Tuesday, April 13, 2010
New German restaurant Gerhard’s in Roanoke has knock-out spaetzle
Potato pancakes, too.
Given the fact that German settlers had a lot to do with settling Texas, you'd think we'd have more German restaurants than we do. Gerhard's is a new-ish restaurant in Roanoke that helps rectify that situation by serving German food that's very good.
The menu includes all your classic dishes: sauerbraten (slow-roasted beef sirloin in red wine sauce), rouladen (slow-roasted beef filled with onions, bacon, pickle, and mustard, that's rolled and sauteed), chicken & dumplings, stuffed cabbage rolls, goulash, shnitzel, spaetzle, and bratwursts. Everything sampled featured fresh ingredients, appealing recipes, and careful execution.
Spaetzle casserole had house-made twisted noodles in a slightly shiny sauce enriched but not gummed up by Swiss cheese, onions, and bites of smoked bacon, with a ladle of brown gravy on top. The pleasure of this dish was in the texture of the noodles: halfway between soft and firm, almost chewy. Accompanying apple slaw with chopped apple, raisins, and thinly sliced toasted almonds came in a horseradish-laced dressing that was spicy-hot. If you don't want to commit to an entire order of spaetzle, you can get a side dish for $2.50.
The other favorite: potato pancakes, listed as an appetizer, with three small pancakes made from shredded potato and a little onion, plus sour cream and applesauce. Another big score on texture, crusty and brown outside, while the inside was mostly soft but with potato bits that still had some tooth.
You can get an entree bratwurst platter with fried onions, sauerkraut, and mashed potatoes, but the bratwurst appetizer is almost better because it comes with a big chewy pretzel (instead of potatoes). Like Henk's, Jorg's Vienna, and Bavarian Grill, Gerhard's gets its bratwursts from Siegi’s Sausage, the Tulsa, Okla. sausage company started in 1985 by Siegi Sumaruk, who once worked at Kuby's in Dallas.
You've seen fried pickles but Gerhard's also has fried pickled beets. Pickled baby beets were speared -- three beets per skewer -- then battered and fried. They were interesting, and if it takes frying to get you to eat beets, then OK, why not; but the jury is still out on whether frying them adds anything.
Schnitzel is the boneless cutlet that's pounded thin, battered, and deep-fried, sort of the predecessor to chicken-fried steak. The classic is Wiener schnitzel made with pork, but Gerhard's also does a "Roanoke schnitzel" made with chicken breast. It had a panko-esque bread-crumb-type crust which was definitely crunch; personally, I prefer a battered-type crust because it seems less oily.
Nine side dishes include sauerkraut with raisins in a sweet-and-sour brine; German-style potato salad, served warm, with large thin potato slices, skin still on, and chopped bacon; and a "Bavarian sausage salad" that they were unfortunately out of. A dozen sandwiches included a German-style reuben on dark rye bread; bratwurst sliders; an open-faced pulled pork sandwich with gravy; and a German-style fried bologna sandwich with "Texas-sized" fried bologna, bacon, and Swiss cheese.
Desserts were fairly simple: bread pudding, a jam-filled fried pastry made with phyllo dough that I'd skip, and the best item, a loosely-constructed Bavarian apple strudel made with fresh apples.
The restaurant comes from Gerhard and Valrie Pelzer, who had a restaurant in Tampa, Fla., but were impressed by Roanoke after visiting Valrie's sister here last year. Gerhard is a soccer nut, which explains the quirky, life-size photo-posters of soccer players on the walls. One notable item: the "green" toilets in the bathroom, with a green-colored button to push for light flushes.
The atmosphere is unexpected for a German place: huge high ceilings, cement floor, glass-top tables, and high-backed red leather chairs that look like they came from Eurway. The bar is dinky/nonexistent but they have a few good beers on tap, and a band plays on Saturday nights.
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