the effort, thanks to the staff and fun name.