Vol 6 No. 41 - July 5, 2006

Old Hamburg is truly ‘wunderbar’

Wolfgang Jahn shows a plate of the restaurant’s specialty, wienerschnitzel.
By Liza Morrow
sun staff writer

The main reason to make your way to the Old Hamburg Schnitzelhaus, a German restaurant squished between Solo’s Pizzeria and Walgreen’s, is not for its hamburgers (despite the name Hamburg, there are none) but for its home style authentic German cooking, and specifically, the schnitzel. While Old Hamburg might not cause a culinary flutter in most sections of the Gulf Coast, it is an ethnic oasis in the restaurant scene in and around Anna Maria. A place to soothe a diner weary from the sight of too many half-eaten, fried grouper sandwiches.

The restaurant, which quietly exudes ethnic charm, is a family affair, under the cheerful management of Brigitte Jahn in the kitchen and her husband, Wolfgang, who claims he is "the nobody behind the bar that just makes sure everyone is happy." The look is warm and woody, with dark beams and decorative beer steins that say "Germany." Crisp white curtains frame the windows and flags of Germany and the United States decorate not only the walls but wave to passer-bys outside the entrance. The pretty waitress, daughter Christina Jahn, fits into the picture with a logo stamped white T-shirt and jeans. Service is always warm and friendly.

Like the restaurant, the food has a homey quality. Reasonably priced, the dishes are hearty and restorative. Beef lovers should try the roulade, a tasty sliced steak rolled around a stuffing of fried onions, bacon and pickles. Or the goulash, chock full of fork-tender chunks of meat and accompanied by yummy hand-formed egg noodle spatzle. Other good bets are the bratwurst, a tasty grilled pork sausage, and the more delicate weisswurst, made of veal. Both arrived with snappy sauerkraut and homemade mashed potatoes.

But the stellar entrée and namesake is wienerschnitzel. Simply presented, it is a plate-filling, crusty, buttery escalope of either pork or veal (additional $3) breaded ever so lightly, served with salad and crispy roasted potatoes. Huehnerschnitzel (like wienerschnitzel, but with chicken instead of veal), and Wienerschnitzel ala Holstein fried with eggs and anchovies are standards here. Another dish with satisfying character is the stuffed cabbage — two he-man-size rolls filled with a mixture of ground pork and beef. For the adventurous carnivore, Schweine "Haxen Bayer Art", or pork knuckle, Bavarian style is the special every Friday.

Many diners will choose German beer with this hearty fare. Five choices are available on draft for $3.80 a third liter or $4.80 for a half liter and $9.50 a liter glass. The two sweets hailed as wunderbar are a homemade flaky warm apple strudel under a drift of whipped cream and a light Black Forest cake – simply luscious. The homemade cheesecake and apple cake are also on the mark.

Old Hamburg Schnitzelhaus’s wienerschnitzel
1 4-to 5-ounce veal cutlet, pounded thin
Salt and pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Bread crumbs
Canola or vegetable oil for cooking
Lemon wedge and a sprig of parsley for garnish

Lightly season the veal cutlet with salt and pepper. Coat both sides with flour. Pat gently to remove excess. Dip cutlet in eggs and then coat with bread crumbs. Set aside.

Heat enough oil in a sauté pan to barely cover the breaded cutlet when placed in the pan. Sprinkle a few breadcrumbs over the pan to determine the correct temperature. When the breadcrumbs begin to sizzle, carefully place the cutlet in the pan. Be careful not to splash any hot oil on your skin. Cook wienerschnitzel until lightly browned around the edges, then turn it over carefully to cook the other side. When both sides have a nice brown color, remove the schnitzel from the pan and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Garnish with fresh parsley. Squeeze lemon over wienerschnitzel and enjoy.

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