Auf-dinner-sehen at Karl Ratzsch’s
A downtown Milwaukee landmark, Karl Ratzsch’s is one of a famous few in our area that stalwartly guard the Old World, German-cuisine experience for us. Much more spacious inside than its rather small, streetfront façade indicates, it’s a regular Snoopy’s dog house – Prussian style. We enjoyed the authentically decorated, main dining hall, complete with what looked to be ceiling chandeliers crafted from deer antlers. Ancient beer steins and dark wood trim complete a German restaurant atmosphere as authentic as any that Mr. M. ran into when he was stationed in the U.S. Army in West Germany during the ’80s.
Okay, the atmosphere is traditional and carries one’s imagination right off to the hinterland, but what about the food? Ah – the menu is what truly sets Karl Ratzsch’s apart from its peers. Devoid, for the most part, of the old standbys found on the menus of most German restaurants, Karl Ratzsch’s menu features real, authentic favorites. Among the crackling pork shank (yum), roast duck, boneless goose breast (double yum), Black Forest veal and chicken schnitzel, Mr. M. was surprised and delighted to see Konigsberger Klopse — velvet-textured meatballs simmered in a tangy sauce — served as a regular item. (Mr. M. does not recall ever having seen that on Mäder’s menu!). This home-cooked favorite immediately told Mr. M. that he was looking at true German fare.
For this evening’s dinner, Mr. M. just had to get the massive crackling pork shank for $27.50. After much cajoling, Mr. M. was able to get Mrs. M. to order the Ratzsch’s European Sampler ($31.50), which features German delights, including Wiener schnitzel, spätzle and red cabbage and a boneless, roast goose breast. Okay, an ulterior motive — Mr. M. was dying to try the goose as well.
True or False: Roast goose breast tastes like beef? (See answer below!)
The overall taste of the European Sampler platter was satisfying, and the portion sizes were certainly on the hefty side. The off-note came with sour-bitter Octoberfest Strudel, which both Mr. & Mrs. M. found to be a bit out of sync with the rest of the items served.
All in all, it was a good experience and worth the price. However, the service was a bit slow and inattentive on the evening we visited. An 18% gratuity is charged for parties of nine or more, so if you’re bringing your entire Oompa band for dinner, be forewarned. Major credit cards accepted — no personal checks.
So, does goose breast taste like beef!? Yup – it has both the taste and texture of beef pot roast. Weird, huh? It’s one dish that certainly does not taste like chicken.
320 E. Mason Street, Milwaukee
Reservations and all major credit cards accepted.
And, speaking of Mr. M.’s favorite German recipes, here’s a recipe for one of his favorite German dishes not to be found in the U.S. (not even in German restaurants):
“Goulash Soup” (“Gulaschsuppe”) – serves two
(This recipe is just how Mr. M. remembers being served it in the German Kneipe pubs when he lived over there!)
¾ lb ground sirloin beef
⅓ c unseasoned bread crumbs
1 tsp each of onion powder, salt & ground, black pepper
2 tbsp oil or butter
1 large onion, finely chopped/minced
1 – 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
2 tbsp mild paprika
½ tsp caraway seeds
1½ tsp tomato paste
1 small bay leaf
1⅓ c water
2 c beef broth (one 10½-oz. can condensed, plus enough water to make 16 oz. total)
¼ c red wine
2 tbsp flour
Knead the beef, bread crumbs, egg, onion powder, ⅛ teaspoon salt & ⅛ teaspoon pepper together well. Combine the tomato paste and wine into a slurry in a little cup or bowl; set it aside until the end of the cooking time.
Add the oil to a large saucepan or small stew pot on medium heat. Drop the meat mixture by the level-teaspoon into the pot and brown as you go (do not stop to make little meatballs, but be sure to make each no more than a level-teaspoon). You’ll have to work fast! When there is little-to-no pink color left in the meat, sprinkle it lightly with more salt and pepper. Add the onions and garlic and fry until the onions are translucent.
Add the paprika, bay leaf, caraway seeds, water and broth. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer on very low heat for about 1½ to 2½ hours.
A half hour before the soup is finished simmering, stir in the slurry of tomato paste and red wine. In a small bowl, stir a few tablespoons of the hot soup broth with the flour; be sure to whisk until it’s smooth. Add the flour mixture to the soup pot, stir, turn up the heat a couple of notches and simmer another half hour. Season to taste. Remove the bay leaf before serving.