SCHUMANN’S JÄGER HAUS
25 W. Church St. | 407-985-1950 | schumannsjagerhaus.com | $$
The pickings have been slim for those fancying German fare in Orlando. Bauern-Stube in Belle Isle offered a proximally close option, and the decidedly better Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Cafe in Sanford a much farther one. But thanks to the Mulvaney Brothers (Ken and Brian), German cuisine is now served in the heart of downtown Orlando, via Ireland. Named after Ernest Schumann, the German stepfather to these Irish lads and local restaurateurs, Schumann’s Jäger Haus presents the right balance of festive bierhaus kitsch and hearty food to keep the mood leavened with gemütlichkeit. I took my place in an ornate throne chair, while my guests looked on from their wooden benches; but no matter who sat where, we each dined like a Prussian king on this particular evening.
Royal jewels came in the form of frikadellen ($7) – plump meatballs anointed in a curry sauce streaked with mustard. The meaty orbs were worthy of the highest praise, but when enjoyed alongside the potato pancakes ($5), we almost felt obliged to kneel before this majestic pairing. We didn’t, though our bluff and forthright German server (two years removed from the Fatherland) did applaud our selections. The fondue blended with Dragon’s Breath Heff Ale and stone-ground mustard made a nice dip for the pretzel ($9), but the slab of thick-cut bacon treading in the dip that brought out the kind of smiles only thick-cut bacon can. Those smiles got a little wider when we were presented with a plate of plump Schaller & Weber sausages ($15) served over a heap of sauerkraut. The knackwust – the favorite dish of our German server – most closely resembled the flavor of an American hot dog. The bratwurst was wonderful, but the bockwurst, with its finely ground mix of pork, veal and parsley, was the one we liked best. Washing down the links with half-liters of Spaten Optimator just seemed like the right thing to do after downing copious amounts of meat, but our rapacious appetite for flesh wasn’t quite quelled.
Crisp wiener schnitzel ($12) was as good as it gets, and the sides of smooth mashed potatoes and popping green beans only made the juicy breaded chicken cutlet better. Interesting side note: Our server said her father felt there was “too much flavor” in the breading and said many Germans prefer it on the bland side. If that’s the case, he’d probably enjoy the traditional goulash ($14), a dish lacking in sapidity. A lifeless stew of beef chunks – some fatty, some lean – ladled atop overcooked, albeit pleasantly crusted, spätzle made for a heavy, and not very hearty, dish. It was the sole disappointment of the evening, because endings were as solid as the kicks of the German football team. Remarkably flaky apple strudel ($8) was outdone only by the chocolate cake ($7). The desserts are procured from Euro Bake World, an outfit specializing in German cakes and pastries and a regular fixture at farmers markets from Audubon Park to Winter Garden.
Expect German cuisine to develop more prominence in our region – Germans Restaurant & Bierhouse recently opened in Kissimmee, and the Berghoff German Beer Hall is slated to open at Artegon Orlando on I-Drive later this year. The food is certainly über, if not yet alles.