Oktoberfest is in full bloom, and while beer and brats go hand-in-hand, there happen to be several other German dishes worth trying, and jagerschnitzel is one of them.
Traditionally, jagerschnitzel is a pork cutlet topped with a burgundy or creamy mushroom sauce. The schnitzel can be prepared with breadcrumb or flour coatings and often is served with a side of potatoes and sauerkraut or cabbage.
Coming from a German family, I grew up eating foods such as schnitzel, sauerkraut, and strudels. So when I moved here, I went on a hunt for German restaurants in the Phoenix area that prepared jagerschnitzel. To my delight, I found two -- in the same Mesa shopping plaza.
In This Corner:Zur Kate
The Setup: Zur Kate, which means "to the old Smokehouse" in German, has been in business since 1983 and is owned by Horst and Elena Schlembach. Located in an east Mesa shopping plaza, the wood-paneled restaurant is cozy and replicates the "Gasthaus" atmosphere common of restaurants in Germany. Waitresses wear Dirndl dresses, and an accordion player performs there Friday and Saturday evenings. Schnitzel plates are priced at $12.
The Good: Zur Kate has generous portions -- the jagerschnitzel plate came out with potatoes and sauerkraut. The schnitzel was breaded and crisp on the outside, but the pork was tender. The mushroom gravy tasted home-cooked with the right amount of seasoning. The sauerkraut was fresh and the potatoes were delicious. I ate the whole plate of food. The restaurant has a small bar area with strictly German beers on tap, including Warsteiner. The servers were friendly.
The Bad: The restaurant is very small, and I had to sit at the bar area to eat, since there wasn't a table available.
In the Other Corner: Bavarian Point Restaurant
The Setup: Bavarian Point is located across from Zur Kate, in the same shopping plaza. From the outside, it doesn't look like anything special; however, once you walk through the door, you will be greeted with several tables with fancy tablecloths, warm lighting, and German music in the background. A sign out front encourages patrons to seat themselves. The menu is extensive and contains several classic German dishes, such as sauerbraten and, of course, schnitzels. Meals range from $14 to $21.
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The Good: The portions also are huge here. The jagerschnitzel plate came with a side of spaetzle, which is a cross between dumplings and pasta. The all-you-can-eat salad bar was a bonus here, too.
The Bad: Service was slow. Even though there were only a couple of occupied tables, it took the waitress 10 minutes to greet me and take my order once I sat myself. The schnitzel wasn't breaded, spaetzle was bland, and I had to sprinkle on pepper just to get some sort of flavor. The price tag was a little steep, $15, for the schnitzel and one side.
And the winner is . . .Zur Kate! While Bavarian Point makes some decent dishes, the best schnitzel goes to Zur Kate. The price was right, the service was great and stepping into the restaurant was like being transported to Germany.