Those who love food take it very seriously, and none more so than the food from their youth. I was raised on slow-roasted schweinerbraten (pork roast), large potato balls and beautiful salads. But nothing beckoned me home more persuasively than my mother's schnitzel: perfectly crisp and tender, lovingly served with kartoffel salat (potato salad).
To make schnitzel, which loosely translates to "cutlet," you pound meat thin, bread it, then fry it. Although traditionally made from veal, pork is an affordable and common substitution. Pork was king in our home.
Yes, I was blessed to be born to a great German cook. So, upon entering the Schnitzel King, located in a small Security strip mall, I tried to keep an open mind.
A warm greeting gave way to a guesthouse feel; light sheers hung along the windows and quaint decorative German plates lined the walls. On the menu, nothing surpasses $10. With 14 variations, the schnitzel is truly king, but peppersteak, bratwurst and salads round out the menu. I decided on the Jgerschnitzel (pork cutlet), topped with hunter gravy and mushrooms and served with spaetzel (noodles).
The salad arrived quickly and seemed like ordinary bag salad. But the homemade King's Dressing, which came highly recommended, reminded me of my mother's cucumber dressing: a sour cream-based vinaigrette with a hint of sweetness.
When it arrived, the schnitzel, frankly, overwhelmed me. It hung over both sides of the plate, smothered in rich chestnut-colored gravy with thick slices of Portobello mushroom. How was I going to tackle this?
Did I mention Germans love to feed you?
The schnitzel was lean, nicely breaded and tender. The buttery spaetzel, though delicate, stood up well. This was true comfort food. When the moment of fullness arrived, there was barely a dent in my plate. I took the rest to go; it was a great dinner for me and my husband.
On my next visit, I decided to bring the Schnitzel Queen. My mother had already found this gem; she went for the standard Wienerschnitzel with fried potatoes, and was pleased. I chose the Swiss schnitzel, and while the flavor was there, the presentation, featuring a couple of melted Swiss cheese squares, could've been enhanced. We loved the potatoes but agreed a vegetable side was needed.
We had begun to enjoy our spaghetti ice cream (soft-serve vanilla ice cream pressed through a ricer and drizzled with raspberry and coconut shavings) when Chef Sigfried Herbst stopped by. He chatted with my mother in German a personal touch not lost on her. When the conversation returned to English, I found that "Sigi" opened the Schnitzel King 18 months ago, but has bigger dreams.
King's Dressing is his creation, and he plans to market it. He's talking to Wal-Mart and hopes to see his dressing on local shelves within weeks.
With his salad dressing taking off, he's putting the restaurant up for sale. He plans to sell it as Schnitzel King and to train the next owner, but he can't guarantee his menu will live on.
So I suggest you try his schnitzel before he leaves the scene. Take it from my mother: "When someone wants a good schnitzel, they should come here."
Schnitzel King Restaurant
5644 S. Hwy. 85/87, Unit 6
Hours: Monday-Wednesday, 4-9 p.m., Thursday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.