Edelweiss Restaurant, one of the Springs' most venerable institutions for German and Old World cuisine, has been in business since the 1960s, conveying a sense of history and a sense of place that slip through the stone walls to fill the dining rooms, outdoor patio and the menu itself.
Located at the epicenter of the city's southwest dining scene, Edelweiss sprawls a lovely lot. The building, fashioned from stones gathered from Cheyenne Creek (as legend would have it), will celebrate its centennial next year. Heavy wood beams join the stones to create a sturdy interior with a traditional feel, and the darkly colored dining rooms fall in line with old-fashioned wooden tables and chairs.
The best place to enjoy a meal at Edelweiss is on its fantastic patio. High walls, tall trees and heavily beamed awnings create a sanctuary worlds away from the street just beyond. Brimming with plants and foliage, the ample patio accommodates up to 90 diners and is surrounded by water features and whimsical statuary, including dogs, cats and a nice array of gnomes. Thus tranquilly ensconced into a restful corner, with a burbling waterfall as your backdrop, you can begin your sensory journey to Germany and other parts of Europe.
Although most folks consider German food to be heavy and bland, the kitchen staff at Edelweiss skillfully deploys an array of light flavors that successfully bring balance to the classics. The resultant dishes are satisfying without rendering one useless after dinner.
Appetizers favor France more than Germany, with escargots, baked brie in puff pastry and crab cakes. Each hits all the right notes: Fresh garlic heavily perfumes the snails; bits of corn add texture to the crab cakes; and the creamy brie plays with its buttery shell, enhanced by the salty addition of a slice of prosciutto (admittedly, an unwelcome surprise to the vegetarian at the table).
One non-German entre, angel hair pasta with tomato sauce, crab and shrimp, falls a bit flat; the ingredients taste good individually, but the ensemble rings hollow, even after the addition of some much-needed salt. The German specialties are much better. Jagerschnitzel, a breaded pork cutlet in hunter's gravy, is everything it ought to be, with a crunchy exterior, juicy core and a deep brown, earthy sauce. Equally tasty are the Cognac Scallops of Veal, which marry small pieces of veal cutlet with mushrooms, artichoke hearts and a cognac-cream sauce that demands to be eaten even after you've determined you're full.
The house-made plump and juicy bratwursts, combining ground veal with ground pork, are disarmingly light, and the rich mushroom gravy accentuates the sausages' sweet flavor. The pile of delicious sauerkraut served alongside them is, on its own, worth a trip to Edelweiss. Each house-cured strand has good texture, and the light, zingy flavor gets anything else on the fork singing.
Taken together, the homemade side dishes represent some of the best bites Edelweiss has to offer. Most dishes offer the spatzle, a traditional potato-based pasta dough that is pushed through a mesh screen over a pot of boiling water. When they're ready, the pumpkin seed-shaped bits serve as a toothsome side dish akin to rice or noodles. Perhaps best of all is the potato salad -- creamy, chunky and just plain good.
Edelweiss unquestionably upholds old-school traditions, some better than others. The German specialties, which include a highly acclaimed sauerbraten, are augmented by other continental classics including salmon and steak. But the carrots and cauliflower are stodgy (if perfectly steamed), and the salad plate features green beans that appear to be straight from a can.
Edelweiss succeeds in creating a welcoming and inviting atmosphere. The homey environment is enhanced by the friendly staff, who make honest and knowledgeable recommendations.
Although continental dishes and sensibilities often don't get much attention, let alone praise, from contemporary foodies, Edelweiss proves that tradition can be good. Comfortably seated outside on a warm summer evening, good friends can take an enjoyable journey to Germany.
-- David Torres-Rouff
34 E. Ramona Ave., 633-2220
Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m. 9:00 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. 9:30 p.m.; Sunday, noon 9:00 p.m.