A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to revisit with one of my favorite German-style restaurant’s in town, German Schnitzel Haus. I had been to this establishment when it was still at it’s original location a block west on Atlantic Blvd past Hodges Blvd. Since my last visit there the restaurant had closed and a bank opened up in it’s former space. Even though I was surprised, I thought the restaurant was closed for good until I recently rediscovered it. The restaurant was hiding in the back of the Steinmart shopping center on Atlantic Blvd a block east of it’s previous location. I made a mental note of this and proceeded to call the restaurant during its regular hours in order to schedule an interview.
I got in touch with head chef Steve Thurston who had most recently been with the Good Food Company. Steve and his wife Lisa run the day to day operations at German Schnitzel Haus. Steve takes care of the kitchen and menu while Lisa manages the restaurant’s front end and frequently grips and grins with the local clientele. The restaurant originally opened twelve years ago under a German owner who had it for two years prior selling it to the current owner. The original German head chef stayed on with the restaurant for several years but decided to retire when the restaurant relocated. Chef Thurston took over as head chef of German Schnitzel Haus last June and has reinvigorated the menu in spectacular fashion.
Chef Thurston grew up in New York and has spent his entire life in the food service industry. Chef Thurston has spent the last twenty two years as a professional chef and was trained under local culinary master Tray Hartinger. Chef Thurston aims to stay authentically German with his cuisine but tends to add some American flare into the recipes. One of the unique aspects of German Schnitzel Haus is that chef Thurston has created all German all vegan menu options for clientele who seek strictly vegan dining choices.
I asked Steve what some of his most popular items were and he told me that the schnitzel especially the paprika schnitzel is a crowd pleaser at his place. In addition the potato cakes are also highly requested. After having tried this for myself I could see why. The Bavarian Platter made with local Azar sausage is amongst the top sellers at German Schnitzel Haus. During the lunch hour the Berlin Burger is also a local favorite. And for families with kids, German Schnitzel Haus offers German style pigs in a blanket and German egg noodle for the kids as authentic options.
One of the great things Germany is known for is beer and their popular annual Oktoberfest. Steve told me that,” the owner has developed relationships with German breweries and our restaurant gets all the special German beers FIRST in Jacksonville.” As an example of this, they have a limited edition 1516 beer keg that is made for the five hundred year anniversary of Weinenstephaner Brewery one of the oldest breweries in Europe. In addition they offer a full bar featuring fourteen drafts, thirteen of them are German and one is usually a local craft such as Bold City IPA. Their full liquor bar also features a locally distilled vodka from Jacksonville and a rum from Fernandina Beach. German Schnitzel Haus has a happy hour everyday from 4p.m. to 6:30p.m. They sell German drinking boots called “Das Boot” for $20 and offer a 10% discount on future refills of the boot when brought in to the restaurant.
As for special annual events, German Schnitzel Haus has live music at least once a month that feature live Oompah German bands such as One Step Ahead of the Law Brass Band. During Oktoberfest German Schnitzel Haus sets up a large tent that effectively doubles their restaurant’s capacity which is placed in the parking lot. They setup drinking games and feature live German music. German Schnitzel Haus also has an European Car Club which meets in their parking lot on Saturdays. Audi and BMW owners showcase their latest models and after market modifications of their European sports cars. Monday night is military night as well as service industry night at German Schnitzel Haus. Police, fire fighters and other first responders can also take advantage of a 15% discount. And if you want to have your own special event catered by German Schnitzel Haus they offer that as well.
To find out more about these events and specials at German Schnitzel Haus visit them online at www.germanjax.com and checkout their social media page.
Follow me on Twitter at; www.twitter.com/WritingAboutJax.
Written and published for BUZZ Magazine, May 2016.