Because nothing says “Happy Birthday” like schnitzel, wurst and big-ass mugs of beer, we took Kat out for an early 29th celebration this past weekend at Munich Haus in Chicopee.
Though I love my ethnic foods, I’m pretty new to the flavors of Germany. I’m guilty of ordering baked stuffed lobster at Hofbrauhaus. (Shut up, that was like, seven years ago, and I made up for it when we sampled an authentic buffet during our stopover in Frankfurt last fall.) So when the birthday girl suggested Munich, I was excited to give it another whirl.
Munich Haus does an excellent job setting the scene, with homey decor, live accordian music and waitstaff in traditional garb (dirndl, I think the outfits are called.) The service is friendly and prompt. Before we even sat down, there were three bowls of their homemade potato chips at our table for five, with an accompanying sour cream-based dipping sauce.
(Warning: these chips are stupidly addictive, and I mean that in the best way possible. Save room for the massive entrees.)
The beer list would be daunting for your average brew lover, and even moreso for a novice like me. Thankfully, Munich Haus offers two “beer towers” with six varieties apiece for those who want to sample everything. The first contains two Hacker-Pschorr weisses, a Franziskaner Weisse and three Spatens: Maiboch, Lager and Optimator. They go a little more local with the second tower, offering two Paper City Holyoke brews alongside two German pilsners and lagers. Of course, we got one of each. Surprisingly, I liked the darker varieties better, and ended up really enjoying the Paper City Reilly’s Irish stout. Great caramel and chocolate flavors.
Next came appetizers: German fried baby pickles, fried imported German cheese and then something not fried: a Bavarian pretzel, one of the evening’s specials. The little wedges of cheese were deliciously decadent, mild and gooey
and great with their accompanying kicky honey mustard sauce. But the star of the pre-entree was the big pretzel – soft, warm, stretchy and salt-crusted. It came with more of the zesty honey mustard, but it was even better with its other dip, an herbed sour cream.
Still more food was on its way – I opted for Roquefort dressing with my salad (a $1.85 upcharge) and watched as the waitress prepared it tableside. The bowl of dressing was literally as big as my bowl of salad. The cheese was rich and flavorful, but I wouldn’t order this again – you’d never get your money’s worth unless you truly glopped your greens with dressing.
And then came the main courses. Or should I say, the meat. The birthday girl and Rob each ordered the Bavarian platter, a metal tray full of Pfalzer rostbratwurst, Nuremberg bratwurst, Jaeger schnitzel, sauerbraten and sides of red cabbage, sauerkraut, spaetzle and a potato pancake. Each wurst was juicier and more flavorful than the next, and the potato pancake was crispy and comforting.
Another friend opted for the Pfalzer bratwurst by itself, which came with cabbage, sauerkraut and spaetzle, and another opted for Parmigain schnitzel, a sort of ‘Italian fusion’ dish with pasta sauce and provolone cheese. Though it was made with a pork cutlet, everyone teased her about her “chicken parmesan.”
My dish, the Schnitzel Lichtenstein, was topped with Westphalian ham, sliced tomato and melted Emmenthaler cheese. Ironically, it was similar to the Milanesa, my favorite dish at the Argentinean steakhouse Caminito in Northampton. The veal cutlet was rich and meaty, and the strong flavors of the toppings – the cured ham, the fresh tomato and tangy Swiss – rounded out the hearty dish. Two large cutlets were served as an entree portion; one and half my spaetzle came home with me.
And since I’ve made no secret of my love for carbohydrates (the whiter, the better,) let’s talk about the spaetzle. These delicious little bits of egg noodle are totally worth the glycemic index spike, especially when they’re buttered and topped with bread crumbs and herbs. The spaetzle was reminiscent of baked macaroni and cheese, just without the fromage. (Yelp reviewers actually reference a käse spätzle made with cheese and a white sauce that’s no longer on the menu.) I ate several late-night leftover forkfuls after a few cocktails.
No dessert for us, though there’s a yummy-looking selection of gourmet cookies, crepes, tortes, cheesecakes and a Bavarian apple strudel on the menu.
Verdict: We’re going back once we’re ready for another hit of meat and carbs. Munich Haus has an attractive outdoor patio, and I envision sitting there on a nice summer night with a big mug of beer, those beautifully crunchy chips and my beloved spaetzle.
Munich Haus, 13 Center Street, Chicopee, MA, 413-594-8788 munichhaus.com