From its old location in Altamonte Springs to the east Winter Park address it's now occupied longer than many restaurants remain in business, Old Germany has been one of the most reliable contributors to greater Orlando's selection of old-country cuisine. Regulars and Oktoberfest day-trippers alike know to rely on the place for authentic fare that can be described with almost any adjective save "light." Admittedly, you can get everything from pasta to all-American seafood on the premises, but the far-ranging selection of German dishes has always been and will likely remain the real draw.
On a recent visit, we found the restaurant holding on to its reputation with Teutonic tenacity, if not complete consistency. The atmosphere certainly couldn't have been more genuine, the faux beer-garden decor enhanced by the accordion sighs of the piped-in oom-pah music. Within minutes, we were feeling the instinctual urge to let our shoulders sway from side to side and to raise a toast with frosty mugs we knew to be wholly imaginary.
Instead, we applied our energies to ordering appetizers that proved to be a surprisingly underwhelming introduction to the meal. Big fans of potato pancakes in general, we found Old Germany's version of the delicacy ($4.99) inexcusably greasy. Meanwhile, the heavily peppered spaetzle ($5.99) better known as German egg noodles prepared with sauerkraut and bacon was excessively dry. We seemed to have stumbled into a Goldilocks und der Three Bears situation, in which extremes ruled the day and nothing was Just Right.
The experience considerably dimmed our hopes for the entrees, but some wisely solicited recommendations put us back on the road to artery-punishing satisfaction. Having asked our young waitress to identify the two items on the sausage menu that were closest to being polar opposites, we agreed to try the Bavarian and Nuernberger varieties (each $9.99, the latter with a flavoring of fresh herbs that cost an extra 50 cents). While we wouldn't say that the two were as distinctly disparate as, say, Richard Strauss and Levi Strauss, each had a robust, full-bodied flavor that made us glad we had gone the spicy route instead of ordering what sounded like the least adventuresome sausage on offer: "Hot dog American tradition."
The true standout, however, was the namesake Old Germany pork schnitzel ($14), which was practically a tour de force of taste and texture. Its perfectly breaded exterior struck an unfailing balance between tenderness and crunch, making it everything the flimsy potato pancakes hadn't been. The recipe was bolstered by a canopy of Swiss cheese, some unbelievably savory mushrooms and sauerkraut that didn't impose the least bit of sogginess. Every bite was so delicious that we were backhandedly relieved we wouldn't have room for the whole thing: It gave us leftovers to look forward to. Side dishes almost seemed extraneous at that point, though the mashed potatoes were sufficient to make a gravy gourmand swoon.
Dessert was a mixed bag: The mountain of Black Forest cake ($5.99) tasted as lush as its name would warrant, though the apple strudel ($4.99) suffered from its own form of outer-crust inadequacy: It just wasn't flaky enough to meet our expectations. Going one for two on desserts (and zero for two on appetizers) isn't the best way to bookend a meal, but what transpired in between was delightful enough to convince us that dinner at Old Germany is still an outing to look forward to; you just have to be a bit more careful in ordering than you might anticipate. But when it's time to bring home the wurst, this venerable schnitzel spot still knows how to make us feel like we're all wearing lederhosen deep inside.